Google Play Music and YouTube Red may merge into the single streaming service we all want

A comment by YouTube global music chief Lyor Cohen has all but confirmed that Google is working toward creating a single streaming offering.

A new mega streaming music service may be coming to your phone. In a panel discussion at the New Music Seminar conference in New York, a YouTube exec has confirmed what we all hoped would happen one day: YouTube Red and Google Play Music are planning to merge.

As first reported by The Verge, hip-hop guru and YouTube’s global music chief Lyor Cohen plainly stated, “The important thing is combining YouTube Red and Google Play Music, and having one offering,” in response to a question about YouTube Red’s waning popularity. That would come as welcome news to users who struggle to navigate between the two services.

Ever since its inception in 2015, a YouTube Red subscription has come with a free subscription to Google Play Music, and vice versa. However, you need to operate two apps to enjoy both services, and many subscribers might not even realize they have a subscription to the other. The only reference to the perk on either site is in the FAQ section, which, let’s face it, most people don’t read.

Cohen’s comments aren’t a complete surprise, but they do represent the first confirmation that the two services are indeed moving on a path toward consolidation. Back in February, Google combined the YouTube and Google Play music teams into a single unit, but was characteristically coy about whether the two services would ever merge, saying, "Music is very important to Google and we’re evaluating how to bring together our music offerings to deliver the best possible product for our users, music partners and artists."

It's unclear where Google stands in the streaming music game, since it hasn't released subscriber data for either service. However, it isn't taking the pressure from Spotify and Apple Music lightly. Earlier this year, Google teamed up with Samsung for an exclusive partnership on the Galaxy S8, making it the default music player on the phone and upping the free song storage limit from 50,000 songs to 100,000.

In a statement, Google said users would get “plenty of notice before any changes are made.”

Google Play Music offers access to some 40 million songs for streaming and offline listening, while YouTube Red brings ad-free background play and video downloads. Both services cost $10 a month following a free trial period.

How it could play out: The streaming music wars are a hotly contested battlefield, but Google hasn’t yet leveraged its YouTube advantage to its full extent. A merged YouTube Red and Google Play Music service with a universal app that offers a seamless listening experience would offer something Spotify and Apple Music doesn’t: a massive video library. While both Apple and Spotify offer limited access to music videos, shows, and live clips, they pale in comparison to YouTube's breadth. A simple, single service would instantly rocket Google Play to the head of the streaming music pack.

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