YouTube pays artists hush money to stay on platform

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Former hip-hop mogul Lyor Cohen is now Youtube’s Global Head of Music

Bloomberg reports YouTube’s Support for Musicians Comes With a Catch:

YouTube has asked musicians to agree not to disparage the streaming-video service in exchange for promotional support. In recent months, YouTube has given a handful of musicians a couple hundred thousand dollars to produce videos and promoted their work on billboards, part of a larger campaign to improve the site’s relationship with the music industry.

That doesn’t sounds healthy, does it? But John Gruber weighs in:

These agreements are common in business-to-business deals, but when dealing with artists they seem one-sided. This makes YouTube seem like they lack confidence in their own service. If criticism from musicians is apt, it’s wrong to suppress it. And if it’s not apt, why worry about it?

Now rewind Lyor Cohen in an interview for Complex.com (2010):

Question: A lot of people say that the music industry is moving toward music becoming free. Is that a viable model going forward?
Lyor Cohen: If it’s free, then how would record labels support paying their staff and signing new artists? I think it would be bad for culture and the art if artists and people who develop the apparatus to support those artists don’t get paid.

And what was his pitch in 2016 when he arrived at YouTube? Fortune reports in January 2018:

Cohen is responding to the skepticism by promising financial support for videos, promotion for new releases and a crackdown on free music. He’s developed a sales pitch for meetings with artists, managers and label bosses: “We’re going to make you rich and famous.”

Lyor Cohen told Billboard in 2017 how to achieve this:

“So it takes time. It takes the observation of how your children are consuming media. I don’t think there’s a person in this room that doesn’t recognize that the advertising business is rapidly transitioning and the money is moving from traditional media to digital. It just takes time.”

So no real actual strategy from a former label manager on how to change YouTube’s Freemium Business Model other than bypassing labels and going directly to artists.

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