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YouTube just hired music legend Lyor Cohen to make peace with the labels

He’s going to hold on to his 300 label, which Google backed three years ago.

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Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

Apple Music has Jimmy and Dre. Spotify has Troy.

And now YouTube has Lyor.

Google’s video service has hired Lyor Cohen, a longtime music executive who helped build the legendary Def Jam label and went on to run Warner Music Group.

Most recently, Cohen founded 300 Entertainment, a music label best known as the home of rapper Fetty Wap.

Cohen will be YouTube’s first “Global Head of Music.” YouTube doesn’t spell out what that role will entail, but presumably he will work as an emissary to both music acts and music labels, in the same way that Jimmy Iovine does at Apple and Troy Carter does at Spotify.

YouTube and the music labels in particular could use some bridge-building. The labels have spent months ripping into the video service, which they say doesn’t pay them enough for the on-demand videos it lets users play for free.

Lawmakers at the European Union appear to have listened to the labels argument, and are proposing new copyright rules that are supposed to boost YouTube’s payments.

A letter Cohen sent to his new employees at YouTube suggests some of the repair work he has to do: Cohen says he wants to help “the music community embrace the technological shifts we’re seeing in music today so we can help take the confusion and distrust out of the equation” and “move towards a more collaborative relationship between the music industry and the technologies that are shaping the future of the business.

Cohen and Google have worked together before: Three years ago, Google invested around $5 million in 300. Via text message, I asked Cohen what would happen to 300 now that he’s working for Google: “Grows if we sign great artists,” he replied.

A YouTube rep says Cohen will continue to run 300 until Dec. 5 and confirmed that Google will remain an investor in the company.

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