SINGAPORE - YouTube on Wednesday (Nov 6) launched its YouTube Music service and paid subscription streaming services in Singapore, taking on music streaming rivals such as Apple Music and Spotify, as well as video streaming services like Netflix.
The YouTube Music streaming platform, which debuted last year elsewhere in the world, has an ad-supported free tier, as well as a paid version, YouTube Music Premium, from $9.98 monthly.
With the paid version, subscribers do not receive ads, can play songs in the background and can download songs and music videos for offline listening.
YouTube Premium offers a similar ad-free experience and offline downloads for regular YouTube videos from $11.98 monthly.
In addition, YouTube Premium subscribers will have access to the YouTube Music Premium service.
Besides Singapore, Google also launched YouTube Music and YouTube Premium on Wednesday in Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Thailand. The streaming service is now available in 78 countries, bringing it almost on a par with market leader Spotify, which is in 79 markets.
However, YouTube Music had reportedly over 15 million paid subscribers in May, a far cry from Spotify, which reported 113 million paid users last month. As of June this year, Apple Music, which does not have a free tier, was said to have over 60 million subscribers.
Here is what you need to know about YouTube Music:
1. How to get YouTube Music
YouTube Music is a music-focused app separate from regular YouTube for videos.
The music streaming platform is available as a mobile app (for iOS and Android) and as a Web app for computers. It can be streamed to Google Assistant-compatible smart speakers, as well as Sonos speakers. The latter option is available only for paid users.
But YouTube Music's launch here does not mean that the music-related content on regular YouTube will be removed, such as music videos uploaded by music labels or song cover clips by users. Such content will remain on YouTube, alongside other videos.
The paid subscription services for YouTube Music and YouTube video streaming service cost $9.98 (YouTube Music Premium) and $11.98 (YouTube Premium) monthly respectively for Android users.
Those who subscribe via the Apple Store have to pay $12.98 and $15.98 monthly for YouTube Music Premium and YouTube Premium respectively.
Users can also share the monthly subscription with up to five other family members in the same household with the YouTube Music Premium family plan ($14.98 for Android and $19.98 for iOS) and the YouTube Premium family plan ($17.98 for Android and $22.98 for iOS).
2. What are the differences between the free and paid versions of YouTube Music?
YouTube Music's free tier comes with certain restrictions. Besides having video ads, free users cannot download songs to listen offline. The free version cannot run in the background - music playback stops if you leave the mobile app or turn off the phone screen. The paid tier also offers better audio quality of up to 256kbps compared to 128kbps for the free version.
3. How does YouTube Music compare against its rivals?
While Apple Music and Spotify both have around 50 million songs each, Google has so far declined to reveal the size of YouTube Music's song library.
However, YouTube Music offers more than just songs from the music labels - it has live performances, remixes, covers, music videos and other user-uploaded content. For titles that are available as a song and as a music video, users can seamlessly switch between the two via a toggle in the app.
Free users can select any song and skip tracks as often as they like for YouTube Music, unlike Spotify's free tier for mobile which has limits on skipping songs and song selection.
The YouTube Music app has a smart download feature that will automatically download songs to your phone overnight using Wi-Fi, based on your listening habits and preferences, so that users will have songs for their daily commute. Users only need to allocate a specific amount of device storage for the downloads. In fact, there is no hard limit on the number of songs downloaded to a device - it is all dependent on the amount of internal storage available. This is unlike Spotify, which caps it at 10,000 songs per device.
YouTube Music cannot be played in the background for free users, which means the smartphone screen is always on and hence a battery drain. In contrast, Spotify lets free users play songs in the background.
YouTube Music does not offer podcasts in its app, unlike Spotify. Instead, Google has a separate Podcast app. But podcasts are a rapidly growing segment - Spotify, for one, is investing heavily in exclusive original podcasts.
If you are worried about data usage from streaming music on the go, YouTube Music may not be for you. While M1 and Singtel offer unlimited music streaming using mobile data for Spotify, there is currently no similar waiver for YouTube Music. To be fair, YouTube Music has a data-saving option that reduces the audio quality to 48kbps.