Lyor's Letter: Year of Music

Jan 09, 2019 - Milestones And Trends

At the top of the year we all agreed here at YouTube Music that this would be the Year Of Music... and, wow, what a year. A lot got done and I wanted to take a moment to thank our teams and all our partners in the industry.

I think we’re realizing that we are in a unique moment in history, one of deep divisions and polarization. But what makes me smile and jump out of bed—with both my shoes on—is how powerful of a uniting force music is. Brexit and our global politics want to remind us of our differences but music seems to always help us to share experiences and come together. In England, you might’ve voted “remain” or “leave,” but one thing you can agree on is that Jimmy Page is a rock god. That’s special. All my life I’ve seen music as healing people, and hopefully, as we build the 2.0 or 3.0 or 4.0 version of music services, we aren’t just creating an echo chamber in a deep long cylinder, but something that delights and surprises and connects people all over the world. So far we have launched our new YouTube Music subscription service in 29 countries. I’m very hopeful and we have a lot more coming in 2019.

The year in music at YouTube has been a really exciting and positive one. We started by celebrating the Grammys and their return to New York by throwing an ’80s hip-hop after party with Nas. We jumped to SXSW, where not only did I tackle my lifelong fear of public speaking by giving the keynote address, but we brought YouTube and the industry together, and witnessed some really thrilling new talent like Billie Eilish and Dermot Kennedy. And like each and every year, we lost a lot of greats, including the wonderful Aretha Franklin, who we all came together this summer to celebrate and remember. But throughout the year, we also welcomed so much fresh talent, many of whom used YouTube to introduce themselves to people across the globe. I think about Rosalía, Queen Naija, Cavetown, Dave, Brockhampton, and Gunna. These were acts who not only put out great music, but used our service to let their fans in on their personalities and visions.

I thought a lot about “moon landing moments,” when we all gathered around the screen to watch something special, like when we were blown to smithereens by Beyoncé’s performance and livestream at Coachella or Childish Gambino’s “This is America,” which took on a life of its own with people making response videos (watch “This is Nigeria” immediately if you haven’t). And by the way, it was exciting to see Afropop capture everyone’s attention again and again with moments like “Ye” from Burna Boy. The whole world felt connected this year, like with the explosion of BTS everywhere. Or how our summers would have been totally different if Cardi B, Bad Bunny, and J Balvin hadn’t given us a truly universal song and visual experience with “I Like It.” We found our voice in Japan with the launch of subscription live streaming at Fuji Rock, and our stunning partnership with Johnny’s Jr. and their incredible act SixTONES.

And at the end of the year, we all got together to watch Ariana Grande drop “thank u, next” on YouTube Premieres, which allowed fans to gather on our site as a community and chat live while they were waiting for the video to drop. We had almost a million concurrent viewers on a product we’ve just launched. Premieres gave us something that we had been missing in the era of VOD (video-on-demand) where everything under the sun is available at your fingertips all the time: tension, that feeling of our favorite artist standing on a stage when the curtain is pulled back and we get to see something we’ve never seen before all at once. And tada. Magic happened.

This is really only the beginning. We have the ambition to become one of the top sources of revenue for the music industry and each day grow more resolute and confident in our goal.

We’ve partnered with a lot of you this year, with more than 75 artists in the United States, United Kingdom, Japan, and France. Their success and your success have filled us with joy.

Thank you for your partnership, thank you for support and mostly, thank you for your music. It’s why we do what we do.

The YouTube Music team and I wish you a wonderful end of the year.

With Love and Respect,
Lyor