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YouTube's head of music confirmed that the company is planning on merging its Play Music service with YouTube Red to create a new streaming offering. During a panel session for the New Music Seminar conference in New York, Lyor Cohen stated that the company needed to merge the two services to help educate consumers and bring in new subscribers.
"The important thing is combining YouTube Red and Google Play Music, and having one offering," Cohen said when asked about why YouTube Red isn't more popular with music users. He didn't address whether or not the two apps would merge — but it seems very unlikely.
Right now, YouTube's music ecosystem is unnecessarily complicated. There's YouTube Red, which removes ads from videos and lets you save them offline, while also giving you access to Google Play Music for free. Then there's YouTube Music, which anyone can use, but it gets better if you're signed up for YouTube Red. And YouTube TV is also a thing — an entirely separate thing — but it's not available everywhere yet.
The merger has been rumored within the industry for months, and recently picked up steam after Google combined the teams working on the two streaming services earlier this year.
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In a statement to The Verge, Google said it will notify users of any changes before they happen. "Music is very important to Google and we're evaluating how to bring together our music offerings to deliver the best possible product for our users, music partners and artists. Nothing will change for users today and we'll provide plenty of notice before any changes are made."
Cohen also noted that he wanted to collaborate more directly with the music labels and rights holders. "In my mind, the missing piece on building these businesses is collaborating with the [music] industry, and not just making deals and going away and seeing how it works." The time frame for the rebranded service is still unclear, but given the recent merging of the teams — and the fact that Cohen is openly talking about it — it may not be much longer before we see what Google has in store.
In some ways, merging the services won't be a major change. Paying for a subscription to either YouTube Red or Google Play Music gives you the other service for free. But in terms of presenting a clear, simple, and compelling offering to consumers, combining the two makes a lot of sense — so much that you wonder why this hasn't happened already.