I’ve used YouTube regularly for most of my life since getting access to the internet. I’ll watch new music videos for my favorite bands or whatever silly videos are trending in my friend groups. Currently, I use the platform to upload and share recordings of my A Cappella group, Keynotes. I’ve never thought of YouTube as primarily a music streaming platform, but according to YouTube’s CEO, that’s what YouTube Red is.
YouTube Red, the platform’s subscription streaming service, provides access to ad-free content and Google Play music. You can also get access to YouTube’s original shows and movies, featuring Hollywood celebrities (like Katy Perry), as well as celebrities who gained a following through YouTube (among these are Lindsey Stirling, the popular violinist). Susan Wojcicki, YouTube’s CEO, says that the platform is not trying to compete with other platforms like Hulu, Amazon, and Netflix (as opposed to other YouTube executives, who have described YouTube Red primarily as “a premium subscription streaming service that offers Hollywood-quality shows and movies“.
Through the lenses of my various Communications courses, I’ve come to see YouTube as the intersection of top-down and bottom-up content. On the one hand, established companies can post promotional videos, and popular bands can get millions of views on their newest professionally-created music videos. On the other hand, anybody with internet access and a camera can upload their own videos, with some amateur users gaining notoriety from their videos. YouTube Red seems like a step in the top-down direction. Instead of focusing on the ability of an average user to post anything and potentially be seen, YouTube is creating more polished content and making it available only to people who are willing to pay for a subscription.
I personally will not be paying for a YouTube Red subscription anytime soon. If it really is, first and foremost, a music streaming service, then I will continue to use Spotify. If it’s main selling point is its original content, I’ll stick to Netflix and Amazon. I like YouTube as a space for amateurs and professionals alike, and I don’t see any real reason to pay for another subscription while all of its services are already being provided by other platforms.