YouTube’s global head of music, Lyor Cohen, says this ‘misunderstanding’ can be fixed. But how?
YouTube is officially the music industry’s most hated streaming platform. But YouTube global head of music Lyor Cohen says this is largely based on ‘misunderstandings’ that can be resolved.
In an interview with Complex, Cohen stated that YouTube ‘has had a fundamental misunderstanding with the creative community,’ while offering hope that a fruitful and happy partnership can be forged.
The Complex interview spanned Cohen’s considerable career, dating back to the early days of rap. Here’s where the conversation turned to the streaming video giant.
Complex interviewer Noah Callahan-Bever: And you refer to the impresarios as the unemployable. Yet you currently work at YouTube Music, as an employee of this —
Lyon Cohen: — very unusual choice.
Complex: — yes —
Cohen: — for them!
Complex: — for both of you perhaps.
Cohen: — right, for both of us perhaps. Listen, this is how I want to explain it. I had no interest in this job. But I did have an interest in helping to our [music] industry. And this is one of the most powerful and prestigious companies in the world, that have had I think a fundamental misunderstanding with the creative industry.
That I think that by virtue of me being there, can help shepherd (1) a basis of understanding, and (2) a basis of building a business together with the creative community that we could all be proud of.
Unfortunately, the conversation quickly turned to other topics, leaving the specifics for later.
Earlier, Cohen wrote a long missive claiming that YouTube pays a healthy $3 CPM to content creators. That resulted in an industry outcry, with many artists accusing the company of flat-out lying.
(quick aside: a ‘CPM’ refers to ‘cost per thousand,’ which means the amount paid for every 1,000 views)
The video platform has also claimed that a very small percentage of viewing involves music videos, while pointing to effective copyright control mechanisms like ContentID. Industry players like Irving Azoff, the RIAA, and the IFPI, have expressed serious doubts about those assertions.
But is the music industry already marginalizing YouTube?
In a move that could be replicated, Republic Records’ Post Malone restricted video access to YouTube on his latest smash, ‘rockstar,’ while deftly redirecting users to higher-paying platforms. Republic is part of Universal Music Group, the largest label in the industry that could encourage label-wide workarounds similar to the Malone gambit.
Separately, entire companies are also making it easier for artists to deemphasize the video platform.
That includes Patreon, whose successful patronage model offers a meaningful, direct-to-fan earning vehicle for creators. That might explain YouTube’s decision to clampdown on certain Patreon signposts from their videos, perhaps an early sign that ideas like Patreon are working.
Here’s the entire Lyor Cohen interview. Enjoy!