monetize your music

How to monetize your music on YouTube

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In my fourth video about YouTube and your music, I explain how to monetize your music on YouTube, because I know way too many artists are missing out on this revenue.

Let’s assume your music is on YouTube. You put it there, and fans of your music have put it there, too. What do you need to do to monetize it, to earn money from views and plays, whether it is on your channel or uploaded by others? Well, first, for YouTube to be able to pay you, it needs to know that you are the owner of the music — of the sound recording and the composition.

The easiest and most reliable way for an emerging artist to register his or her music and to monetize its use on YouTube is to do it through your digital distributor. Or, slightly more work, use a third-party YouTube administration firm.

Since most major distributors offer a service or a partnership that does this, my recommendation is to go this route. Our friends at CD Baby allow you to opt in for free to their YouTube monetization service when you submit your music to them for distribution. This means they will do two things for you:

  1. They’ll upload your music and register your sound recordings and compositions with YouTube so they can be entered into YouTube’s Content ID system. That way, your music can be identified, claimed, and monetized.
  2. They’ll receive the royalty payments on your behalf when your music is streamed on YouTube — and specifically on YouTube channels that are monetized.

Now, after your distributor uploads your content to YouTube, YouTube then fingerprints those assets and those reference files to their content management system (CMS) for Content ID scanning and monetization.

Get your music metadata together

To ensure that YouTube can identify your music in as many videos across their platform as possible, you need to provide complete and accurate metadata: the copyright information about your song. The more complete the metadata is related to a song, composition, or video that YouTube has, the easier it will be for your content to be identified and claimed and for YouTube to verify your ownership against any fraudulent actors.

So, when you upload your music to your distributor, pay attention to make sure that the copyright info that you provide is complete and accurate. The amount of content floating around out there is staggering, and accurate information can be the difference between impactful earnings or nothing at all.

Okay, so let’s talk about how your music earns revenue on YouTube, starting with your own channel. If you have your own popular YouTube channel as an artist, you can monetize that channel directly. There are, however, some limits to channel monetization.

Requirements for music monetization on YouTube

In order to monetize your YouTube channel, you need to meet all of the following requirements:

  • You need to have at least 1,000 subscribers on your YouTube channel
  • Your videos must have generated 4,000 watch hours over the last 12 months
  • You must have a YouTube AdSense account set up
  • You must comply with all of YouTube’s policies and guidelines

Now for most independent artists, those 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 watch hours may be a challenge. And while that may be may be a bummer, let’s put it into perspective. If you have fewer than 4,000 hours of watch time over the past year for the videos you’ve uploaded directly to your channel, you’re really not losing out on much money to begin with. I can’t exactly do the math of how much you would lose out on, but trust me on this.

To help meet these thresholds, leverage your social media and email marketing campaigns to get people to click and watch your YouTube videos and actively solicit your fans to subscribe to your channel so that it can get to those minimum requirements and you can start generating a revenue stream right from your channel.

Which reminds me, when you’re watching Disc Makers videos, please subscribe to the Disc Makers YouTube channel!

Now, let’s talk about monetizing UGC, user-generated content, on other channels. If you can’t monetize your own YouTube channel, it doesn’t mean you can’t make money from YouTube. After all, if your music gets used in user-generated videos on YouTube, and those users’ channels are monetizing, then your music will monetize. And for most emerging artists, the main way your music makes money on YouTube is when it’s played on other people’s channels who have a lot of subscribers and who are monetizing their channels.

Register with a digital distributor, deliver your content through that distributor, and opt into their YouTube ad service. If your music gets used in videos that get streams, you’ll get paid!

I hope you found this helpful. In my next video #5 in my YouTube series, I discuss what to do when someone else puts a copyright claim on your video. Check it out!

Watch more great videos on the Disc Makers YouTube channel.


Tony van Veen is the CEO of DIY Media Group, the parent company of Disc Makers and BookBaby. As a college student, he played in indie bands, created his own LPs, cassettes, and t-shirts, and sold them at shows. Today, he collects CDs, vinyl LPs, and concert t-shirts to support the artists he loves.

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