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YouTube hires legendary music executive Lyor Cohen to strengthen ties with artists

YouTube hires legendary music executive Lyor Cohen to strengthen ties with artists


A pioneer in the world of hip-hop, Cohen helped run Def Jam before leading up Warner Music Group

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As the battle for exclusive albums and access to artists heats up in the world of streaming music, YouTube has signed an industry legend to help cement relationships with the musicians who publish on its platform. Lyor Cohen, who as head of Warner Music Group in 2006 did the industry's first licensing with YouTube, has now come aboard as the video giant's "global head of music."

Cohen laid out his agenda in a letter to the YouTube Music team. "First, helping the music community embrace the technological shifts we’re seeing in music today so we can help take the confusion and distrust out of the equation. Second, building on the great work you all have done to help the music industry and creative community break new songs and artists to YouTube’s audience of over 1 billion fans. From building on the success of the YouTube Music app, to shining a light on emerging artists, I believe our potential to strengthen the industry is massive. And third, I hope that together we can move towards a more collaborative relationship between the music industry and the technologies that are shaping the future of the business."

Cohen has worked with Jay Z, Kanye, Bruno Mars, and Ed Sheeran

This hire is part of a pattern. Apple brought on its own consigliere to the music industry when it bought Beats, adding Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre as executives. And Spotify brought on its own heavy hitter when it hired Troy Carter earlier this year. Cohen has been cited a mentor by artists like Jay Z, but its unclear what that relationship will mean now that Jay Z owns a competing service, Tidal.

Cohen didn't beat around the bush, acknowledging the rather chilly relationship that exists today between the industry that creates music and the tech platforms that consumers increasingly use to consume it. "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," he wrote. "I’m proud to be a music man, and hope that the perspective I bring from both the creative community and the music business at large will help us, our music partners and artists grow and thrive together."