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Speaker Profile Q&A: Vivien Lewit , Global Head of Artist Services, YouTube and Google Play Music

As Global Head of Artist Services at YouTube and Google Play Music, Vivien Lewit directs a team of music ambassadors focused on developing and executing strategies to support the growth of artists’ careers on YouTube and Google Play Music. She also oversees the company’s live music content programming and special events, including international live music events, music projects within YouTube Spaces, and unique fan engagement activations. Vivien will be taking part in the 'Future of Ad-Supported Streaming' at NY:LON Connect on January 23.

:: What was the most exciting music trend on YouTube in 2017, and why?
2017 marked a meteoric rise of Latin music on YouTube. You don’t have to look beyond some key metrics to understand the scope of consumption.

Six of the 10 most viewed music videos on YouTube in 2017 feature Latin artists. At the start of 2017 only five Latin music videos had reached a billion views. Today, 22 videos featuring Latin artists have hit the milestone. 

Of particular mention is Despacito: It is the most-viewed video in YouTube history, reaching the record in just 204 days. It’s the first video to reach three billion views, and the only one to reach four billion views.

Other artist examples include J Balvin and Willy William’s ‘Mi Gente’; Shakira’s ‘Chantaje’; Natti Natasha x Ozuna’s ‘Criminal’; and Maluma’s ‘Felises Los 4’, which all rank among the 10 all-time fastest videos to get to one billion views.

What’s behind this trend? It’s a combination of things. One: the music is connecting because of the global reach of platforms today, YouTube being one of those. I hear from a lot of the artists and labels down in Latin America that YouTube has been a gateway to the rest of the world for those artists.

Of course, the music itself is great, and that’s what’s connecting with people all over the world. And on top of that, I think the artists themselves are spending more time on YouTube and other platforms connecting with fanbases, growing their audiences and cross-collaborating – both from a genre perspective, and from the artist’s home-region perspective.

:: What musicians / creators caught your eye in terms of how they used YouTube in 2017?
Artists that are using their YouTube presence and their channels to share their narrative with fans and tell their story. They’re using new tools like Community and live as well as uploading content ancillary to their core music videos. Anitta, Alan Walker, Marshmello, Ozuna and Camila Cabello are all examples.

From video shorts to documentary-style pieces, there’s an ability on YouTube to create and really build a storyline for yourself as an artist, in the same way that other creators do. If it’s done right, you have this perfect world coming together: the music videos living in the same space where you as an artist can actually speak to the fans, and guide them to the content you want them to view.

As an artist, you can control the narrative as opposed to letting it be guided just by the media or others. So it’s not just about producing super-high-quality music videos: you can create really amazing content and dialogue using our tools.

:: What do you think the biggest digital challenge will be for our industry in 2018?
Discovery and connectivity. With massive music catalogues at your fingertips, immediate information sharing across countless media sites and publishers, socials, influencers, gamers, binge-watching TV-like programming etc, how do we break through the noise?

It’s important for artists to differentiate themselves and remain top of mind for their fans in order to sustain longevity of releases, tour, sell merchandise and maximize their growth opportunities.

I'd add that not only do artists need to differentiate themselves, but platforms such as YouTube need to find unique ways to support artists and help them connect and engage with their fans.

In 2018 we'll be delivering a subscription service to meet the needs of artists and fans, continuing to help artists find alternative revenue opportunities, through ticketing, etc.. and working closely with our label partners to understand their priorities and help promote and break artists.

:: Which trends and technologies are worth keeping an eye out for in 2018, and why?
A: Blockchain/Cryptocurrency and its role in music. Can it successfully store and track data to solve licensing gaps? Be used exclusively as currency associated with a specific artist? Will the potential for fraud be too great to prevent usability?

It’s such an intricate subject: you really have to spend time sitting down and studying the nuances of the technology. From providing a mechanism to have the data move with the songs so that content can be monetized around the world, to how it can work with payments, it’s super-interesting. So is this going to be something that sticks, that’s going to work?

:: Which question/topic would you most like to see debated at NY:LON Connect?
As subscription continues to grow significantly, we should nevertheless be considering what will be the next big change to how fans consume music. Are the models/pricing right to fully scale globally? What format shift will revolutionize distribution once again and how do we make sure we are ready for it.

2018 is an incredible inflection point for music subscription, and it’s healing the industry: more revenues are flowing in, and that’s great. But we can’t sit back and be complacent, and not think about what the next iteration might be.

It may be simply another form of it, or different modeling around the business of streaming. But if history continues to repeat itself, it won’t be that long before there’s another format, or a way of consuming music, or of remunerating rights-holders for music, that’s going to emerge.