Is YouTube Star Michelle Phan the Next Music Mogul?

Josh Madson
Michelle Phan

YouTube makeup sage Michelle Phan has found one way to get around any legal issues involving the use of music on her channel: She has joined forces with Cutting Edge Group, the financier behind more than 400 film scores and owner of the Varese Sarabande label, to create Shift Music Group, a joint venture to finance music projects and support them across social media platforms.

“All of it has to be within her taste,” says Cutting Edge CEO Philip Moross. “We’ll finance and own the publishing and the masters to promote and secure additional work” for artists, both new and established.
Phan, who is in a legal battle with dance label Ultra over alleged misuse of its music, is one of the biggest stars on Google’s video-sharing platform, with 7 million subscribers and endorsement contracts with Endemol, L’Oreal cosmetics, Dr Pepper and others.

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“All she wants is to have people whose music she likes to get to her fan base -- she’s the ultimate DJ,” says Moross, noting that he was particularly impressed by data that shows the 27-year-old Phan’s videos are watched, on average, for more than five minutes at a time. “Our joint business will sign acts, and we might do one song at a time. Artists are going to be partners with us.”

Music on Phan’s channel has not been handled “with a proper supervision base -- that’s what this is about,” says Moross, adding that the soundtrack for her shows will be curated by supervisors in the company’s Los Angeles, New York and London offices. Moross says he expects to sign other YouTube personalities and celebrities to similar deals.

Shift Music Group is currently planning its initial releases, which Moross expects to have booked prior to Phan launching a tour for her first book, Make Up: Your Life Guide to Beauty, Style, and Success — Online and Off, on Oct. 21.

This article first appeared in the Oct. 4 issue of Billboard.