YouTube Music racks up hundreds of millions of plays daily, but it has lagged behind its rivals including Apple Music and Spotify when it comes to offering some key features. Google, which owns the music-sharing service, has set to address that issue by adding song credits and making it easier for premium subscribers to receive offline downloads.
However, a more seemingly basic feature had been absent until Monday – namely real-time song lyrics. Multiple Reddit users reported that an updated Lyrics screen was present on the YouTube Music app for Android and iOS. It is similar to Spotify, where the lyrics are now in sync with a song in real-time, and YouTube Music even highlights the relevant excerpt as the words are being sung.
Previously, lyrics on the YouTube Music app were just a scrollable wall of text.
YouTube has been playing catch up – as Apple Music introduced time-synced lyrics back in 2019, and last December launched Apple Music Sing, a karaoke mode that allows users to sing along to songs with adjustable vocals and real-time lyrics.
“Google adding real-time lyrics to YouTube Music is mainly about the company finally catching up to Spotify and Apple Music which have long offered that feature,” said technology industry analyst Charles King of Pund-IT. “According to Google real-time lyrics is one of the features most requested by YouTube Music users so the company announced a partnership with MusixMatch, a static lyrics provider.”
That partnership with MusixMatch was first announced back in August of last year – but apparently has taken a while to be implemented. Google made the announcement after it said it had “seen a positive impact on lyrics consumption rates since launching! This opens doors for us to build even more Lyric features in the future so stay tuned!”
The real-time lyrics will likely be slowly rolled out in the coming weeks via a server-side update. It could therefore be a while before the new lyrics menu is available to the majority of users of YouTube Music.
It is just one of several new features already introduced by the search giant for its Android OS.
“Google has embedded Live Caption and Live Transcribe features that make it simple for Android phone users to see/read subtitles of conversations, phone calls, and other media in real-time,” added King.
YouTube Music Catching A Beat
Of course, it shouldn’t be completely surprising that YouTube Music has to pick up the tempo to catch up with features already offered by Spotify and Apple Music. The former of YouTube’s rivals has been operating since 2008, while the latter launched in 2015. By contrast, YouTube Music only went fully live in June 2018.
All of these platforms have continued to take advantage of the digitalization of the music industry, Music Business World reported. It cited data from Midia Research, which noted that by the end of the first half of last year, there were 616.2 million subscribers to music streaming services globally. That figure was an increase of 17.6% from a year earlier.
The Power Of Lyrics
There was a time when music publishers actually went out of their way to stop lyrics from being posted online, but today it is hard not to find the lyrics for virtually any song from being shared across the web. And more importantly, a generation of listeners has now grown up expecting lyrics to be readily available.
“Having been a broadcaster for more than 40 years, I’ve gotten the calls from listeners asking ‘what are they singing,'” said Bruce Barber, professional in residence and general manager at 88.7 WNHU at the University of New Haven.
“For years, listeners often thought the lyrics were something different from what they heard,” Barber added. “So it isn’t surprising that technology has stepped in to provide that service. Lyrics seem to be something that can make a song so enjoyable and people want to know what they’re hearing.”
Of course, the publishing industry has had to accept that lyrics have become omnipresent.
“We have seen an arc of copyright that goes back to sheet music,” Barber explained. “The business side was always slow to catch up with technology, and they went to extremes to protect what they saw as their property.”
It was hard to stop new technology of course.
“The industry had to acquiesce,” Barber continued. “The publishers still have their rights, but they have to accept what is out there. YouTube Music is now answering the demand for real-time lyrics.”