35% of People Who Don’t Pay for Streaming Say YouTube Is the Reason

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Adapted from a photo by Roger A. Smith (CC BY-SA 2.0)

After all, who needs to pay to stream or download music when you have YouTube?

Several months ago, YouTube unveiled a brand-new streaming music service with two very confusing tiers.

For $9.99/month, users could subscribe to YouTube Music Premium.  You could listen to ad-free music, enjoy songs in the background, and also download them for offline listening.  Yet, despite paying a monthly subscription, you’ll still have to watch ads for music videos.  And, no, you can’t download videos, play them in the background, or watch Originals.  So, sorry, no Cobra Kai for you.

But, for $11.99/month, you get access to YouTube Premium.  This feature includes offline music listening, access to downloads, and a completely ad-free experience.

There’s just one question company executives hadn’t answered beforehand.

If YouTube already has access to millions of music tracks and videos on its service – for free – why should anyone pay up?  In fact, why should anyone pay for a music subscription on another service?

Now, a new report has found YouTube stops people from actually subscribing to a paid streaming service.

So, why don’t people subscribe to streaming music services?  Because you can already listen for free on YouTube.

Earlier today, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) published its Music Consumer Insight Report 2018.

Besides noting streaming music is on the rise around the world, the IFPI came across an interesting discovery.

Video streaming makes up 52% of all on-demand music listening.  Of that amount, YouTube accounts for 47%.  Paid audio streaming has a significantly lower share at 28%, followed by ad-supported streaming at 20%.

This discrepancy leads user-uploaded services – i.e., YouTube – to pay less in royalties than their major streaming music competitors.  While Spotify, explains the IFPI, pays around $20 a year per user, YouTube continues to pay under a dollar.

So, why do so few people listen to music through a paid audio streaming music service?  Thanks to Google’s video-owned platform.  The IFPI explains,

35% say a main reason for not using a paid audio subscription is that anything they want to listen to is on YouTube.

In short, people don’t need to subscribe to a streaming service.  They already have the tracks they want to listen to available for free on Google’s video platform.

Paradoxically, this also harms YouTube’s own streaming music service.  After 13 years of watching videos and listening to songs for free, why should its 1.9 billion+ users suddenly have to pay up?  The video platform has yet to provide global consumers with a compelling reason to change their own habits and subscribe.  After all, videos and music will remain free on the service.   Sure, you’ll have to watch the occasional 30-second ad, but nothing beats paying absolutely nothing each month.

Yet, YouTube doesn’t only harm the music industry through fewer streaming subscriptions and lower royalty payouts.  The video platform also fuels the rise of piracy through stream ripping.

How I learned to love copyright infringement through stream ripping thanks to YouTube.

Despite big-name takedowns – YouTube-to-MP3.org, MP3Fiber – copyright infringement remains very much alive thanks to the prevalence of stream ripping websites.

But, how do they work?  Simple.

All you have to do is copy a URL, head to a stream ripping website, paste the link, and click on Start.  After less than a few minutes, the stream ripper will convert the link into an MP3 or MP4 file.  Then, you click Download, and voila!  You’ve just violated a gray area of copyright law.  Now, you have access to a free song and artists no longer receive payment for their work.  Congratulations!

After many years, YouTube has yet to update its algorithm, allowing stream rippers to easily continue circumventing copyright law.  That’s why these sites remain incredibly popular with users around the world.

According to the IFPI, over one-third of users – 38% – around the world consume music through stream rippers.  In fact, stream ripping is now the most-used form of copyright infringement.

32% of consumers worldwide download music through stream ripping.  23% download music through cyberlockers and P2P programs.  And, 17% use a search engine to locate infringing content.

So, which streaming music service do people use to stream rip from the most?  A quick Google search will reveal most stream ripping sites ‘convert’ – i.e., steal copyrighted content – from YouTube.

In fact, the Google-owned video platform is once again to blame for fewer streaming subscriptions and lower royalty payouts.

The IFPI explains,

Stream ripping users are more likely to say that they rip music so they have music to listen to offline. This means they can avoid paying for a premium streaming subscription.

So, what has YouTube done to fix this problem?  Absolutely nothing.  Until stream rippers start hurting Google’s bottom line, expect the company to do nothing to tackle this clearly growing problem.

You can read the Music Consumer Insight Report here.


Featured image by Steve Parkinson (CC by 2.0).