Music

YouTube Premium and Music Crosses 100M Subscribers: ‘So Much Room For Growth’

After a string of pivots, rebrands, upgraded offerings and expanded plans, YouTube Premium and Music has passed the magical 100 million subscribers mark, counting users in trials, the company announced Thursday (Feb. 1).

That’s up from the 80 million Premium and Music subscribers around the world (including trials), reported in November 2022, and a jump from 50 million users at the end of 2021. 

The milestone is cause for great celebration at the company, notes Lyor Cohen, global head of music at YouTube, in an open letter to the industry issued today (Feb. 1). “This 20-million-member growth in just over a year underscores the strength of our twin engine of advertising and subscriptions revenue,” writes Cohen.

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The Alphabet-owned business unveiled its subscription offering, YouTube Music, back in October 2015, and launched its dedicated app the following month.

The streaming landscape then was littered with naysayers. “Many doubted a subscription model could thrive on YouTube,” Cohen notes. “They said the market was crowded and our platform was too different. Today – 100 million subscribers later – our distinctiveness is precisely what drives our success and why I still see so much room for growth.”

Later, in June 2018, YouTube announced the launch of YouTube Premium, formerly known as YouTube Red. Since then, notes Cohen, the Premium service’s global expansion has ramped up and is “now thriving in over 100 countries and regions” with “more on the horizon in 2024.”

By crossing the 100 million mark, “we’re delighted and humbled,” comments Adam Smith, vice president of product management at YouTube, in a separate statement.

Along the way, “we learned a lot, made a few pivots (and even rebranded), expanded our offerings and plans, and made YouTube Music and Premium available in over 100 countries and regions,” adds Smith.

In a matchup of streaming heavyweights, Spotify, the market-leading music platform, holds the advantage. The Sweden-based business came to market early, in 2008, and boasted 226 million premium subscribers worldwide in Q3 2023.

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Though Apple rarely shares updates on subscriber numbers, in June 2022, J.P. Morgan estimated Apple Music could hit 110 million subscribers by 2025. The last time the company reported subscriber numbers for Apple Music was in 2019, when it reported 60 million paid users.

As YouTube hangs the decorations, captains of the industry are lining up to thank their tech partner — including a former YouTuber now leading a major label.

“Having been at YouTube when we conceived of the subscription service, 100 million customers felt like a distant possibility,” says Robert Kyncl, who was chief business officer at YT before joining Warner Music Group as CEO. “Today, it’s yet another signpost on a journey of extraordinary growth. The fact that YouTube continues to go from strength to strength isn’t just good for them, it’s healthy for the entire music ecosystem.”

Lucian Grainge, chairman and CEO of Universal Music Group, says the team led by Cohen and YouTube CEO Neal Mohan deserves credit for “continuing to grow and drive innovation while making significant contributions to the global music ecosystem. Our partnership demonstrates that if you start from a foundation of respect for artists and songwriters, there are limitless opportunities to create thriving businesses that benefit artists and fans alike.”

Adds Helen Smith, executive chair of pan-European independent music companies’ trade body IMPALA: “YouTube has a unique place in the music ecosystem, is a valued member of IMPALA’s Friends scheme and a great partner of our 100 Artists to Watch program.” She continues, “We look forward to continuing to work together across the whole European market where there is so much potential for digital services who see diversity as an asset.”

According to Cohen, YT’s businesses have contributed $6 billion in the past year.

“The music industry is at a critical juncture,” he writes. “Together, we can harness technological innovation to drive unprecedented value for artists and fans, building on our momentum that contributed $6 billion to the music industry in 12 months.”

That future, one where the music industry “thrives,” he insists, would see both sides leveraging AI to enhance creative imagination, seamlessly bridging short-form and long-form content for maximum artist exposure, and more.

Read Cohen’s thank you letter here.

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