July 9, 2012 at 11:13 am

Would You Pay for Better Sound on YouTube?

The Beatles are on YouTube, as is just about every other band you've heard of. Would you pay to turn YouTube into a better-sounding music service?

A Twitter person recently said that they would pay for a premium version of Twitter. We can’t remember who it was. Sorry, that person.

But their comment started us thinking: What other free things might be worth paying for, under the right circumstances? In our case, it might be a great-sounding version of YouTube.

This isn’t as crazy as it sounds. Not only is there tons of music on YouTube, including subscription service holdouts like the Beatles, but Google’s API allows people to build apps on top of YouTube (our current favorite: This Is My Jam).

As we are endlessly fond of pointing out, there’s a not-so-secret trick to making the music on YouTube sound much better, in many cases. All you have to do is change the video quality to its highest setting, and presto, the sound quality jumps up considerably.

There are a couple of problems with this. First, you would need to adjust that setting every time you listen to a song on YouTube to ensure the best sound quality for your music (or switch to fullscreen mode if you have “Always play HD for fullscreen” selected in preferences.

Second, music-oriented apps like Cull TV or TIMJ, which run on the YouTube API, cannot play high-quality audio, and also cannot play video in fullscreen mode. So even if you have  ”Always play HD for fullscreen” selected, it won’t apply to any of these apps.

The answer could be a premium version of YouTube that turns it into the full-fledged music service it is pretending not to be, because those can be more expensive to license. (As a digital music executive once said to us, “If you want to see the best free music service in the world, go to YouTube and close your eyes.”)

Maybe the answer is to charge a nominal fee for great sound (and to eliminate advertising), so that whenever you listen to music on YouTube, the audio quality will be automatically set at the maximum. This would also turn YouTube into a much better app platform, so that everything that runs on it would sound better as well.

Finally, because YouTube is the only unlimited music service that works with Google’s Nexus Q, it would mean better sound on that platform, too.

What do you think?


  • http://www.fluxresearch.com/ Clyde Smith

    My kneejerk reaction was, of course not, I listen to YouTube on lousy little internal iMac speakers.  But, then again, I  do use YouTube for most of my streaming music and if I got better speakers or started listening on headphones again, that might make sense.  Interesting idea.

  • JoshWMyers

    The 0.0001% of the population that are audiophiles or really into music enough to care probably wouldn’t initially, since YouTube is known for low quality sound. They might after a few months or years after the service starts. However, would the rest of the 99.999% pay while the rest of YouTube was free? Not a chance.

  • http://twitter.com/DominicoArtist DominicoArtist

    $20 bucks a year to eliminate advertising!! I would absolutely pay for that perk.  If better and more consistent audio were part of that service as well that would be great.  The only issue is that the quality of audio would still be at the mercy of the video creator.  If it sucks on their end then it is all for not.

  • http://twitter.com/superSongbird1 Hollywood Studios

    I’d like to see a free upgrade on youtube where we can tweek the sound levels/ mixes/ replace the track with another from our computer/ re-do a voiceover or vocal track on a pre-existing video.  Also, something like a cover-all “bar” license for songs, where independent recording artists can record cover songs and have the opportunity to generate ads to get pay from their work, and a portion can go towards the license fees, but just a simple Click Here one solution instead of every person having to re-invent the wheel every time.