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Players gonna play (play, play): Google confirms YouTube Music 'access all areas' key

Indies and Google bury the hatchet - for now

The year's most controversial new music service has arrived - with a sense of anticlimax. Google's YouTube music streaming subscription service has finally been confirmed - with indie labels on board.

"Google YouTube Music Key" (yes, it's really called that) feels provisional, a cog in a bigger picture. As the comments under the formal blog post suggest, Google music subscribers seem pretty confused by it all. And who can blame them? Google has run a paid-for music service - "Google Play Music All Access" for 18 months" in the UK.

GYTMK (see, we're already acronymising it) will run alongside the existing Google Play Music All Access service, rather than replacing it. So the $9.99 subscription to GYTMK will also buy access to GPMAA. Both will stream from a large catalogue, and allow offline access on mobile devices. What GYTMK also offers is access to, er, cats in costume playing the piano, and men blowing pan pipes made of carrots - both of which are examples of YouTube UGC featured in Google's promo clip for GYMTK.

Yet the UGC is the differentiator YouTube boasts over many identikit services: the deep catalogue that isn't officially licensed, but which fans have posted anyway. Google correctly claims that almost any song in the world is already posted on YouTube, somewhere.

It remains to be seen how Google integrates the old Play and the new YouTube-based service – particularly with so much overlap. Or maybe it can enhance the confusion by simply merging the acryonyms: Google You Tube Play Music All Access Key (GYTPMAAK)? No one can accuse Google of failing to make paying for music sexy.

The service hit the front pages this year when indie music companies objected to take-it-or-leave it contracts, which offered far less favourable terms compared to major labels (which signed theirs 18 months ago) and which were accompanied by a threat to block access to YouTube should they refuse to sign. Indie music trade associations formally referred the contracts to the European's Commission competition commission, DG-COMP.

And when they were made public, Google's indie contracts confirmed that YouTube would block refuseniks, that small labels were compelled to accept "Least favoured nation status", and must forsake windowing - an option Taylor Swift is exercising now. They must also vow never to sue a UGC uploader of their own material. In other words, Google was saying: we'll have your music whether you sign this or not.

Weeks later, Google's YouTube music chief quit.

Now the group that negotiates on behalf of thousands of music companies, including European indies the Beggars Group and Domino, confirmed it has signed up.

Charles Caldas, CEO at rights agency Merlin, told us: "We are very pleased that the world's leading independents, as represented by Merlin, are part of this new phase of YouTube's evolution. We wish YouTube much success in the development of the new subscription features and of the service as a whole."

Independent sources told us the terms had been improved. But confidentiality agreements ensure they won't see the light of the day: artists will find out in due course.

It's free for US customers for six months in beta, but this is not an option in the UK. ®

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