Lyor Cohen leads YouTube pitch for more advertisers

Lyor Cohen

YouTube’s Lyor Cohen has made a play for advertisers to use the power of the platform to connect with new audiences.

Cohen, global head of music at the digital company, is one of the most recognisable executives in the music industry and has played a key role in bringing many artists to prominence over the years, both during his storied label career and his current role. And his platform certainly has the power to deliver results, with the company now saying a massive two billion logged-in users watch a music video on YouTube each month.

Now, in a new blog, Cohen casts himself as a salesman, urging advertisers to embrace “new opportunities to reach attentive, engaged audiences through digital music content”.

“When the pandemic hit, it fundamentally changed the music industry forever,” said Cohen. “With in-person concerts cancelled and venues closed, artists and fans took to online platforms. Music video streaming is quickly growing in popularity: more than two billion people come to YouTube each month to experience music.”

Cohen acknowledges that “many marketers are hesitant to invest because of common myths about music content and its impact on marketing goals” – so his blog attempts to bust those ‘myths’.

When the pandemic hit, it fundamentally changed the music industry forever

Lyor Cohen, YouTube

He addresses four (mis)conceptions about advertising on streaming platforms: that “all streaming music platforms are created equal”; that “people pay less attention to music content”; that “diverse music reaches only niche audiences”; and that “advertising against music content does not yield results”.

He replaces those with four “facts” about the sector: that “people go to different platforms for different things”; that “over 85% of music video viewing on YouTube happens in the foreground”; that “music from around the world resonates with broad audiences”; and that “brands can achieve results by aligning with music content”.

Cohen is no stranger to shooting from the hip of course. And as long ago as his 2018 Music Week cover story, he was stressing that YouTube’s advertising revenue should be just as important to the music industry as its streaming revenues.

Since then, YouTube’s much-touted music subscription service has become a success, without ever quite challenging the big three – it recently announced that it had over 30 million Music and Premium paid subscribers, and over 35m including those on free trials. It also says it has over 70m official tracks on its platform, more than any other service. One thing Cohen doesn't address is the music industry's long-held antipathy towards YouTube's free tier, which the industry says pays notably less than subscription services, leading to many a 'value gap'-based campaign. But the majority of YouTube's huge consumption still takes place on free tiers – and Cohen is clearly trying to position the service as a credible alternative to Spotify’s free tier for advertisers.

“As I talk to folks in the industry, I know there are often misconceptions about how people engage with music and music content’s ability to drive results,” Cohen concluded. “In all my years in the business I can tell you this: music moves and shapes culture, communities, and people. For advertisers, it’s a reliable – and untapped – way to capture an audience that’s engaging with videos they truly love.”

Cohen’s blog – which you can read in full here – coincided with YouTube’s launch of a new ‘audio ad’ format, “designed to connect your brand with audiences in engaged and ambient listening on YouTube”.

* To read our 2018 cover story on Lyor Cohen, click here. To subscribe to Music Week and never miss a vital music biz story, click here.

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