Veteran music industry executive Lyor Cohen recently sat down for an interview with Complex for their Blueprint series, during which he spoke with Noah Callahan-Bever about not wanting to fuck up Def Jam after he arrived, how changing the label's logo led to signing Redman and how much the record business has changed over the past 30-plus years.
Last fall, Cohen left his executive role at 300 Entertainment—a company he co-founded in 2012 with Roger Gold, Kevin Liles, and Todd Moscowitz—to become the Global Head of Music at YouTube, but according to the 58-year-old, the only reason he took the position was to help build a bridge between "the industry" and the creatives who believe that same entity doesn't care about them.
"I had no interest in this job, but I do have an interest in being helpful to our industry," Cohen explained. "And this is one of the most prestigious and powerful companies in the world, that I think have had a fundamental misunderstanding with the creative industry. That I think that, by virtue of me being there, can help shepherd, one, a basis of understanding, and two, a basis of building a business with the creative community that we can all be proud of."
Cohen called his own hiring by YouTube an "unusual choice" and, given his reputation as the label executive who pioneered the dreaded 360 record deal, I'd have to agree. It's almost laughable to think that any artist or producer who is familiar with Cohen's reputation, in particular, after he became Warner Music Group's chairman and chief executive in 2004, would believe he has their best interest at heart.
"Lyor Cohen has a reputation for being a lot of things, but music industry peacekeeper is not high on the list," Tim Ingham wrote last year for MBWW.
So, how exactly does Cohen plan to make nice-nice? Similar to looking for the next superstar act, Cohen says he always his eyes peeled for the individual who will be able to revolutionize the industry.
"I jump into my shoes: maybe today's the day I am going to bump into someone that's going to change the creative landscape. That's my first thought every day for over 30 years," Cohen added.
And the search continues.