A Glimpse into the Music of YouTube

Released March 3rd, Ed Sheeran’s latest album, ÷ (“Divide”), garnered massive commercial attention, topping charts internationally, and selling almost 700,000 copies within the first week in the United Kingdom alone. More importantly, the album has been essential to the developing streaming service of the digital content platform, YouTube. Cumulatively, Divide received over a billion views, only four days after the tracks from the album were uploaded.

While this accomplishment means a sincere amount to Sheeran and the labels which released the album, they also exemplify the current state of YouTube and what it can do with the music industry. The service is catching on to the steady growth of streaming today, and it certainly is in the right space to challenge the other services like Spotify or Apple Music.

Although the digital content platform is the epicenter of online media distribution, its start in specifically music streaming was initiated with the launching of YouTube Music in late 2015. While it may appear the older music streaming behemoths are unchallenged, the new app presents a legitimate platform for use. While the app showcases the convenience of many other streaming services, it exhibits traits that will certainly interest habitual listeners, such as personalized stations based on previous listens, or control over ads with a subscription to the related YouTube Red service. It goes without saying that the app is most likely attractive to those who use YouTube, or the YouTube app religiously, as it mimics the same structure and functionalities included in those services.

The prowess of YouTube’s streaming is further amplified by the recent announcement that the music team of the the company was merging with the music team of Google Play, a move that has been thoroughly questioned considering the relation between the two. This provides the possibility of the two apps merging into one, which would definitely assist in making YouTube’s service a contender among streaming platforms. Furthermore, YouTube will be the liaison for Google, if it ever wishes to develop a footing in the music streaming sphere.

More importantly, it is crucial how the company focuses on the acquisition of music before it questions how to distribute it, a problem currently faced by other music streaming services. YouTube has maintained a fairly troubling relationship with the Music Industry, due to the convenience for users to stream copyrighted music or how the company does not yield enough revenue to record labels.

However, this dispute may soon lighten, with the company’s new Global Head of Music Lyor Cohen, who was announced to take the position in September of 2016. Celebrating a career of over 30 years in the music industry, Cohen’s repertoire includes leading the label of Def Jam, working as a chief executive of Warner Music Group, and eventually crafting his own independent label, 300 Entertainment which is home to various prominent artists today. To include a prominent in figure from the traditional music industry is believed to be crucial to YouTube’s success. While it is symbolic of the company joining with the music industry, this success is somewhat questionable, considering Cohen’s independent label founded in 2012 received major funding from Google, or how many other streaming services have brought on executives from the music industry which have not made major differences to said companies.

What all of this means is that YouTube is making a serious attempt to get into the music streaming services. The website is already the forefront in streaming music content online, but there is still much more to be done if it wishes to resume convenient platforms and applications that the average listener can familiarize themselves with. Streaming is happening now more than ever, and the company is realizing what could happen if this specific service is not added to the company’s services.

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