YouTube Exec Lyor Cohen: We Pay More in the U.S. Than Other Ad-Supported Music Services

Lyor Cohen
Courtesy of YouTube

YouTube’s global head of music has a message to the music biz: Stop criticizing us for not paying enough. Cohen took to YouTube’s blog Thursday to point out that the service is paying out about $3 per 1000 ad-supported streams in the U.S., which he claimed was more than other ad-supported streaming services.

The remarks were not only a clear jab at competitor Spotify, but also an attempt to deflect frequent criticism from music industry voices like the trade group Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), which frequently has been singling out YouTube as not paying enough for free streams served on its platform.

“Critics complain YouTube isn’t paying enough money for ad-supported streams compared to Spotify or Pandora,” Cohen said, and admitted: “I was one of them! Then I got here and looked at the numbers myself.”

Cohen went on to argue that the alleged discrepancy between perception and reality are largely because of the service’s international reach. “YouTube is global and the numbers get diluted by lower contributions in developing markets,” he wrote. “But they’re working the ads hustle like crazy so payouts can ramp up quickly all around the world. If they can do that, this industry could double in the next few years.”

He also used the blog post to defend the DMCA’s safe harbor provisions, a part of U.S. copyright law that has been frequently criticized by music industry executives. Under the DMCA, YouTube only has to remove copyrighted works after being notified to do so. The service has gone one step further and automated this process with a filtering and monetization scheme dubbed Content ID that allows rights holders to either block, or opt to monetize, future uploads.

“The focus on copyright safe harbors is a distraction,” Cohen wrote Thursday. “Safe harbor helps open platforms like YouTube, Facebook, Soundcloud and Instagram give a voice to millions of artists around the world, making the industry more competitive and vibrant.” Cohen wrote that Content ID has generated more than $2 billion for rights holders over the years — a number that Google first published a little over a year ago.

The RIAA has been increasing its attacks on the DMCA in recent months, with RIAA chairman Cary Sherman recently writing that the the current legal framework “feels like a rigged system.”

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