How independent artists are WINNING

Jun 17, 2021 - Lyor's Letter

Although COVID-19 remains a global threat, there’s so much joy impending if we hold strong. Bags packed, summer playlists crafted, plane tickets ordered, and cars loaded to the gills. SUMMER. Family and friends. The music industry is on the verge of reuniting, and the anticipation is growing by the second. Adversity builds resilience, and I’m feeling a new sense of community in the air.

Resilience and community are also 2 tenets that uphold the independents of our industry. Nothing brings me more excitement than being in the room when an artist goes from obscurity to celebrity. I live to create more of these opportunities. In 2012, I started 300 Entertainment because I saw the barriers to entry being lowered while opportunities with global platforms were growing. There’s never been a better time to be an independent artist or an independent entrepreneur.

“YouTube’s growth for the Beggars business over the past couple of years has outpaced everyone as well as the market itself, and is now well on its way to deliver the potential of its huge audience to the music industry, as these revenue figures now show.”
— Martin Mills, Founder & Chairman of the Beggars Group

We recently announced that YouTube has paid over $4 billion to the music industry in the last 12 months and has added more paid members in Q1 ’21 than in any other quarter since launch. A significant portion of these contributions went to the independent artist community because independents know they need to innovate to survive.


It’s a privilege to help more artists grow from the bedroom to the big stage, regardless of their setup. With our new Preferred Distribution Partner program, it’ll be even easier for artists to deliver their music to YouTube and manage their intellectual property via Content ID. Also, independent artists are taking control of their relationship with their fans by leveraging Analytics for Artists. Authenticity and ownership are paramount to the independent community. That’s why these artists lean heavily into the granular data that Analytics provides to inform their strategies.

“YouTube’s commitment to growing their indie partnerships team and marketing programs have been instrumental in our artist development strategy. … Ashe, who worked hand in hand with the indie artist/label marketing teams to create a roadmap to build an audience, started with a trending ‘artist on the rise’ feature, then landed release support, and was ultimately chosen as an Artist on the Rise.”
— Michael Goldstone, President & Founder of Mom + Pop Music

When I first arrived at YouTube, the independent community was using the platform in such creative ways. This inspired our teams to give these artists the support they deserve. So far in 2021, 2 of our 4 Artists on the Rise are indie acts: Ashe and Mustafa. They will now be part of an alumni class that also includes Sech, who recently said, “Fans on YouTube have followed me since the beginning of my career and continue to support me with everything I put out. YouTube has given me the opportunity to share not only the visual stories of my music, but also very special moments of my career.” We’ve also partnered with Run The Jewels on a bespoke creative campaign that earned 2 Gold Clio Awards. This is what we’re here to do: work back-to-back with artists to tell their stories and build lifelong fans.

“YouTube is a key strategic partner in the development of our artist partners at EMPIRE. The investments YouTube has made into independent acts through programs like Foundry are unprecedented.”
— Ghazi, EMPIRE Founder & CEO

When Arlo Parks joined the 2019 class of Foundry, our global artist development program for independent artists, she had just 637 subscribers and an undeniable magnetism. Since then, Arlo has wowed the world with her celebrated debut album and Breakthrough Artist BRIT Award win. Arlo’s manager Alistair Raymond recently said, “Foundry was a huge platform and support in Arlo’s early success and enabled her creative vision. YouTube Music believed in Arlo from the very beginning, and our relationship has continued to become even stronger as she reaches international acclaim. It’s a fantastic program for a new artist to be a part of.” We’re so excited to welcome more of your future favorites to the largest-ever Foundry class in July.


The independent community cares deeply about amplifying the voices of underrepresented groups, and so do we. Being at the crossroads of Pride Month, Black Music Appreciation Month, and Indie Week, I want to recognize the quality of music coming from these communities. From the many talents featured on our Celebrating Pride playlist, to game-changing artists like serpentwithfeet, the music and output from these artists are simply “Oh my god.” We also just announced that on June 21, 2021, we will officially open grant applications for the #YouTubeBlack Voices Fund Class of 2022, accessible to independent artists and songwriters who must be heard. More than 132 creators and artist teams from our last class recently participated in our inaugural 3-week Black Voices Creator Fund Incubator Camps. I urge you to spread the word and apply to be in this upcoming class.

Tonight on their 10th anniversary and in partnership with A2IM, the Libera Awards will stream exclusively on YouTube. With performances by Mavis Staples, Black Pumas, and Foundry alum Arlo Parks, this is arguably the biggest night for indie music across our business. I hope you will tune in to support the artists and entrepreneurs bold enough to move the business forward on their own terms.

With love and respect,


Lyor Cohen
Global Head of Music, YouTube

Global Head of YouTube Music