YouTube has appointed music industry veteran Lyor Cohen as its new global head of music.
Cohen, who has previously served as CEO of Warner Music Group’s recorded music group and president of Def Jam, has been appointed primarily to help smooth relations between YouTube and record companies and artists. In recent months, several high profile artists and record labels have called into question YouTube’s practices, with many accusing the firm of not adequately compensating rights holders.
The relationship between Cohen and Google is not recent. Back in 2013, when Cohen launched his music company 300 Entertainment, Google was an early investor, pumping some $5m into the venture. Robert Kyncl, Chief Business Officer at YouTube, commented: "Lyor is a lion of the music industry. From Rush to Def Jam to Island Def Jam to WMG then 300, he has consistently been a pioneer, charting the course for where music is heading. As we enter the growth era of the music industry, Lyor is in a position to make tremendous difference in accelerating that growth in a fair way for everyone. We are thrilled to welcome him to YouTube.”
The arrival of Cohen at YT marks another instance where a top music industry executive joins a digital service in a senior position following the landing of former Lady GaGa maanger Troy Carter at Spotify and the arrival of former Universal Music executive Jimmy Iovine at Apple Music.
“Lyor is a lion of the music industry,” Robert Kyncl, YouTube chief business officer, said in a statement. “From Rush to Def Jam to Island Def Jam to WMG then 300, he has consistently been a pioneer, charting the course for where music is heading. As we enter the growth era of the music industry, Lyor is in a position to make tremendous difference in accelerating that growth in a fair way for everyone. We are thrilled to welcome him to YouTube.”
In a letter announcing his appointment, Cohen wrote: “It’s an incredible time to be in the music business. Back in 2006, as an executive at Warner Music Group, I worked closely with a fledgling video site to sign its first big record licensing deal. That site was YouTube. Over the next decade, I watched as your work transformed YouTube into an incredibly powerful platform that connects artists with fans all over the world.
“Throughout my career in the music industry, I have strived to stay on the forefront of new technologies and cultural movements. And since starting in the industry over thirty years ago, I’ve always sought to be an advocate for artists and do everything possible to shine a light on the great talent I’ve been lucky enough to work with, including Jay Z, Run-DMC, DMX, Public Enemy, Kanye West, The Killers, Bruno Mars, Ed Sheeran, Young Thug, Fetty Wap, and Highly Suspect among others. Bringing attention to the often overlooked, but talented communities has been a huge part of my life’s work and I’ve seen how music can truly bring people together.
"Over the last two decades we have seen dramatic shifts, both to the inherent value of music and the literal value that people are willing to pay. Technology and new business models have completely changed the established distribution channels that have long-served the recorded music industry. And while change has been met with understandable resistance, I strongly believe that this transformation provides opportunities that will be larger and more rewarding for both artists and the music industry.
“That’s why I am excited to join this incredible team as Global Head of Music. I look forward to working together with all of you on three things. First, helping the music community embrace the technological shifts we’re seeing in music today so we can help take the confusion and distrust out of the equation. Second, building on the great work you all have done to help the music industry and creative community break new songs and artists to YouTube’s audience of over 1 billion fans. From building on the success of the YouTube Music app, to shining a light on emerging artists, I believe our potential to strengthen the industry is massive. And third, I hope that together we can move towards a more collaborative relationship between the music industry and the technologies that are shaping the future of the business.
"I’m confident that we can bridge the worlds of technology and music in ways that benefit everyone, instead of the zero-sum mentality that exists today. I’m proud to be a music man, and hope that the perspective I bring from both the creative community and the music business at large will help us, our music partners and artists grow and thrive together.”
In June this year, Coldplay, Sir Paul McCartney and Lady Gaga were among over 1,000 pop stars from across the globe to sign a letter of complaint over YouTube's practices, which was handed to EU president Jean-Claude Juncker.
The letter said that the future of music is being “jeopardised by a substantial ‘value gap’ caused by user upload services such as Google’s YouTube that are unfairly siphoning value away from the music community and its artists and songwriters."
It also called on Europe’s leaders to address the issue and create “a fair playing field for artists and rights owners. In doing so, you will be securing the future of music for generations to come.”