royalties on YouTube

Royalties on YouTube: five common misconceptions

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With $2 billion in royalties paid to date, it’s worth understanding how royalties on YouTube work and how songwriters can get their share.

With over 400 hours of video uploaded every minute and one billion users, YouTube is by far the largest online video platform. The video behemoth has also paid rights holders over $2 billion in royalties to date. That said, how can royalties on YouTube make it to you, the songwriter?

As a starting point, here are five common misconceptions of how songwriter royalties on YouTube work and how songwriters can benefit from this popular video sharing site.

1) YouTube does not pay me as a songwriter, only as a recording artist or a vlogger

Actually, with each YouTube video that uses music, there are up to four different royalty types generated:

  1. A royalty for the video content owner
  2. A royalty for the sound recording owner
  3. A performance royalty for the public broadcast of your song (for songwriters)
  4. A mechanical royalty for the interactive stream of your song (for songwriters)

2) More views equals more money

Not all views monetize equally. The total view count on a video is actually just one of several factors that determines its financial performance. How much of the video does the viewer watch before clicking away? What country is the viewer watching from? Is the viewer subscribed to YouTube Red? How are advertisers and brands investing in that video, channel, or content category, if at all? The list goes on.

3) I can only monetize content on my own channel

Far from the truth. YouTube’s Content ID system matches audio from original recordings using the sound file and other relevant information to identify videos that are a potential match across the entire site. This includes cover song videos, live performance videos, lyric videos, cat videos, and more, giving the rights holder the opportunity to either monetize this content or restrict it. It’s worth noting that composition owners have a wider range of opportunities for monetization than master recording owners, who can only monetize videos that contain a specific recording.

Songtrust clients can submit ISRCs and other metadata by going to our Songtrust Dashboard, then to the Spotify/iTunes lookup section. Clients can also manually claim videos using Songtrust’s YouTube Monitor.

4) I need to be signed to a label or distributor to monetize as a songwriter

While music creators can access YouTube publishing administration services via some labels and digital distributors, it is not the only means to do so. This royalty stream is a distinct income source from track distribution revenue.

When you sign up with Songtrust, you will automatically be opted in to our YouTube partnership, allowing you to collect your interactive streaming mechanical royalties. Separately, if you are affiliated with ASCAP or BMI, you are also eligible to collect performance royalties generated from your content.

5) YouTube pays publishing royalties worldwide

Generally, publishing money paid out by YouTube directly, as well as the money from ASCAP and BMI, is from the United States only. Foreign collection societies also track and collect royalties from the service. In order to make sure you are eligible to collect publishing royalties worldwide, you will need to affiliate and register your songs with these societies. (Songtrust provides this affiliation and registration service.)

This article originally appeared on the Songtrust Blog on April 2015. Originally written by Alex Badanes in consultation with Chinua Green, this repost was updated by Chinua Green for the Disc Makers Blog.

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5 thoughts on “Royalties on YouTube: five common misconceptions

  1. This is so confusing. So take Adele’s new song – Easy On Me, it has nearly 200 million Youtube views already.

    Are the songwriters for that song making money on that video? Are they making more money than typical streaming, which pays peanuts, virtually nothing, even on 200 million streams?

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