As YouTube Music hits 100m paid subscribers, Lyor Cohen says the platform ‘cares profoundly about the health of the music industry’

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MBW’s Stat Of The Week is a series in which we highlight a data point that deserves the attention of the global music industry. Stat Of the Week is supported by music data analytics firm Chartmetric.

One of the biggest topics of discussion in Los Angeles during Grammy Week has been the very public falling out between a certain video platform and the world’s largest music rightsholder.

Meanwhile, another platform born in the video space is enjoying a much more celebratory time with the music business today.

YouTube, which also operates the TikTok rival Shorts, has surpassed the significant milestone of 100 million paid YouTube Music and Premium subscribers worldwide.

(YouTube Music is available as a standalone subscription platform, or bundled into a YouTube Premium subscription.)

That subscriber figure marks a 20 million increase on the last subscriber figure to be publicly announced for YouTube Music, which was 80 million, in November 2022.

YouTube is also now available in over 100 countries and regions “with more on the horizon in 2024” according to YouTube’s Global Head of Music, Lyor Cohen.

“Our superpower is our deep and collaborative relationship with the music industry.”

Lyor Cohen

Speaking with MBW in L.A. this week, Cohen commented on YouTube Music’s current positioning in the market.

He told us, in what some could perceive as a nod to TikTok’s current dispute with UMG , that YouTube Music is “a musical organization that cares profoundly about the health of the music industry”.

He added: “Our superpower is our deep and collaborative relationship with the music industry. Our subscriptions business has confirmed that we have listened to our partners who for many years have said, ‘Hey, why don’t you build a subscription business to layer on top of your booming advertising business?.’

“Being a good partner is being a good listener.”

One of YouTube’s partners is Universal Music Group, whose Chairman and CEO Sir Lucian Grainge told MBW: “Neal [Mohan], Lyor, and their team at YouTube deserve enormous credit for achieving this extraordinary milestone and continuing to grow and drive innovation while making significant contributions to the global music ecosystem.”

“Our partnership demonstrates that if you start from a foundation of respect for artists and songwriters, there are limitless opportunities to create thriving businesses that benefit artists and fans alike.”

Sir Lucian Grainge, Universal Music Group

Grainge added: “Our partnership demonstrates that if you start from a foundation of respect for artists and songwriters, there are limitless opportunities to create thriving businesses that benefit artists and fans alike.”

Warner Music Group CEO Robert Kyncl also joined Sir Lucian Grainge in congratulating YouTube Music.

“Having been at YouTube when we conceived of the subscription service, 100 million customers felt like a distant possibility,” said Kyncl.

“Today, it’s yet another signpost on a journey of extraordinary growth. The fact that YouTube continues to go from strength to strength isn’t just good for them, it’s healthy for the entire music ecosystem.”

“The fact that YouTube continues to go from strength to strength isn’t just good for them, it’s healthy for the entire music ecosystem.”

Robert Kyncl, Warner Music Group

Lyor Cohen told MBW that the platform’s subscriber growth over the past year highlights the effectiveness of YouTube’s ‘twin-engine’ strategy to grow both advertising and subscription revenue.

“Many people have thought about YouTube as being simply an advertising company, but this should prove to everybody that we care deeply about our twin-engine growth strategy,” he said.

“Subscription is an integral part of meeting the consumers where they are and offering them products that they love. And it’s really helpful for the music industry because it allows them to sign more artists and songwriters in the world.”

Cohen also reiterated his previously stated goal of YouTube becoming the number one revenue source to the music industry.

“That’s our mission,” he added. “We’re laser-focused on it.”

YouTube announced in September 2022 that it had paid music rightsholders over USD $6 billion in the 12 months to the end of June 2022.

A lot has happened at YouTube since the platform last revealed its paid YouTube Music and Premium subscriber numbers.

In March last year, for example, music rightsholders and creators started to receive a revenue share from advertisements on YouTube Shorts.

YouTube and Universal Music Group also struck up a partnership to develop AI music tools.

Plus, YouTube launched Dream Track, an AI experiment in YouTube Shorts, in which a limited set of YouTube Shorts creators in the US have been able to use the tool to produce “a unique soundtrack” featuring the AI-generated voice and musical style of artists including Alec Benjamin, Charlie Puth, Charli XCX, Demi Lovato, John Legend, Sia, T-Pain, Troye Sivan and Papoose.

Asked about what we can expect to see next from YouTube in terms of its AI-related work in the coming 12 months, Cohen said: “We want to help activate catalog and we are trying to find the sweet spot between the user, the artist and the creator.”

He added: “We’re doing a lot of experimenting right now to figure out what the product is that helps artists find their audience and Gen AI is going to help do that.”

Additionally, with the conversation around superfans getting louder in the music industry, Cohen told us that ‘superfans’ are “going to be increasingly important to [YouTube Music’s] roadmap” in the coming months and years.

He added: “Right now, we use Shorts as a discovery tool for the user to build a deep and sticky relationship with their favorite artists by seeing the premium music video or live performance interviews.

“We are hyper-focused this year on superfans. And we think that we could be a really net positive to the industry.”

Asked about his ambitions for YouTube Music’s positioning over the next few years, Cohen told MBW: “It’s really simple. being the number one revenue source and being the best place for every music fan.”

Many of YouTube Music’s independent partners also congratulated the platform on its paid subs milestone today.

Denis Ladegaillerie, Founder & CEO, Believe said: “Congratulations to YouTube for this fantastic milestone!

“This is a true testament to its long-lasting commitment to provide all artists with a platform to connect with their fans and grow their careers. We look forward to continuing shaping together the future of a fair music industry together.”

Andrea Gleeson, CEO, Tunecore added: “Congratulations to YouTube on reaching 100m YouTube Music and Premium subscribers around the world!

“As an important discovery platform for self-releasing artists, YouTube Music has provided TuneCore artists with the opportunity to find listeners, grow their audiences, and build their careers. We are thrilled to see YouTube continue to grow and support independent music around the world.”

Bob Bruderman, EVP, Global Digital Business, Kobalt Music Group, said:  “Kobalt has been a vocal supporter of YouTube’s subscription strategy from the start.

“It was immediately clear that YouTube had a subscription value proposition for consumers that aligns with creating a sustainable path to compensating songwriters, music publishers, societies, artists, and labels.

“We are encouraged that hitting 100m subscribers and continuing to build on it will further bolster the strong relationship between YouTube and the industry for years to come.”

Martin Mills, Founder, Beggars Group said: “Impressed to see that Lyor’s uk residency has brought an appreciation of the significance of reaching the century mark. And as fellow cricket fans, we love that YouTube are hitting it out of the park for us !”

Min-Suk Yang, CEO, YG  said: “We’re thrilled to see our partner YouTube reach 100M subscribers globally – congratulations! YouTube has consistently been a key collaborator and platform for YG Entertainment artists, such as BLACKPINK, TREASURE and BABYMONSTER, in reaching fans, audiences, and listeners worldwide. Now with YouTube Music & Premium’s even greater reach, we look forward to more users enjoying music and unique content that YG Entertainment and its artists offer.”

Neeraj Kalyan, President, T-Series, said: “YouTube Premium and Music crossing the 100M subscriber milestone is indeed a great milestone moment for the music industry.

“We will continue investing in our strong partnership with Google that will help grow the subscription business, enhance fan experiences and contribute to the overall growth of the music ecosystem.”

Chartmetric is the all-in-one platform for artists and music industry professionals, providing comprehensive streaming, social, and audience data for everyone to create successful careers in music.

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