YouTube is launching a music streaming service, offering both videos and audio tracks, in an attempt to compete with the likes of Spotify and Apple Music.
YouTube Music will combine millions of “official” tracks with the vast catalogue of rarities and remixes uploaded by YouTube’s users.
Like Spotify, it will offer a free, ad-funded app, alongside premium subscriptions costing $9.99 per month.
It will launch in five countries, including the US and Mexico, on 22 May.
The Google-owned company said YouTube Music would come to Europe “soon”.
YouTube Music product manager Elias Roman said: “The days of jumping back and forth between multiple music apps and YouTube are over. Whether you want to listen, watch or discover, it’s all here.”
In a blog post, he added that the service would offer a mix of “official songs, albums, thousands of playlists and artist radio plus YouTube’s tremendous catalogue of remixes, live performances, covers and music videos that you can’t find anywhere else”.
He promised that the new app would offer personalised playlists based on users’ streaming history, much like Spotify’s Discover Weekly.
It is understood that YouTube Music will eventually replace Google Play Music, which is the company’s current streaming offering.
Existing Google Play Music customers will get a YouTube Music package thrown into their subscription for free, while Roman reassured users that their playlists, purchases and uploads would remain intact once Google Play was phased out.
YouTube is already the most popular platform for streaming music in the world (excluding China) – accounting for 46% of all listening.
Although the site attracts more than a billion music fans every month, it has repeatedly been attacked by the music industry for allowing users to upload videos that infringe on copyright, and for failing to pay artists properly.
The new service is evidence of a rapprochement between Google and the music industry, and new licensing deals were negotiated last year.
It comes hot on the heels of a new “Music in this video” initiative, which will provide information on the songs used in uploaded clips, even if they’re unofficial.
Sir Elton John called the plan “a great step forward,” adding: “Songwriters are the heart and soul of songs, so it’s wonderful seeing them get the credit they deserve.”
The five territories where YouTube Music will launch are the US, Australia, Mexico, South Korea and New Zealand.
Not by coincidence, these are the countries where YouTube Red – a subscription service offering original programmes and videos – already exists.
That service will soon be re-branded YouTube Premium, which will include access to all YouTube Originals as well as YouTube Music for $11.99 a month. The price paid by current YouTube Red subscribers won’t change.