Lyor Cohen, the veteran US label exec, entrepreneur and now global head of music at YouTube, is not only a huge fan of Australian music, he’s willing to give it an almighty push on his company’s platforms.
Cohen sat with this reporter for a keynote interview at Music Matters in Singapore this week, where the hot button topic of content quotas was worked over. Just a week earlier, Tina Arena used the platform of her own keynote speech at Bigsound to call for a public, voluntary commitment from commercial broadcasters to programme 50% local content, with TV and streaming playlists falling in line.
Cohen, one of the most powerful players in the global music community, is a supporter. “I love Australia. I think it’s critical we have diversity of Anglo-repertoire, it can’t just simply come from America and England,” he told the audience Tuesday at the Ritz-Carlton Ballroom. “I think that Australia has a heartbeat and a core of their society that is musical and some of our greatest bands and artists have come from Australia. And I want to do anything I can to support local repertoire being successful. That’s really important for YouTube to continue its growth and its success is to support local emerging talent. That’s really important.”
— Sounds Australia (@SoundsAustralia) September 12, 2017
Content quotas came under the microscope in a series of panels and closed door sessions at Bigsound. Contemporary commercial radio stations are bound to play a minimum of 25% Australian content as a licensing requirement, though a data-driven report presented during the indies’ invite-only Air-Con session at the Brisbane summit revealed the main broadcasters consistently fail to match their targets.
There are no such licensing requirements for streaming services, though TIO understands reps from key rights bodies met at Bigsound to talk through the issues with a goal to presenting a united front. Cohen admits he’d rather the carrot approach than a policy maker’s stick. “I’d rather be proactive than be forced,” he said on establishing a lofty goal for local content.
The previous day, Cohen participated in an entertaining mentoring session with rising Aussie pop artist Tom Jay Williams for the Music Matters Academy. Williams, a former Australian Idol contestant who is building a promising career in Asia and has amassed more than 600,000 followers on Facebook, debuted the video for “Figure It Out,” the second in a series created in support with YouTube. “Part of our journey is to create original content that we could put behind the paywall, so we could show creators that we do care about subscription and that we will find other ways other than simply advertising to pay creators,” Cohen explained. “But we’re also going to create originals that sit in front of the paywall that will be part of the lighting of our consumer base.”
Cohen also gave an update on the merging of Google Play Music and YouTube Red. “Building a subscription business is really hard. Building two is multiplying it. So the fact that that effort is being combined should be a real green light for everybody to see how series this company is. The process is going really, really great. I’m in awe of the people building the product. They’re intelligent and musical. I really feel very confident. It’ll come and you’ll experience it and decide if you like it or not.
Spread over a 3-day conference and 5-night music program, All That Matters welcomed 1,500 attendees and 180 speakers across five content tracks, including music.
— Newton Digital (@Newton_Digital) September 12, 2017