Every month, 1.5 billion people log into their youtube accounts and watch videos. There are likely many more millions that watch videos, but don’t login. In short, a lot of people go on YouTube. While streaming may seem like a fairly new method of listening to music since maybe 4 years ago, YouTube has allowed for the streaming of music and music videos long before Spotify, Apple Music and any other service. Combine the fact that YouTube is a platform for more than music and it’s billion users, it is far ahead in terms of a worldwide reach.
With all of that said, YouTube is not helping anybody directly make money in the music industry. Of course, it is still a great tool for pure exposure, but it is now unavoidable to see that people can essentially listen to music for free endlessly and not even need to make an account. “YouTube Music” was an attempt to legitimize the platform and try to fit in with the Spotify’s of the world, but after a brief stint, Google is likely to just merge it with Google Play and re-strategize. Still it must be noted that YouTube is not the only company barely paying artists, but while Spotify (supposedly) pays about $0.0038 per stream of a song, YouTube pays a fraction of that fraction at $0.0006 per stream.
Search just the word “music” in Google and see what comes up first. You could even try the same search on Bing and YouTube is still the first result for “music”. YouTube is a giant compared to other streaming services, but pays less than any other streaming service. Most people I know will tell you that they discover most new music on YouTube, and spend lots of time on the platform. It is an interesting catch-22 that the music industry is in with YouTube. They like the exposure but want a bigger payout. On one hand, piracy has gone down dramatically since YouTube, and streaming rose to prominence, but on the other hand, if the largest streaming platform in the world owes billions of dollars to artists and does a bad job of policing unlicensed usage, is that not bad as well?
YouTube could dominate the music world if it finds a way to get people to pay for streaming, but first it has to find a way to make a profit of its own for Google. In other words, they need to get their s**t together. Could this happen in the future? Maybe. But don’t count on it.