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Google rolls out YouTube Music, Premium in India

Prasid Banerjee
YouTube Music and Premium will start at ₹99/month and ₹129/month in India, Premium will include Music subscriptionLyor Cohen, global head of music for YouTube, believes 'we’re just in the 2.0 version of music streaming'

Google Inc., plans to give music and video streaming services, such as the recent entrant Swedish company Spotify, a tough fight in the Indian market by launching YouTube Music and YouTube Premium in the country on Tuesday.

YouTube Music will start at 99 per month in India. YouTube Premium will be 129 per month and will include Music subscription.

YouTube is among the biggest video streaming platforms in the country with 245 million monthly active users, which Google says is growing by 100% year-on-year. Lyor Cohen, global head of music for YouTube, speaks about the company’s next steps here. Edited excerpts.

How do you think streaming has affected or changed the music industry?

Music streaming may not be novel, but it’s still new. I think it’s making the world much smaller and making the creation of music much easier. It’s giving the consumer the opportunity to engage with much more music in a very easy, effective, and efficient way. I think it’s bringing music to people’s pockets.

Would you call music streaming companies an evolution of distribution companies? If yes, how will it affect the industry in the long term?

I would say, yes. I believe in ubiquity for the artists. I think artists should be on all platforms, and platforms should not win based on exclusivity. That’s bad for the consumer. The platform should win based on their product and their relationship with the customer. The artist should not have to choose what service they should be on. We’re not looking for exclusivity. We don’t think it’s a good customer experience.

How has the streaming industry evolved?

I think it’s in a nascent stage and needs evolution. I think you’re experiencing the 2.0 version of streaming. One of my concerns is to make sure it’s not simply an echo chamber for somebody’s tastes and they still have the ability to experience artists and songs that they didn’t know they wanted. I believe one of the most important things that we could continue to evolve is creating tools for artists, labels, songwriters, and publishers to be able to focus on building and acquiring fans.

I think the only place where one could have a social as well as a commercial footprint is on YouTube. The other services are simply retailers, or social platforms. I think streaming is going to help create an explosive and fertile music industry, more than it is now in India. I think you’re going to see what I consider the golden age of the music industry.

What do you think of the competition that you will face here, such as Gaana, Spotify, and Apple Music?

You will find competition in all good businesses. I look at other streaming services more like comrades in arms, in order to make a healthier Indian music business, shrinking the world, giving the opportunity to export Indian music, and providing the opportunity for more artists to make a living by making music.

I don’t see it as a zero-sum game. I think the market can support many services and we’re excited to be part of that ecosystem.

With these services, does anything change for the creators who have been using the platform for their content so far?

Nothing changes. The main YouTube app continues to be the way it was. There is going to be a Premium tier to it, which changes the consumer experience. But there is no change in how we work with our partners and creators.

What about originals? Are you looking at India also to create originals for YouTube?

Definitely. I’m stoked about doing it in the music point of view (music-based originals). I know we’re very active in sourcing some great originals.

Do you think algorithm-driven platforms can make listening to music impersonal?

Absolutely. We have to make sure that it’s in harmony with a human touch as well as artificial intelligence. We have to be able to help delight the consumer by the unexpected joy of discovery and we can’t just be an echo chamber. This is why I said earlier that we’re just in the 2.0 version of music streaming.