According to the New York Times, YouTube plans to launch a paid music service this year to compete with Spotify and other streaming websites. The focus of the service will be mobile devices, since 40% of YouTube’s traffic this year has been from mobile users. This reflects the growing popularity of smartphones and tablets over traditional computers for recreational use.
The paid streaming service would solve a number of problems for both YouTube and the music industry: YouTube gains licenses to play more music and generate more traffic, while music companies and artists get paid for the use of their music. As of today, YouTube only has access to some official videos and songs for free. Unlicensed use of songs in user-uploaded videos (usually as background music) are sometimes silenced and sometimes not policed at all. Implementation of the streaming service would organize official content and encourage record companies to partner with YouTube.
All of this is good news for the music business, but will YouTube’s users stick around when asked to pay for previously free content? Most of YouTube’s users are of the younger generation, many of whom have little money to spare in a slow economy. Will this further restrict access to new music, both popular and classical? I feel that there is already a divide in music between socio-economic classes, and these wars between the supposedly greedy music industry and the fans that demand free music streaming live only serves to widen the gap. However, artists deserve to be paid for their work.
The music industry hasn’t caught up to the advancements in technology that currently allow people to copy CDs or share files instead of buying new music. Even at live shows, people can take videos of concerts and other events on carefully concealed smartphones and then upload them to the web for all to see. YouTube’s new service might be evidence that music business is attempting to embrace new technology instead of shying away and shutting everything down as it has in the past. But the streaming service still requires direct payment from users. In the age of the Internet, someone always finds a way to get out of paying for their entertainment.