YouTube plans to ‘frustrate’ music fans into paying for its ad-free service

If a music streaming service started serving up more ads between tracks, would it persuade you to fork out for a subscription that eliminates those ads, or would it drive you to search out a rival service instead?

YouTube’s global head of music said in recent days the company plans to “frustrate” users into paying a monthly fee for its soon-to-launch music streaming service by serving up more ads with the free version. Lyor Cohen revealed the strategy during an interview at South by Southwest, Bloomberg reported.

The plan, the executive said, is to “smoke out” people who have the money to pay for the service and gently nudge them toward it. YouTube’s new subscription service, which is expected to launch this year after completion of final testing with thousands of its employees, will feature exclusive content such as music videos, behind-the-scenes footage, and playlists, with no ads interrupting the service.

Cohen said the idea would be to “frustrate and seduce” YouTube users to become subscribers, saying, “Once we do that, trust me, all that noise will be gone and articles people write about that noise will be gone.”

Offering an example, he said, “You’re not going to be happy after you’re jamming Stairway to Heaven and you get an ad right after that.”

Keen to clarify Cohen’s comments, YouTube insisted the company’s top priority is to “deliver a great user experience, and that includes ensuring users do not encounter excessive ad loads. For a specific subset of users who use YouTube like a paid music service today, and would benefit most from additional features, we may show more ads or promotional prompts to upsell to our paid service.” In other words, more ads for some users. Which may or may not annoy them.

YouTube hopes its subscription service will help to reassure record-industry executives who for a long time have complained of a lack of revenue from the streaming giant considering the number of people that use it to listen to music for free.

The Google-owned company has revealed few details about its forthcoming subscription service, which looks set to unite its paid Google Play Music offering with YouTube Music, a free app that landed three years ago offering music with ads.

Google launched Google Play Music in 2011, but it hasn’t fared well against the likes of Spotify and Apple Music. It followed up with Music Key in 2014, offering subscribers ad-free music videos, but a lack of interest saw Music Key succeeded by YouTube Red in 2015. Red eliminates ads and includes original programming, offline viewing, and background playback for $10 a month.

No subscription fees have been mentioned for YouTube’s upcoming service, but with both Spotify and Apple Music charging $10 a month for basic streaming plans, YouTube is expected to charge a similar amount.