Irving Azoff: ‘Who do YouTube and Lyor Cohen think they’re bullsh*tting?’

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“I see Lyor’s put his foot in his mouth again…”

Lyor Cohen’s blog defending YouTube’s approach to music copyright has been met with outcry across the entertainment industry – and nowhere more stridently than in Irving Azoff’s office.

In an op/ed published on Thursday (Aug 17) entitled ‘Five Observations From My Time At YouTube’, Cohen dismissed recent music business criticism of safe harbor laws as nothing more than “a distraction”.

The ex-Def Jam and Warner exec also claimed that YouTube’s per-play payouts to music rights-holders were bigger than rival services when only ad-supported US streams were taken into consideration.

“They know sophisticated people in the music business are watching them very closely; who do they think they’re going to convince with this fake news?”

Irving Azoff (pictured)

Speaking to MBW today, Azoff applauded the RIAA’s swift response to Cohen’s blog, before blasting Google for peddling “fake news”.

“I don’t understand why YouTube in general, and Lyor in particular, aren’t being more transparent,” said Azoff. “Who do they think they’re bullshitting?”

He added: “They know that sophisticated people in the music business are watching them very closely; who exactly do they think their fake news is going to convince?”


One individual who’s certainly not convinced by Cohen’s rhetoric is RIAA Chairman & CEO Cary Sherman.

In a blog post published Friday (Aug 18), Sherman savaged YouTube – accusing the company of running a platform which “hurts musicians… jeopardizes music’s fragile recovery and gives YouTube an unfair competitive advantage that harms the digital marketplace and innovation”.

Sherman also strongly contradicted Cohen’s statement regarding ad-supported payouts to rights-holders in the States, saying the true figure was “nowhere near the $3 per thousand streams in the US that Lyor claims”.

“Comparatively, YouTube pays music creators far less than those services on both a per-stream and per-user basis, and nowhere near the $3 per thousand streams in the US that Lyor claims.”

Cary Sherman, RIAA

“Last year’s actual payout per 1,000 streams was closer to half that amount, according to industry data and Nielsen and BuzzAngle estimates, and seven times less than Spotify, which also is both an ad-supported and subscription service,” said Sherman.

The RIAA exec has now been backed by various powerful figures in the business today – not least Azoff.

The renowned artist manager and entrepreneur told MBW: “This isn’t really Lyor’s fault: Google employs and funds all kinds of lobbyists to spread their fake messaging.

“But if they seriously thought Lyor was the person to convince the music business [of their arguments], it was a doomed idea from the start.”


When contacted by MBW over the weekend, a YouTube spokesperson issued two statements in reaction to Sherman’s accusations.

“The real solution here is ​data ​transparency,” they said. “This can be achieved if labels and publishers offer artists and songwriters direct access to YouTube Analytics.

“We would welcome Mr. Sherman’s help to achieve that as our analytics provide robust data and complete visibility into how many views a video containing music receives and the corresponding payments when an advertisement is served.”

The real solution here is ​data ​transparency. This can be achieved if labels and publishers offer artists and songwriters direct access to YouTube Analytics.”

YouTube spokesperson

They also suggested it was Sherman’s, rather than Cohen’s, sums which were off on the ‘$3 per thousand streams’ point.

“Mr. Sherman is combining advertising and subscription rates to make his revenue comparison,” said the spokesperson.

“However,  the $3 per thousand streams rate Lyor cited was based on US ad revenue alone and did not include revenue from our subscription offering.”


Other leading elements of the US music business, however, echo Sherman’s outrage over Cohen’s comments.

National Music Publishers Association President & CEO David Israelite told MBW: “The idea that YouTube is going above and beyond other streaming services is ridiculous.

“If YouTube is serious about paying creators fairly, there are actual steps they can take beyond a blog post.

“First, they can commit to ‘take down stay down’ – or keeping infringing videos down after a proper DMCA takedown notice. YouTube is extremely effective at doing this for hate and pornographic videos – so we know they have the technology.

“Lyor says we must all do better and then gives a vague excuse as to why their payouts are so low, due to global payments. Why not admit what the payments are in each country? This would go a long way toward the industry transparency he claims is so important.”

David Israelite, NMPA

“They should also require higher scrutiny of their partner videos and work harder to ensure that multi-channel networks have properly licensed with songwriters.

“Additionally, on the subject of transparency, Lyor says we must all do better and then gives a vague excuse as to why their payouts are so low, due to global payments. Why not admit what the payments are in each country? This would go a long way toward the industry transparency he claims is so important.

“We appreciate Mr. Cohen’s love of music, but if he really wants to promote the creators of it, he should pay them what they deserve.”Music Business Worldwide

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  • bea†

    Kobalt Music told me a YouTube per stream of o.oo7 $
    In this article! Lyor Cohen claimed of o.oo3 $
    I think the most per stream money is for Vevo …
    So Cohen is dealin now in his Warner Music Group back mind,
    cause Vevo is just owned by Universal Music Group & Sony Music Entertainment … Kobalt at a time is just catchin ugc Youtube streams,
    cause they etablished their #Proklaim ID system with Youtube,
    a shazam for music audio rights. Youtube Red doesn’t work out so fine,
    in a way bad as the idea to spot SoundCloud as heavy as they try now.

    Thru Kobalt, ugc per stream money on Youtube is about

    o.ooo7 to o.oo1 $

    to a label or artist, minus distribution % to the delivering company

  • Michael X

    Sherman [said} the true figure was “nowhere near the $3 per thousand streams in the US that Lyor claims”.
    Not our experience. In the US, we are at $2.06 per thousand views not including UGC, and $5.08 including UGC. On about 5 million monthly views.

  • Stuart Snyder

    Whatever is going to happen, if anything at all, they’re still not going to give a proper payout.

    • Matt Kraus

      But what needs to happen for the proper payouts to occur??

  • Matt Kraus

    But what needs to happen for the proper payouts to occur?