YouTube is the most popular streaming platform in the world, and you can watch all of it for free with a $14 Premium subscription. YouTube Music Premium—which costs $11 on its own— is included for free. But is it actually free? YouTube Premium would be more appealing without it.
How Much Does YouTube Premium Actually Cost?
YouTube Premium seemingly includes two streaming services for the price of one. What’s there to complain about? That’s one way to look at it, but it’s not how I see it, and I don’t think YouTube truly sees it that way either.
If you look around at other streaming services, YouTube Premium’s $14 price is pretty consistent with the competition. Netflix’s cheapest ad-free plan, for example, is $15.49. The same can be said for YouTube Music Premium at $11 per month—the same price as Spotify Premium. But things get weird when you combine the two services.
YouTube Premium—even when it was called “YouTube Red”—has always included ad-free access to Google’s music service. YouTube Music has always been the service that you can subscribe to separately. So, the value statement has always been: if you’re going to pay for YouTube Music Premium, you might as well pay a couple of extra bucks for YouTube Premium.
That line of reasoning could lead someone to believe YouTube Premium only costs $3. However, I don’t actually think that’s the case—YouTube the video streaming service is immensely more popular than YouTube Music. It’s clear what Google is doing here.
Google Needs YouTube Music Subscribers
Google has never made it possible to do the opposite of the situation above. You can’t subscribe to YouTube Premium or choose to pay a few extra bucks to include YouTube Music Premium. Because Google knows nobody would do that. Ad-free YouTube is the draw, not YouTube Music.
It’s pretty obvious that YouTube Music Premium subscribers would plummet if people could get YouTube Premium for cheaper without it. As it is, YouTube Music still only accounts for around 10% of the streaming music market share. How much worse would it be if Google wasn’t bootstrapping it to YouTube Premium?
The point is YouTube Music needs YouTube Premium, but the opposite is not true. That’s what has kept me away from YouTube Premium for so long.
I Don’t Want Two Music Services
I’m the first to admit that I don’t love Spotify as a company, but it far and away has the best features for how I like to enjoy music. I’ve been a happy Spotify Premium subscriber for years, and I don’t plan on leaving any time soon. I’ve tried YouTube Music multiple times, but it’s just not for me. So why should I pay for a service I’m not going to use?
Google acts like including YouTube Music Premium with YouTube Premium is a big bonus, but that’s not true if you’re never going to use it. I watch YouTube more than any other streaming service, but for those of us who prefer other music streaming services, it feels like I’m wasting a chunk of that $14 on something I don’t want.
Granted, as I said above, I don’t actually think YouTube Premium should only cost $3. However, I would sign up on day one if they offered a cheaper plan that didn’t include YouTube Music. Sadly, I’m not confident this will ever happen. My suspicion is that $14 is the actual value of YouTube Premium alone, but charging $11 for YouTube Music Premium has locked Google into keeping them together. Decoupling YouTube Music and dropping the price would make it unsustainable.
Financials and logistics aside, I don’t like paying for things I’m not going to use. Whether that’s a fair assessment or not, that’s what yet another messy Google situation has me feeling like. I just want ad-free YouTube. Keep the music, Google.