'Breaking artists is my drug': Lyor Cohen outlines vision for YouTube at SXSW

'Breaking artists is my drug': Lyor Cohen outlines vision for YouTube at SXSW

Lyor Cohen, YouTube’s global head of music, has outlined his intentions with the online video giant in a keynote speech at South By Southwest.

Cohen, who has previously worked at Warner Music Group and Def Jam, spoke of a three-pronged approach to achieve goals outlined as creating diversity of distribution through ads and subscriptions, helping to break artists and providing the music business with better D2C access than any other platform.

“We’re going to collaborate and work closely with our label partners to understand their priorities so we can help promote and break artists. Breaking artists is my drug and now, here at YouTube, I can do so on a massive, global scale,” he told delegates.

“This past year we’ve partnered with Sony, Warner and independents to support artists like Camila Cabello, Dua Lipa, and Ozuna. We got to flex our platform to help promote their music, tell their stories and grow their global fanbases. We’ll continue to work together with these amazing artists and their labels. This is a huge and powerful platform for labels and artists.”

Earlier this year, BRIT Award-winning Dua Lipa saw her New Rules video hit a billion YouTube views. The singer took part in an interview with Cohen at London’s YouTube Space in February.

In December, YouTube announced a deal with Universal Music Group.

Cohen also promised the addition of “a subscription business on top of YouTube’s thriving and growing ads business”.

Revisit Music Week’s editorial on the subject here.

“The industry’s growth will come from both ads and subscription. There are plenty of leaned in listeners willing to pay, so we will convert them to paid subscribers,” he said. 

“We know we’re late to the music subscription party, so we are making an enormous investment to launch a music product that combines the best of Google Play Music’s context listening and YouTube’s breadth and depth of catalogue.”

Focusing on providing better opportunities for the music industry to connect with consumers in new, deeper ways, he added: “We’re dedicated to giving artists, labels and managers the best direct to consumer access across any other platform…The most powerful aspect of YouTube is our ability to allow artists, managers, publishers, songwriters and labels to engage with their fans with no hoops to jump through. 

“Whether it’s promoting a new video, an album, a tour or a live stream, the only place the music industry can play in both commerce and direct to consumer is YouTube.”

Cohen also spoke of giving “a gift back to the industry” he loves.

“I realised this was my opportunity to help bring Google and YouTube together to work in harmony with the industry and build a very healthy business. I’m having the time of my life! I’m so excited and proud of my colleagues and the mission we’re on and the effort we’ve made to work together with the industry.”

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