By Eamonn Forde
YouTube has announced that it has paid out $4 billion to the music business over the past year. But is this going to be enough to turn it from the music industry’s occasional bête noire to its permanent golden child?
Only a few years ago, YouTube was the chief target for the music business. It and its parent company Google were repeatedly attacked for using safe harbour exemptions to, in the music industry’s eyes, avoid paying considerably more in streaming royalties to rights owners. The industry even had a term for it: they called it “the value gap”. And they hated it. They really hated it.
When he took over as global head of music at YouTube in 2016 – after a long career at record labels, notably Def Jam, Warner Music Group and 300 – Lyor Cohen was keen to kick the conversation about the value gap into the long grass.
He wanted to focus instead on how YouTube was a critical marketing, promotion and (yes) revenue partner for the business – stressing their bright and symbiotic future rather than dwelling on the monetary squabbles of the present.
Cohen’s was a very blunt kind of charm offensive (he has a long-standing reputation for direct talk and rarely holding back) and part of his “recalibration” of the conversation was to publish regular blogs on what YouTube was paying out. Transparency was the watchword.