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YouTube Music is shaping up to be a hit

September 3, 2021, 8:52 PM UTC

Music fuels me. On any given day, I usually stream Fordham University’s WFUV—one of exceedingly few non-news radio stations that’s worth a listen in the tristate area. Alt-rock and indie pop tunes set the rhythm to my workday, my flow state, my pulse.

Here’s a taste of what the station broadcast this morning: Silky smooth “Texas Sun” by psychedelic-groovers Khruangbin and soul singer Leon Bridges; a cover of Lucinda Williams’ “Can’t Let Go,” by ex-Led Zeppelin front man Robert Plant and bluegrass belle Alison Krauss; and sweetly sorrowful “It’s a Shame” by Swedish folk crooners First Aid Kit.

Ah, variety! For whatever reason, I find myself needing constant expectation-defying, melodic stimulation. (Maybe it’s just science.) I can’t stomach the same top-of-the-charts hits pumped out by the pop presets, or hearing “Hotel California,” with all due respect to the Eagles, for the zillionth time on classic rock radio. While WFUV certainly cycles through favorites, it always serves up surprises.

But sometimes, when I’m seeking more autonomy in my music selection, I satisfy my cravings another way. Most often, I pull up YouTube on my web browser, a force of habit ingrained in me since high school. Clicking “skip” on video ads is such an automatic routine at this point, I barely notice doing it.

After Google’s fits and starts testing subscription products—Google Play Music, YouTube Red—it finally appears to have hit its stride with YouTube Music and YouTube Premium. On Thursday, Google revealed that the music streaming service ($10 monthly) and its ad-free video watching counterpart (an extra $2 monthly) have amassed 50 million paying subscribers, up from 20 million in October 2020. That makes it the fastest-growing music subscription service, the company boasts, citing MIDia Research, an analytics-tracking firm. 

Perhaps it isn’t surprising that YouTube Music, still a pipsqueak, is growing faster than its much-bigger rivals. In the first three months of the year, Spotify dominated the scene with 32% music-streaming market share, followed by Apple Music’s 16% and Amazon Music’s 13%, according to research MIDia published in July. YouTube Music, at 8%, ranked fourth.

YouTube Music’s relative growth compared to peers is less surprising than that it’s catching on at all. When the service debuted in 2018, Morgan Stanley analysts forecasted it would attract 25 million subscribers by 2022, as the Financial Times points out. The YouTube plan now has double that number—a year early.

Where is all that growth coming from? Apparently, I share a predilection for YouTube with the greener ears of Gen Z, the generation that comes after my Millennial self. “The early signs are that YouTube Music is becoming to Gen Z what Spotify was to Millennials half a decade ago,” Mark Mulligan, an analyst at MIDia, commented in the firm’s July note.

Despite being an audiophile, I subscribe neither to Spotify, nor to YouTube Music, nor any other music service. If the robots have caught up to, or even surpassed, humans as music curation tastemakers, I haven’t followed. Radio—land of the free, home of the megahertz waves—remains my home.

Robert Hackett
@rhhackett
robert.hackett@fortune.com

NEWSWORTHY

Apple delays plans to scan for child exploitation images. Following weeks of backlash and concern for iPhone users' privacy, Apple has pushed back its plan to scan for known images of child sex abuse material in users' iCloud accounts. Designed to use digital fingerprints to look for matches, the system had been expected to roll out later this year. But, in a statement to CNBC, the Tim Cook-led giant said it will be taking "additional time over the coming months to collect input and make improvements before releasing these critically important child safety features." 

Regulators probe the world's biggest DEX. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has opened an investigation into Uniswap Labs, the startup behind the world's largest decentralized exchange, or DEX, known as Uniswap, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday. Whether the investigation leads to any action from the regulator remains undetermined, but the news comes as SEC Chair Gary Gensler mounts a campaign to obtain more oversight over the crypto ecosystem—including exchanges like Uniswap.

Beijing wants to take the wheel at Didi. Beijing's municipal government is seeking to give several state-run firms, including Shouqi Group, some level of power over ride-hailing company Didi GlobalBloomberg reported Friday. The still-preliminary proposal could end up including the group taking a seat on Didi's board and being granted veto power over important decisions through what is known as a "golden share" of the company, according to the report.

Amazon wants its own TV. The Jeff Bezos-founded behemoth that is Amazon has worked with manufacturers like Toshiba and Best Buy's Insignia for years to create TVs that carry its Fire TV software right out of the box. But Amazon now wants its name on the box, too. Insider reported late Thursday that the company is nearing a U.S. launch of its own Amazon-branded TVs that could come as soon as October. The TVs are being designed and manufactured by other entities, but Amazon is also reportedly working on building a TV in house from scratch, too.  

GM hit by chip shortage. For the second time, General Motors, the owner of Chevrolet, Cadillac, and Buick, has temporarily halted production in several of its North American plants in order to address its lack of chips. Among the car makes expected to be hit by the stoppage are the Chevy Silverado, Buick Enclave, and the GMC Acadia. 

This edition of Data Sheet comes courtesy of Declan Harty.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

12345. Passwords are so yesterday. The future? Biometrics. 

A new crop of startups from Silicon Valley is betting that passwords are on their way out the door in favor of biometric authentication, like facial recognition, according to the Financial Times. Time and time again, passwords have proven to be an unreliable and easily hackable considering most people still rely on passwords like "12345" and "password." Biometrics, on the other hand, offer up a more secure (though not perfect) alternative, proponents say.   

From the article:

Several start-ups are persuading more and more companies to with from passwords to other methods of authentication, for security, ease of use and to cut costs.

Estimates vary, but for many companies the cost of resetting the passwords of their employees are between $25 and $75 each time, taking into account the need to have account recovery and call centre staff.

A 2018 report by Forrester found some large US companies allocated more than $1m annually on support costs related to passwords, including anti-bot technologies.

"It's all about the user experience, about compliance—and it's also about saving money," said Ismet Geri, chief executive of the password less identity company Veridium, adding that revenues at his business grew 250 per cent year-on-year in 2020 due to high demand. 

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BEFORE YOU GO

Day traders pile into NFTs. Meme stocks be damned. The masses are putting their money into the new Rolexes and Lambos: Non-fungible tokens that feature Weird Whales, Pudgy Penguins, and Bored Apes. Sales on OpenSea, the NFT marketplace, swelled in August to $3 billion—more than 10x the total from July, Bloomberg reported Thursday. Retail traders, at the same time, have pared back on their option trades in U.S. stocks. As Martha Reyes, head of research at Bequant, told Bloomberg: "Let's face it, it's just more fun to collect jpegs of primates and penguins."

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