It’s no secret that many people use YouTube as an unofficial Spotify alternative, and artists aren’t happy knowing that many of these listeners have little incentive to pay for music as a result. YouTube has a new solution, though: nag users until they switch over. The service’s music head Lyor Cohen told Bloomberg in an interview that YouTube will boost the number of ads you see between music videos. This would theoretically “frustrate and seduce” you to the point where you subscribe to YouTube’s next-gen streaming service.
This would give the new service a head start, and might soften complaints that it neither pays artists enough nor does much to encourage paid streaming. YouTube has offered paid music services for a while, but it doesn’t have anywhere near the clout of Spotify or Apple Music and their tens of millions of subscribers. Why pay for music on YouTube when you can listen to it for free with only occasional ad interruptions? While more frequent ads are bound to irritate some listeners, they might create a clearer division between free and paid access.
Whether or not it works is another story. Apple and Spotify have a gigantic head start in a market where there isn’t much room for other competitors. Frequent ads are only going to do so much to convert users. There’s also the question of the network effect (you listen to Spotify because your friends do, for example) and deep integration with devices. YouTube will have to make itself relatively ubiquitous if it’s going to grab a significant chunk of the paid music market.