YouTube CEO Gives Update on Music Key, Talks How It Will Differ From Spotify, Apple

Stephen Lovekin/FilmMagic for YouTube
Susan Wojcicki speaks at YouTube #Brandcast presented by Google at The Theater at Madison Square Garden on April 29, 2015 in New York City.

Inquiring minds want to know when YouTube will finally launch its much-anticipated Music Key streaming service. At Fortune's Brainstorm Tech event on July 13, CEO Susan Wojcicki did little to expand on previous comments by her fellow Google execs, saying that the beta feedback has been helpful and that Music Key will indeed arrive this year.

"We have learned a lot of things" since launching in beta last November, she said. "We launched it to a set of very heavy music users. They’ve given us a lot of feedback and we’ve taken that feedback and we are readjusting it based on that feedback. We have plans to launch later this year."

And how, exactly, will YouTube Music Key differentiate itself from the growing number of rivals in the streaming music space, such as Apple Music, Spotify and Rdio? Wojcicki made it clear that YouTube’s trove of music videos will make the difference.

“Well I think it’s a little bit different because the music and purpose we have is different,” she said. “It’s different because we have the music videos, which being able to see your favorite music artist perform a song and see what they imagine when they created that song, it’s really magical and so being able to have that… But to help with that, we have the user-generated clips of other people [covering that song].”

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YouTube Music Key was introduced to beta users in late 2014. As previously reported, it will enable offline and ad-free listening of music videos, playlists and songs, as well as a Pandora-like “endless playlist” component based on a listener’s song or artist choice. The company recently announced it would extend that beta period until at least Sept. 15. 

In June, the company’s head of content, Robert Kyncl, told reporters that the launch of Music Key is “coming in a few months” and, like Wojcicki, acknowledged the usefulness of the prolonged beta season. “We’re a lot smarter about the product from the heaviest users,” he said.

In her chat with Fortune, Wojcicki also revealed the streaming video giant’s top three priorities: “Mobile, mobile, mobile,” where it now generates half of its total views.

“A lot of our focus is on how we continue to make that better,” she said. “What are the UI experiences, what are the creation experiences, how do we make it really fast? I think mobile is changing everything and it will continue to change it more in the future.”

She also had a few things to say about Facebook, which has steadily increased its focus on video.