Updated on 3/22 at 2:15 pm with a statement from YouTube.
YouTube will increase the number of ads that some users see when they are passively watching a running sequence of music videos in a bid to encourage them to pay for a soon-to-launch subscription service, said the company’s global head of music, Lyor Cohen.
“There’s a lot more people in our funnel that we can frustrate and seduce to become subscribers,” Cohen told Bloomberg of the hordes of users who turn to YouTube as a music hub. “Once we do that, trust me, all that noise will be gone and articles people write about that noise will be gone.” Cohen was referring to widespread criticism about copyright proliferation on YouTube, as well as the way that artists and record companies frequently bemoan a so-called “value gap” between the compensation that ad-supported YouTube provides in comparison to subscription services like Spotify and Apple Music.
By inserting more ads, YouTube will attempt to “smoke out” people who can afford to pay for subscriptions, Cohen added. This represents a cultural shift for the video giant, notes Bloomberg, which has traditionally prized a consistent ad model. Cohen said he convinced bosses to make the change in order to “be good partners” to the music industry. That said, Cohen believes that advertising will pay off in the long run. “They will appreciate in time the advertising,” he told Bloomberg of critics. “Everyone is drunk on the growth of subscription.”
A YouTube spokesperson clarified Cohen’s comments. “Our top priority at YouTube is to deliver a great user experience and that includes ensuring users do not encounter excessive ad loads,” the company said. “We do not seek to specifically increase ad loads across YouTube. For a specific subset of users who use YouTube like a paid music service today — and would benefit most from additional features — we may show more ads or promotional prompts to upsell to our paid service.”
The service, tentatively titled Remix, is currently being piloted by thousands of Google employees, Bloomberg reports. In addition to ad-free streaming, the service will feature exclusive content and playlists, as well as behind-the-scenes docu-series — in the vein of its Artist Spotlight Series, which have heralded new releases by Camila Cabello (see below) and G-Eazy. Cohen also promised that a massive marketing campaign would bolster the launch — though a release date has not been disclosed.