Update May 9: A Google spokesperson has responded to the information in this article with the following statement "YouTube aggressively disputes the WSJ report stating YouTube Music subscription growth has plateaued, countering that healthy subscription growth continued through Q1 of this year." End of update.
Google has reportedly now passed the 15 million mark when it comes to music subscribers.
The information on this comes from a new report out of Bloomberg which credits “two people familiar with the numbers” for the information.
While 15 million is a lot of subscribers and certainly enough to be significant, considering this is Google, the number is being seen as less of a milestone and more of an indication of how Google continues to struggle to gain traction in the subscription market.
Although, unlikely to be that significant in itself, the number is understood to include those who are still subscribed as part of a promotion. In addition, these are understood to be the total number of subscribers to both YouTube Music and Google Play Music. The latter of which is currently in the process of being transitioned to the former.
Even this, seems to suggest that in spite of the rebrand to “YouTube” the subscription-based service has yet to pick up any additional steam. It is understood YouTube Music has only picked up 5 million subscribers since last May.
One of the issues Google faces here, is the competition. Spotify and Apple both seem to be doing far better than Google in this space and their numbers on paper eclipse Google’s to the point where the 15 million seems small.
As the report points out, Google also has the added issue of being a brand that many users associate with ‘free services.’ The suggestion being it is unclear how many consumers are willing to pay Google for services, instead of opting for an ad-supporting version, or paying other brands that might be more synonymous with the particular industry.
Either way, gaining subscribers is something Google will need to overcome as multiple markets now seem to be making a move to subscriptions.
Google itself, is clearly also planning on expanding support for the subscription model as it is expected the company will utilize this payment approach with its announced Stadia gaming service.
In addition, Google only this week at I/O 2019 confirmed that a new Play Store is coming to Android TV. Besides a visual refresh which looks to offer a more eye-pleasing look, the new Play Store will place an emphasis on facilitating subscriptions to apps from third-party companies. Even allowing users to subscribe through Google simultaneously while downloading the app.
It has not all been bad for Google on the subscription front, however, as the company did also launch its YouTube TV live TV streaming service which has since been reported as passing the one million subscriber marker early this year. That's a number that suggests YouTube TV has seen massive growth throughout 2018 and puts it firmly within reach of the competition operating in the same space.
Google has not actually disclosed numbers and so the true extent to the situation remains unknown. However when pressed on the issue and suggested numbers by the original report, a Google spokesperson was noted saying that Google has seen a 60-percent growth in the number of YouTube Music and YouTube Premium subscribers between March 2018 and March 2019.
Of course, this may very well be true as there’s no suggestion Google and YouTube is not seeing subscriber growth. The issue is more of how significant that growth is and especially when compared to the competition which seems to be growing more, and quicker.