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Here’s what’s changing with YouTube Music, YouTube Red, and Google Play Music

Google’s music strategy is confusing, and its latest effort to streamline everything isn’t helping. We reached out to Google to clarify a few questions we had with the launch of the re-imagined YouTube Music service, and how it affects Google Play Music, which is the default music app on many Android phones.

What’s going on?

Google has two music streaming services: Google Play Music, which launched in 2011, and YouTube Music, which debuted in 2015. If you purchased a subscription to Google Play Music, you also got access to YouTube Red, an ad-free version of YouTube with access to premium content.

Now, there’s been a shake-up. YouTube just announced a completely revamped and re-imagined version of YouTube Music. It has access to thousands of playlists, songs, albums, artists, and more; and it has neat features like the ability to search for songs via vague descriptions or lyrics.

There’s a free version with ads, or you can pay £10 a month for YouTube Music Premium, which offers “background listening, downloads, and an ad-free experience.” YouTube Red is now called YouTube Premium, and it will still provide an ad-free experience across all of YouTube, along with background play, the ability to download videos to watch offline, and access to YouTube Originals. YouTube Premium includes the new YouTube Music Premium experience, though, so its price is now £12 per month, as opposed to the previous £10 price tag for YouTube Red.

So to break it down: YouTube Music lets you stream music with ads; YouTube Music Premium lets you stream music without ads, and has a few extra perks; YouTube Premium gives you an ad-free experience on YouTube, with some additional features and access to YouTube Music Premium.

So where does that leave Google Play Music?

Naturally with all this streamlining, you’d think Google would just replace Google Play Music with the new YouTube Music experience, right? A lot of news websites seem to think so, claiming that the long-standing service will eventually be replaced by the new YouTube Music — but there is no official confirmation this is the case. “If you use Google Play Music, nothing will change,” Google said in the blog post.

Current YouTube Red and Google Play Music subscribers in the U.S., Australia, South Korea, New Zealand, and Mexico “will continue to get the features they already enjoy at the same price they pay today.” In other countries, Google Play Music subscribers will automatically get access to YouTube Music Premium as soon as it’s available in those countries. We asked Google if Google Play Music will get replaced at a certain point in time, and a Google spokesperson didn’t say yes or no. Instead, the spokesperson reiterated that nothing will change for Google Play Music subscribers.

So it doesn’t look like Google Play Music is on the chopping block anytime soon. When asked if Google Play Music subscribers will easily be able to transition to YouTube Music Premium with the same library of music, the spokesperson simply said “nothing will change for Google Play Music subscribers.” It’s unclear why Google Play Music subscribers in the U.S., Australia, South Korea, New Zealand, and Mexico won’t immediately get access to YouTube Music Premium, but those in other countries will. Since Google Play Music is the default music player on many Android phones, we asked if YouTube Music will be pre-loaded onto Android phones.

The Google spokesperson said the company has no “plans or news to share.” Here’s what else we confirmed:

  • Family plans are still available for current and new Google Play Music subscribers.
  • There will be no podcasts on YouTube Music or YouTube Music Premium. Instead, you can access podcasts through Google Play Music, or Google Search on Android, as well as the Google Assistant.
  • You will not be able to upload your own music to YouTube Music as you can in Google Play Music — at least, “not at this time.”

So yes, Google’s music strategy is still a confusing mess that requires a bit of explanation — not unlike its messaging strategy.

Hopefully we’ve cleared a few things up, but we’ll certainly know more in the coming weeks and months as the new YouTube Music continues to roll out.

It will launch in early access on May 22 to select countries.

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