Use YouTube for music? Prepare to drown in ads

If you like YouTube for music and video, prepare for more commercials. A lot more.

There’s now an official plan, one announced by YouTube head of music, Lyor Cohen, to “frustrate and seduce” people into becoming paid YouTube subscribers. This is what be told Bloomberg:

People who treat YouTube like a music service, those passively listening for long periods of time, will encounter more ads, according to Lyor Cohen, the company’s global head of music. “You’re not going to be happy after you are jamming ‘Stairway to Heaven’ and you get an ad right after that,” Cohen said in an interview at the South by Southwest music festival.


YouTube has tried to sell its users paid music services in the past, with little to show for it. Most of those efforts predate Cohen, who joined YouTube in 2016 after about 30 years in the record business, including stints as a road manager for Run-DMC and a senior executive at Warner Music Group.

This time will be different, Cohen says. The new service, which is already being used by thousands of Google employees, will “frustrate and seduce” users of YouTube’s free service. It will include exclusive videos, playlists and other offerings that will appeal to die-hard music fans. YouTube has already been funding the production of videos, taking fans behind-the-scenes with artists like rapper G-Eazy and Cuban-American singer Camila Cabello.

So the basic strategy is simple: more ads. If you’re a heavy user of YouTube for music–the kind of people who watches a video and then just keeps watching to see what comes next–you’re going to get hit with more and more ads. The thinking is that you’ll get so fed up that you’ll just say screw it and pay for a subscription to get rid of them.
If you’re a musician with material on YouTube, you’ll applaud this. More money in the post for ads and subscriptions to around. But if you’ve been using YouTube as a source of free mostly uninterrupted music…

We should note that the top-grossing app in the US is the iOS app. Every year around the world, YouTube makes at least $200 million from ads that appear in videos.

Bottom line is that if you notice something different on YouTube, you now know why. More coverage here.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

One thought on “Use YouTube for music? Prepare to drown in ads

  • March 22, 2018 at 11:05 am

    I don’t have an issue with this in the sense that music is not, or rather should not be, “free.” It costs money to make, the creators deserve to be paid for it, so those using free YouTube and Spotify accounts shouldn’t have unbridled access. If you like it, buy it.


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