Lyor Cohen Discusses YouTube Music Distribution Channel at SXSW


AUSTIN, TX – Assisted by the legendary DJ D-Nice, Lyor Cohen, one of the most important executives in the breaking of hip hop into mainstream culture, delivered a keynote speech to start day 2 of the SXSW Music Conference, discussing his involvement in YouTube’s new streaming subscription service which launches this month.

Mostly mapping out his long career in the music industry as an executive who preferred to get his hands dirty with being involved in building the careers of the artists he signed to Def Jam -- Cohen connected his passion for breaking artists with how YouTube plans on running their streaming service.

He claims the service will be the “best direct to consumer platform available,” for independent artists and labels, ushering in “a new golden era” for the music industry.

YouTube is pretty late to the game on streaming, which is already a complicated market with no guarantee of success, and there’s speculation that this move is more geared toward appeasing the major labels who have put pressure on YouTube to cough up more money.

Cohen insists that the motives are purely in the interest of breaking artists, and fostering a new

distribution model in the record business, however he didn’t specify whether this would benefit artists in general, or if it would benefit the majors.

Though the music streaming business is murky, and there’s no clear cut path to convincing customers to continue to pay for a service, YouTube does have an advantage over its competitors in that, through its 13 year run, it has remained the main way that consumers become acquainted with anything, let alone music. Eighty percent of watched content on YouTube is brought to viewers via one of their recommendation engines, a statistic Cohen cited to explain how the venture plans on utilizing those engines to strengthen the experience of their music streaming service.

How the service will be handled on the artists’ end was not specified, though Cohen briefly mentioned a tiered system, which means there is no indication that the service will be any better for breaking independent artists rather than an offering of a pound of flesh to the major labels.