YouTube, the pioneer of free online videos watched by millions of people, is rolling out a subscription music streaming service to compete with stalwarts like Spotify and others.
The Internet giant, owned by Google, will introduce early next week a new service dubbed YouTube Music Key for $9.99 a month that will give users access to a massive music catalog that they can listen to on their smartphones. YouTube's service will be on demand and allow subscribers to listen to music and watch videos without commercials.
YouTube's new service will also let subscribers listen while sending text messages and store music on their devices for offline listening.
The move by Google comes after more than a year of speculation. The paid offering could help the company increase its strength in the world of online music. It's starting off with a promotional monthly fee of $7.99, lower than rivals such as Stockholm-based Spotify.
"We want YouTube to continue to be the best place for artists and fans to connect, so we're bringing a new music experience on YouTube to give fans more ways to enjoy music on YouTube, and give artists more ways to connect with fans and earn more revenue," said Christophe Muller, YouTube's head of music partnerships.
YouTube has already amassed a huge audience for music through its free video site that makes money from advertising. Videos featuring the likes of Miley Cyrus ("Wrecking Ball") and Meghan Trainor ("All About That Bass") have drawn hundreds of millions of views each.
Those invited at launch will have free use for six months after it debuts early next week.
YouTube has secured the rights to a huge catalog of songs with deals with three major record labels, Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group. The tech giant also has deals with hundreds of independent music companies.
Since its launch in 2005, YouTube has established itself as one of the most popular destinations for free music. The site has become a launching pad to pop chart-toppers like Korean rapper Psy, and also to countless user-generated parodies of songs like "Let It Go" from Disney's "Frozen."
YouTube says people around the world watch more than 6 billion hours of its videos a month. Spotify, the biggest subscription music service, counts more than 50 million users, about 12 million of whom pay to access its library without commercials.
Google is no stranger to the subscription music world. It already has a $10-a-month service called Google Play Music All Access, though it has not released its number of users. People who sign up for Music Key will also get to tap into Google Play Music.