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Lyor Cohen to give SXSW keynote

By | Published on Wednesday 13 December 2017

Lyor Cohen

Record industry veteran Lyor Cohen has been announced as the keynote speaker for SXSW’s music conference next year. It’ll be Cohen’s first big speaking engagement since becoming Head Of Music at YouTube, and since the music industry subsequently turned on him.

As previously reported, YouTube hired “lion of the music industry” Cohen last year. It was seemingly hoped that the former Universal and Warner exec would rebuild some bridges between the video platform and an increasingly hostile music industry. To date, it’s not gone so well.

In August this year, Cohen wrote a blog post, in which he basically said that music companies should just trust that YouTube is going to deliver them big revenues eventually.

He added that the music industry’s campaigning against YouTube’s use of safe harbour law is “a distraction”. If you’ve somehow missed all this, I hope I’m not spoiling it when I tell you that Cohen’s optimism and advice was not received positively.

Various music industry trade bodies – including the RIAA and AI2M in the US and the BPI in the UK – quickly moved to reject Cohen’s proclamations. Which is why, with some heckling already done in written form, this SXSW keynote may become a sequel to that MIDEM panel a few years ago, where Vice President of YouTube Content Tom Pickett was the recipient of a lot of angry shouting.

SXSW Chief Programming Officer Hugh Forrest managed not to rub his hands together and say “I hope so” when announcing the keynote yesterday. Instead, his statement on the matter went like this: “Over his 30 year career Lyor Cohen has been behind the most prolific musical acts and at the helm of the biggest labels. His creativity and passion to keep the music industry innovative continue to flourish with his leadership at YouTube”.

So, yes, get ready for some shouting in March.