Lyor Cohen (not to be confused with Leonard Cohen) stepped up to Warner Music Group (WMG) as their CEO in January of 2004 after running the Def Jam label. Def Jam was known for being one of the, if not the top hip-hop label. Def Jam has promoted artists such as Jay-z, Ludacris, and Method Man before expanding their artist base to groups such as Slayer, the Killers, Slipknot, and many others including various country artists as well. Prior to Def Jam, Cohen oversaw Rush Productions who was responsible for Run DMC, DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, Public Enemy, the Beastie Boys, and similar groups and artists.
In September of 2006, Cohen held an agreement with YouTube which allowed YouTube to show videos by WMG artists while offering WMG a share from YouTube’s advertising. And then made similar deals with Spotify in 2011 before heading up all of WMG’s digital initiatives. In September of 2012, he resigned from WMG with the company being sold to Len Blavatnik’s Access Industries.
Now Cohen is stepping up yet again and working on a sort of ‘partnership’ with Google, asking Google to become financial backers of his next project. Cohen has been gathering clients, building a management and label company and is looking to Google to make “music-related investments.” As many are aware, YouTube will be offering a music subscription service in the near future. While this alone has been somewhat controversial as many are asking why when they already have Google Play Music, Cohen is looking to cash in on such an opportunity.
In addition to trying to make a deal with Google, Cohen has allegedly been speaking with WMG regarding distribution. It will be interesting to see how this all pans out and what Google’s place will be, exactly. If Google is the primary investor, where does that put them in terms of Cohen’s new label? Lyor Cohen is definitely not a bad name to have attached to Google and vice versa. With Cohen’s immense amount of music label experience and the search giant’s rapidly expanding technology products and the fact that Google already operates the world’s largest music service, the pairing could prove very powerful allowing Google to dip their toes in the business end of music production as well. Especially if Google were to get Cohen’s label to be an integral part of YouTube’s upcoming streaming service. Though Google has invested in and purchased other companies in the past (Zagat, Frommer’s, Machinima, etc.), this is a bit different. For those purchases and investments, Google used its venture department. However with this deal, it is speculated (though not verified) that the deal will be extracted from Google’s Corporate coffers directly.
From a personal standpoint, I’m not certain how I feel about this. Looking at it as a business move, it could be very lucrative; a great idea. However, I can’t help my personal bias. WMG is the reason I can’t upload videos with sound if I want to just put a home video or slide-show to music. They are the reason you get those alerts and warnings that tell you that your video has been banned in certain countries or that the sound has been removed. So personally, I really don’t want more of that. However, it could very well be a very wise decision by Google to get someone with Cohen’s clout (that’s a good name for a band, come to think of it – Cohen’s Clout) on board with their new YouTube subscription streaming service. All we can do is wait for someone to comment on the project.