make money on YouTube

How to make money on YouTube with your music

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Use these five tips to help you make money from YouTube – the most popular music search engine in the world.

YouTube is the world’s largest music search engine. Within the last ten years, it’s also grown to become one of the primary ways people share and discover music. YouTube’s reach and its simplicity has made it a critical channel to get your music introduced to new listeners.

Because it’s such a haven for music discovery and promotion, every independent musician should consider having his or her music available on YouTube. But YouTube is more than simply a promotional platform, it’s also a sales and revenue generating opportunity. It can drive music and merch sales, as well as advertising revenue. In short, it’s possible to make money on YouTube.

To make the most from YouTube, use these five simple tips.

1. Always offer the option to buy your music
Many musicians will write dozens of lines about the song – who wrote it, the lyrics, the back story – and bury the “buy the song” link deep inside the description. The problem is, most fans only read the first few sentences – anything “above the fold.” Put an iTunes or CD Baby link in the first sentence of the video description to make it easy for viewers to purchase your song. That way you capture that impulse to buy immediately after they’ve heard and enjoyed your music.

There’s no need to offer a free download of the song! Your video is the free sample – the goal is to get viewers to buy the track.

2. Add extra audio
If the audio for your YouTube video is exactly the same as your song, people can rip the video to an MP3 file and add it to their collection without buying it. Adding extra audio and video footage at the beginning or end of the video can help discourage this. Although some listeners are savvy enough to cut out the extra material, most people will just buy it if you provide the link and a reason why – such as supporting you, the artist.

One easy way to do this is to add a voice over within the video to encourage them to buy the track. You can also use YouTube’s video annotation feature which allows you to make parts of your video linkable. You can add clickable messages to “buy the song now” right in the video. Check out “How to link to your website directly from your YouTube video” for more on this feature.

3. Use ContentID
YouTube allows you, as a content creator, to make advertising revenue when other people use your copyrighted video or audio material in their videos. YouTube created this so the original owner can get compensated when his or her videos are mirrored on other channels, or if the copyrighted material is used in other people’s videos. To ensure you are compensated, participate in ContentID. Just upload all of your video content and choose the advertising options.

But don’t limit yourself to video – add your audio content as well – even for your songs that don’t have videos. Remember, other people might use any of your songs in their videos. Doing so will help protect your work and give you the choice on how others use your music.

4. Become a YouTube Partner
Sign up to apply to become a YouTube Partner. If you’re accepted, you’ll be eligible to personalize your channel pages, add links to music and merch stores on your channel page, post longer videos, and collect advertising revenue from your viewers. The advertising is very flexible, allowing you to add pop-up ads or video commercials that roll before your video. Be smart about which of these options you choose, no one wants to watch a fifteen-second ad for a one-minute video. If you do this right, it’s a solid way to make income out of your video views.

5. Find sponsors
If you have a popular channel, consider going directly to sponsors looking for exposure. If you have a reasonably sized audience, product placements and co-branded ads are within your reach. For example, once one of his videos went viral, the dancer Marquese Scott started to make ads with Pepsi, Peugeot, and other companies. Your subscriber count is a compelling reason for a sponsor to partner with you to get exposure for its products or services.

Because YouTube is global, you never know when a video that you upload could go viral and reach the entire world. And, don’t forget that with ContentID you can still collect revenue even if you’re not the one who made the video. One of the biggest YouTube hits, Nyan Cat, had video from one source and audio from another. It’s now at more than 125 million views. The next one to hit this mark might have one of your songs!

DIY Advisor logo smThis post originally appeared on Electronic Musician’s The DIY Advisor column.
Billboard Magazine called Randy Chertkow and Jason Feehan “the ideal mentors for aspiring indie musicians who want to navigate an ever-changing music industry.” Together, they’re musicians who are working on their 21st album, authors of The Indie Band Survival Guide: The Complete Manual For The Do-It-Yourself Musician, 2nd Edition (Macmillan), creators of the 15-hour online course, Making Money With Music (CreativeLive), and regular contributors to Electronic Musician Magazine, including the free weekly web column, The DIY Advisor. They also teach and consult about music business.

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12 thoughts on “How to make money on YouTube with your music

  1. . Please do not give false hope to musicians saying it might go viral. viral is not a one-man show; it takes the right people, the right platform and an on going plan to achieve viral results.

  2. Good advice.


    YouTube is functioning essentially as a massive piracy site. What can be done to prevent illicit uploading of music, including entire albums, to YouTube?

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