One of the Most Influential Music Industry Executives Calls YouTube “A Threat to Artists’ Livelihood”

Irving Azoff
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Irving Azoff
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Irving Azoff

 YouTube Music’s launch week is already devolving into a war of words.  And the central question is whether YouTube is making it impossible to survive as an artist — while undercutting better-paying platforms like Spotify and Apple Music.

Spotify is widely criticized for sub-par payments to artists and labels.  But YouTube’s payouts are a tiny fraction of what Spotify delivers, thanks to clever loopholes in existing copyright law.

Just recently, Elon Musk blasted streaming music platforms for delivering ‘crazy low payouts,’ while presenting a depressing breakdown from Statista of what those payouts are.  But on the ‘crazy low’ spectrum, perhaps YouTube would qualify as ‘psychotically bottom-scraping’.

Now, one of the most influential executives in the music industry is saying it out loud.  And, slamming YouTube’s global head of music, Lyor Cohen, in the process.

Azoff took particular issue with a glowing Business Insider feature of Cohen (subscription required).  In the piece, the YouTube executive characterized Spotify and Apple Music as ‘the real threats,’ based partly on their sub-par payouts.   In the rest of the piece, Cohen pointed to YouTube as the real savior of the industry, while predicting that YouTube Music would bring everyone to a well-paid happy place.

That’s quite possible — that is, if enough people subscribe to a $9.99 YouTube Music Premium account.  Currently, YouTube claims to have a billion music users, making a premium conversion of just 2-3 percent something worthwhile.

YouTube Music Will be Supported by the Biggest Advertising Campaign In the Company’s History

But back-of-the-envelope estimates sometimes get ruined by reality.

And if YouTube Music doesn’t take off, it’s probably more of the same, with artists forced to monetize their paltry advertising returns while praying for a premium spin.  And one thing that few would dispute is that YouTube — right now — isn’t paying artists much at all.  And the same is true for most labels and publishers.

“Apple and Spotify don’t threaten, they pay a fair wage. YouTube’s below market rates are a threat to artists’ livelihood,” Azoff tweeted.

Azoff has been a longtime critic of streaming platforms, with YouTube a particular focus.  Others seem to be giving YouTube Music a chance, especially on day one.  But Cohen himself remains an extremely controversial figure within the music industry, perhaps making it more difficult to properly launch a cooperative, growth-focused premium platform.



7 Responses

  1. SUcky

    a zionist with a first name that may as well be LIAR. Great, just who should be running the music business. F Youtube for life. It’s worth paying Vimeo just to get away form that parasitic worm corporation. Hopefully, the europeans are going to shove YT up Cohen’s zionist ass.

    • really?

      really? How about someone remove this BS “Zionist conspiracy” response – anti-Semtism, pure and simple.

  2. Dennis Nilsson

    I suspect that the threat is not to the artists, but to the record companies.

    If an artist on Spotify is lucky enough to have a popular track get played 10 million times, at the high end of the payout of $0.0084 per stream, that’s $84,000, of which the label will get the lion’s share.

    It’s only the very upper echelon of artists, with billions of streams world wide, artists that I rarely listen to (if at all) that are raking it in for their labels and themselves.

    I’d wager that Spotify, Youtube, Google Play Music, etc. is viewed as a promotional tool by most mid-level and lower artists.

    • Versus

      Promotion for what, if no one is buying music anymore?

      • Jim

        Promotion for shows.

        Money is made at shows these days, and people might not buy CDs much any more, but people still do go to shows.

  3. Yo Daddy

    Perhaps they should start supporting good music first and let it evolve by itself, the music industry is destroying itself through SJW crap. How do they decide who becomes the next rap star for a week? Do they just pick someone up off the streets and bring them in?