Lyor Cohen Joins YouTube

YouTube has tapped Lyor Cohen, the former chief exec of Island Def Jam who went on to run Warner Music Group, as its new Global Head of Music as the streaming giant faces challenges from the major labels and, in particular, Irving Azoff over royalties and copyright issues.

Photo: Richard Vogel/AP
The YouTube Music app on a mobile phone.

“Lyor is a lion of the music industry,” YouTube Chief Business Officer Robert Kyncl said in statement quoted by Music Business Worldwide. “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.”

After leaving Def Jam, Cohen formed 300 Entertainment, which he will continue to run. Google, YouTube’s parent company, is a major backer of 300.

Cohen brings a little history to YouTube, having overseen the first major label licensing agreement that brought WMG music videos to the streaming website for a piece of advertising revenues. Later, he signed a similar deal between WMG and Spotify.

“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,” Cohen wrote in a memo to the YouTube music team as reported by MBW. “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.”

Cohen, in his memo, acknowledges the shifts in technology haven’t been fully embraced, let alone understood, by the larger industry and work must be done to overcome a sense of distrust. He also hopes to focus on breaking emerging artists and “move towards a more collaborative relationship” between the industry and tech.

“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,” Cohen wrote.