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Music

YouTube has Stories now, too: 'Song Stories' on Genius

"Song Stories" combine YouTube items like concert footage and music-video clips with factoids for Snapchat-like behind-the-music features.

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Like many fellow internet companies, YouTube has no shame about mimicking Snapchat.

Seth Rosenblatt/CNET

If it seems like every internet company is launching its own version of "Stories," you aren't exactly wrong. (Like, at all. Really.)

YouTube is the latest to trot out the concept, but with a different tack than Snapchat, Facebook and the like. Song Stories, which launched Monday, pulls together YouTube music content like concert footage, music video clips and thematic playlists into a behind-the-music experience that plays song factoids from Genius alongside the song itself. 

Genius, previously known as Rap Genius and best known as a source for annotated song lyrics, is hosting the Song Stories on its own mobile site and its apps for Apple and Android devices. You can check out a couple (best seen on your phone) for Lil Uzi Vert's "XO TOUR Llif3" and Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart."

Lyor Cohen, YouTube's head of music and a heavyweight music-label executive for years, said the project is part of YouTube's work to improve music "by better connecting artists and fans." He called Song Stories a "perfect example of innovating in pursuit of this goal."

Spotify launched a somewhat similar concept, a "Behind the Lyrics" playlist, with Genius in 2016

YouTube has a rocky relationship with the broader recording industry, which has criticized it for what's known as a "value gap." The complaint is that the massive amount of listening that occurs free on YouTube doesn't match up with the level of revenue it pays back to the people and companies that make that music. 

Genius, too, has had a rocky relationship in the past with YouTube parent company Google. In 2014, Google effectively banished Rap Genius from top results in search after Google learned of efforts to manipulate page rank by paying bloggers for links. Rap Genius apologized and worked to ferret out the "unnatural" links. Since then, the site has broadened beyond hip-hop lyrics into a wider mission to support annotations across internet content. 

Meanwhile, the "Stories" concept has become a farming ground for other tech giants to borrow ideas since Snapchat launched its own in 2013. It grew to be so popular that Facebook blatantly copied it, also to great success. About a month after Snap took its shares public, Facebook said its Instagram Stories, an almost exact copy of Snapchat Stories, was being used by 200 million people -- more than all Snapchat users. 

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