There was big news out of YouTube towers earlier this week, when the Google-owned giant’s Music Key service appeared to start charging for subscriptions.
Now YouTube says it made a mistake, and it won’t be charging for Music Key… for the time being.
Context is important on this one, so let’s rewind a little bit.
Music Key launched in beta in November last year, with a select group of testers and journalists invited to trial it for free.
The plan, we were told, was for these invite-only types to be given six months of Music Key for free, before being charged £8/$8/€8 per month as the service came out of beta.
Normal subscribers would then be able to sign up for $10/£10/€10 per month – unless they were already subscribers of Google Play Music, in which case they’d get Music Key thrown into their bundle for free.
All of that was supposed to happen in May this year.
But on May 25, YouTube announced that it was delaying the public launch of Music Key until mid-September.
Also known as… now.
“SOME USERS WERE MISTAKENLY CHARGED FOR MUSIC KEY. WE’D LIKE TO EXTEND THEIR FREE BETA TRIAL AS A THANK YOU FOR ALL THEIR FEEDBACK.”
Earlier this week, journalist Stuart Dredge – one of those selected beta invitees – reported that he’d received an email from YouTube informing him that, yes, he would now be charged £7.99 a month for Music Key.
Presumably, this was finally it: 10 months after Music Key was announced and its first triallsts invited on board, the paid-for platform was set for lift off.
But wait, what’s this?
YouTube has now issued a statement saying that this email to beta testers was a mistake, and suggested that Music Key’s free trial isn’t finishing in ‘mid-September’ after all.
“Today, some users were mistakenly charged for their free beta subscription of Music Key due to a bug in our system,” said YouTube.
“In addition to refunding the incorrect charges, we’d like to extend their free beta trial as a thank you for all their feedback for the service.”
You can see why suspicions are growing out there amongst the more cynical minds in the music biz that YouTube won’t ever charge for Music Key.
YouTube struck a number of megabucks, multi-year licensing deals with rights-holders last year, largely on the basis of launching a subscription platform.
Deals done, labels are now scratching their heads as to why Music Key isn’t earning them any money, almost a year after it was announced.
Some even posit this may have been a deliberate plot by YouTube to get labels to sign on the dotted licensing line.
Let’s hope not. Because that risks leaving the music industry looking quite naive.
And making record companies even crosser with YouTube than they already are.