I signed up for Spotify three years ago, the day the service launched in the United States. $400 in subscription fees later, I'm still a member, and I've never regretted the money for a second. But for the first time since joining, I'm actually tempted to leave. YouTube Music Key might just win me over.
I have tried basically every possible streaming music service. Not just because it's part of my job, but because I'm a music nut and I want to use the best. I've never felt a compelling reason to leave my original Spotify subscription behind. I've come close and really like some competitors, but in the end all services have basically the same catalogs. They all use variations on the same discovery and recommendation systems.
For whatever neat interface improvement or deep cut catalog nugget I could find in competitive streaming services, ultimately there was never enough of a reason to stomach the inconvenience of transitioning to something new. Spotify had my playlists and my playback history. Plus, it has the most subscribers in the United States, so I've got a lot of friends on board, too.
And then Google introduced YouTube Music Key, which gives YouTube all of the functionality its users have been clamoring for. First, you can watch music videos without any advertisements, so no more pre-roll before every darn Vevo hit. Second, you can now cache videos and playlists for offline playback on your phone. And finally, music will now continue to play in the background even when you switch to another app or lock your phone.
All of that, plus you get access to a full Google Music subscription, which is basically a Spotify clone. Once trials and introductory pricing wear off—you can get in for $8/month for a limited time, and the first six months are free—the whole shebang will cost $10 per month, the same exact amount as Spotify. In other words, you get the regular subscription music service you would be paying for anyway, plus a suite of neat new features that no one else can offer.
YouTube Music Key might just be the compelling feature that actually differentiates it from the glut of otherwise identical services. I'm currently paying for both Google Music/YouTube Music Key and Spotify, and I'm having a hard time deciding which one I'll stick with. My ties to Spotify are so deep that I never really thought it would be a question.
Image by Michael Hession