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YouTube?s Music app wields brawn, but user experience a challenge

The fierce battle for mobile users? music-listening time just intensified thanks to YouTube?s new standalone music application, which brings significant reach and crucial industry relationships, but faces a hurdle in the sheer breadth of available content.  

At the same time, Vevo ? which has offered a music video app for some time ? just released an update that attempts to put a new spin on discovery by borrowing from Tinder?s playbook. Clearly, Apple ? which launched Apple Music this summer ? and YouTube?s parent Google have watched the success of Pandora, Spotify and other mobile music services and want a piece of the action. 

?Unlike other services, YouTube's audience size will allow them to parse out more nuanced music niches which, again, will increase user satisfaction and the time people spend listening and experiencing music,? said Chris Paradysz, CEO and co-founder of PM Digital

?All the better for musicians and the marketers who want to reach their audiences,? he said. 

Music discovery
With significant cross-section of consumers already going to YouTube to watch and listen to videos for their favorite artists, the launch of YouTube Music is likely to come out punching. 

The YouTube Music app is designed to make it easier for users to discover music compared to the YouTube site. It will have a free, ad-supported version and an ad-free experience for users who are subscribed to YouTube Red. 

With a YouTube Red subscription, users of the music app can also listen offline, in the background or without loading video. 

YouTube is incentivizing consumers to try both new services with an offer of a 14-day free trial of YouTube Red. 

Concert footage
Users of YouTube Music can tap any video, album or artist to start a non-stop station. 

Stations learn users? tastes to provide a personalized experience. 

The app also features a home tab with personalized recommended tracks and a trending tab for staying onto of the latest releases.

The On the Rise section features new songs and artists while The Daily 40 offers the latest hits. 

The mix of songs includes a wide array of new artists and classics, with users able to access official music videos, full albums, remixes and covers. Concert footage and live recordings are also available. 

The right relationships
YouTube Music has some significant advantages in this digital music category. Music videos are popular on the site, which has worked diligently to put in place the relationships with artists and their studios that enable it to showcase a vast array of music and related videos. 

Such relationships are proving to a stumbling block for some services. For example, Spotify has fun afoul of artists on several occasions because of its reportedly low royalty fees. 

However, where YouTube could encounter a hurdle is with the user experience. As anyone who uses YouTube knows, there is a wide variety of content available, some of it better quality and some of it pretty poor quality. On mobile, such poor quality recording and videos are going to only look worse. 

At the same time, music listening on mobile is not as much about searching for fun content ? as YouTube users often do on desktop ? and more about receiving a curated listening experience. YouTube will need to prove that is can do this better than Pandora or Spotify. With Google?s resources behind it, there is a good chance that YouTube Music can in fact deliver the kind of personalization that will be necessary for it to be successful.

?YouTube's technical ability will be a challenge ? search functionality, data management, analytics and measurements - to make the listener interactions feel special and not overwhelming with so much choice,? Mr. Paradysz said. ?The clutter factor could be damaging, but they?ve done a good job of delivering on this. 

?We?ll have to see the reactions as this rolls out,? he said.  ?The quality levels, visually and sonically, vary widely and the user experience could become more subpar. 

?Competitive services have paid a lot of attention to this, and I do see it as a challenge.? 

Vevo reimagined
The YouTube Music app is likely to attract a number of advertisers, as have other music apps. YouTube will also be able to leverage its existing relationships with marketers. 

?There will be more audience and targeted exposure, plus the emotional connection that?s so crucial for the musician,? Mr. Paradysz said. ?For the marketer, this means deeper, relevant brand connections that will increase the passion (and conversions) level.?

Vevo is doubling down on personalization, curation and discovery in a newly released version of its iOS app in an attempt to stand apart from the new YouTube Music app. 

A report in Variety likened the redesigned app to Tinder and Snapchat with its heavy use of full-screen images. For example, users are asked to swipe through full-screen images of artists to let the app know who their favorite artists are. These picks are mixed with recommended videos from related artists. 

The new app also includes a section where they can easily access the artists, videos and playlists they listen to over and over again. 

Overall, the user interface has been downplayed compared to other music apps. 

?The biggest change is the intuitive, visual new UI with simplified onboarding, configuration and personalization,? said Jon Carvill, vice president of communications at Vevo. 

?It is a mobile-first video app purpose built for music videos and premium short form content,? he said. ?It's designed to get mobile users closer to their content faster.

?I am most excited about Spotlight, with our ability to highlight and uncover the content our users care about most in a beautiful visual fashion.?

Final Take
Chantal Tode is senior editor on Mobile Marketer, New York