"I am open for change, I’m psyched for change. And more importantly, I love music."
Lyor Cohen – whose work with Def Jam Recordings oversaw the rise of hip-hop from a niche genre to an omnipresent cultural phenomenon – takes us on a trip through time in his autobiographical Music Keynote at the 2018 SXSW Conference starting with his move to New York to work for Rush Productions in 1984 up to his current position as Global Head of Music for YouTube and Google. Cohen is joined on stage by DJ/producer D-Nice, who splices the songs from Cohen’s stories into the Keynote to help transport the audience into the music.
With three decades of experience to draw upon, Cohen illustrates that although there have been cataclysmic shifts in the music industry, his openness to change has enabled him to stay on top of the ever-evolving industry. Early career successes with Def Jam were followed by a string of bad artist signings that left the label $19 million in debt, a situation that many would have folded under, but with a string of hits, including Warren G’s “Regulate”, as well as expanding the artist roster to include genres outside of hip-hop, Cohen guided the label back to prominence. Hear more stories about his experiences over the past 30 years in the music industry in his Keynote.
"Once again, it was clear to me that the one constant in the business and this life is change."
Watch the video above for the full 2018 SXSW Conference Keynote with Lyor Cohen. Learn from a diverse group of thought leaders at SXSW – browse more 2018 Keynotes, Featured Sessions, Red Carpets, and Q&A’s on our YouTube Channel.
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2018 SXSW Conference Keynote, Lyor Cohen – Photo by Katie Marriner