Lyor Cohen Says YouTube Has a ‘Fundamental Misunderstanding With the Creative Industry’

YouTube global head of music Lyor Cohen

YouTube global head of music Lyor Cohen

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)

YouTube Says It Pays $3 for Every 1,000 Views. A Musician Says He’s Making 1/50th of That.

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.

Breaking: Billboard Will *NOT* Incorporate YouTube Into Its Official Chart

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.

How Post Malone Stuck It to YouTube, Got a #1 Hit, and Cashed a Big Fat Check

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!

5 Responses

  1. Anonymous

    YouTube is legally allowing the illegal distribution of music on it’s service in the form of user-generated content, and using it’s lobbying power to keep the government from fixing the loophole in the DMCA that allows them to get away with it. I don’t think there is any misunderstanding here.

    • Tinker tailor soldier

      Phrase it how you like but if the labels don’t want their content there they should take it ALL down and make Youtube beg.

      And/Or make their own Youtube and keep all the revenue.

      • Remi Swierczek

        Labels are operated by overpaid , golf playing clowns, or clueless narcissistic knights eating old goodwill and preparing bowties for next Grammys!

        Music is just ABANDONED and FUCKED (80% by Google) for almost 17 years!

        We can have happy $300B music industry by 2030 if only someone can explain to Larry Page how to double Google on music or if we can UNITE & STOP
        Larry’s ENSLAVEMENT of music at UMG request.

  2. Kimeyo

    We can blame everyone in the Music Industry for the fall out… Our previous Executives always kept the leverage for the Record Companies… Walter Yetnikoff will always be considered the Greatest Music Executive of all time… He would have never given in to the internet companies Irving Azzof is one of the last Men standing of the Great Music Executives and you do not see him accepting any new form of exploitation without properly compensation for his clients… YouTube, Apple and Pandora are all former Musicians or Wealthy Friends of Executives who wanted to make money without working for it… No one really understands what it takes to become a highly exploited Artist or even a Hard Working Artist, most people feel that its easy to create songs so why should you care if we get money for your God Given talent… What these companies are failing to realize they can make individual deals with Artist to create a more effective business model, because let’s be honest the name of the Game is Exploitation because there is 2 choices once the music is made available- you like it or you don’t… In regards to making money on the music from streaming it is rather difficult to set a price because most people don’t pay the monthly bill to help these sites create a revenue stream… The PRO’s are finding aggressive ways to maintain some sort of leverage with these companies and the reason being is the PRO’s have less red tape to worry about when it comes to charging its just difficult to create the right pay scale… Steve Jobs is the biggest culprit in changing the entire revenue stream of the Music Industry… I feel things will change soon because exclusive music will always have more value than easily accessible Music any day… Keep up the Fight…