YouTube is without doubt the most popular video sharing site both here in Zimbabwe and internationally unless perhaps if you live in China.
It doesn’t matter if you are a sports fan and all you want is to re-watch those awesome scores your team scored over the weekend or the entire last season, or a feline lover who just cannot have enough of cat videos, or a music lover who wants to check out your favorite artist’s latest video – YouTube’s vast video collection caters for everyone.
A while ago YouTube launched a paid channel feature that allowed artist to launch their own channels, geo-lock them and charge subscriptions thus becoming more attractive to musicians.
YouTube has now unveiled a service called Music Key- a premium service that will allow users to access higher-quality videos for most songs in exchange for paying an $8 a month subscription. Premium users will in addition to this enjoy other perks such as the removal of ads. I have never minded them myself as they are less obnoxious than the ones in Hulu for example.
The most notable feature however is that the premium service will allow people to “download” videos on their mobile devices and play them “offline” using the YouTube player app. This might be useful for Zimbabweans who have to pay through their noses for mobile broadband bundles which dissuade most from making any music downloads.
The service will allow you to download tracks over WiFi onto your phone or tablet and listen to the “offline” playlist as you go for a jog for example. Spotify has been offering a service like this to its subscription customers for a while.
Now before you get all excited and attempt to sign up for the service you already know the drill: It’s the Americans (USA) and the Europeans (Britain first then the other Europeans later) first starting with those with a YouTube history of watching a lot of music videos.
In true Google tradition the service will be tested as a “beta” version with invites sent out to a lucky few who will be given the option to invite their friends thus snowballing the whole process.
Those who receive the invite will be able to enjoy the service for 6 months free then fork out $8 or €8 depending on where you live-the matching of figures rather than value is also found in Spotify. The service will reach lowly Zimbabweans next year where they will be expected to pay $10.
Before you start shedding your fake tears you and most people, most likely all those reading this article, have at one time or another made use of various third party tools to illegally download content from the video sharing service.
There are loads of tools out there that allow you to either download the video or convert it to mp3. Internet Download Manager plugin, Flashgot, YouTubedl, YoutubetoMp3 and Clipconverter.cc are just some of the tools people have been using. I have also noted that most of the international video disks sold by vendors at places like Mbare usually contain music sourced from YouTube.
I also know for a fact that most of these tools allow you to download HD videos so it’s not clear whether there will be changes to the way free users view content on the site after the launch of the Music Key service.
Will Google for example restrict viewers to 480p resolutions or perhaps apply a more stringent method of preventing downloads from their site after the manner of Hulu and Netflix?
This remains to be seen but I think overall Music Key will be a good thing for us local users, by allowing us to save bandwidth through the offline play feature, and for our artists as more money is availed to them thus making it more profitable to upload their music on the platform than is possible through ad revenue.
There are even rumors that users will be able to buy music videos on the new Music Key platform thus effectively transforming YouTube into a well-stocked music store overnight.
Do you think this a credible solution for music piracy, even in Zimbabwe? Would you pay $8 for Music Key?
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