Irving Azoff to New YouTube Music Chief Lyor Cohen: 'We Are Counting On You'

Larry Busacca/Getty Images for NARAS
Irving Azoff accepts the Recording Academy President's Merit Award onstage during the 2016 Pre-Grammy Gala and Salute to Industry Icons honoring Irving Azoff at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on Feb. 14, 2016 in Beverly Hills, Calif.

While many figures in the music industry have been highly critical of YouTube's policies regarding payment and policing of music on the company's site, few have been more so than veteran manager and executive Irving Azoff.

Earlier this week, Azoff called the company's practices with regard to intellectual property "really evil,"  and in June, he wrote a long open letter that said in part: "YouTube, ask yourself this question: If you are paying so well and providing such a great service to artists, then why is there discord between you and the creative community? You can blame the labels and publishers ... But the root of the problem here is you: You have built a business that works really well for you and for [parent company] Google, but it doesn’t work well for artists. If you think it is just the labels and publishers who are complaining, you are wrong."

With the announcement Wednesday (Sept. 28) that longtime executive Lyor Cohen -- formerly of Warner Music, Def Jam Records and Rush Management -- would be appointed YouTube's global head of music, Billboard reached out to Azoff for comment. His response was one of encouragement and optimism:

"As a prolific manager, label executive and label owner, Lyor has a long history as a defender of artist rights," he said. "We are counting on you, Lyor, to lead YouTube to provide fair payments to artists and give them more creative control. Congratulations, Lyor, I know you can get it done." 

A YouTube rep responded to some of Azoff's comments earlier this week, saying "99.5 percent of sound recording claims are automated through Content ID -- meaning only 0.5 percent are claimed manually. In other words, the system works incredibly well, with automated claiming far outnumbering what the [record] labels are doing manually.”

Billboard will have much more on this news in the coming days.