A New Way For Musicians To Look At YouTube
Since 2005, YouTube has allowed creatives from all types of entertainment and information sectors to upload video content to share with the world. We could talk all day about YouTube and its history but let’s be honest - we all know exactly what YouTube is and how important it is today to musicians, artists and creatives as it allows them to share their work.
Even with this knowledge - that YouTube is the biggest internal search engine - how are you, the creative, using it to better your position? If you’re reading this you’re most likely a musician. At Reload we work with hundreds of singers, songwriters & musicians on a daily basis, but we also run a YouTube channel too with nearly 90,000 subscribers. We focus on introducing the world to new music & new artists with the hope that an appearance on the sessions will grow the audiences of the artists who collaborate with us. The end goal for each session is to extend an artist’s interaction with their audience, be it digital or otherwise.
Spotify has around 140 million active users, Apple Music has around 30 million. YouTube - which doesn’t present itself as a music-streaming service but is the biggest in the world, is eight times larger than both combined, with 1.5 billion people logging onto its site every month. It’s a giant in the industry and offers so much for audiences. So how can you use YouTube to best promote what you do and your music? There are lots of ways to do this but they kind of all boil down to two main foundations. Making money through YouTube and using YouTube as a tool for marketing.
Neither of these options are wrong but one of them is a lot harder to achieve.
YouTube Music Does Not Equal A Big Pay Out.
….At least most of the time it doesn’t. To start a YouTube channel as a source of additional income is an increasingly hard thing to do. As we all know, it can be done but the odds are hugely stacked against your favour - we’re just being real here. Either you have a viral hit, like Big Shaq, the British comedian who to date has built a career & travelled the world off one of his character’s freestyles, or even the ‘Cash Me Outside’ girl - the teenager with quite possibly the worst attitude problem ever who after her outburst on a talk show (which went viral) signed a deal with Atlantic Records. You can see that there are people who - by one way or another - are emerging and using YouTube to develop their careers & make money, but how many of these viral acts are dedicated singer-songwriters who are hustling to get their music out there? How many of these people sat down and planned their careers to blow in precisely the ways that they eventually did? In the early days of YouTube there were quite a few, artists or pre-artists as you could call them, who played with the platform, building up a fan base and going on to sign major deals or making a bunch of money. But those days are pretty much gone for people who want to start from the bottom. The market is unfortunately over saturated.
At a click of a button you can find 50+ fantastic covers of any of Bruno Mars’ major hits, covered by different people in different styles. It’s very hard to breakthrough into this type of environment. In blunt terms, the more people uploading content the less unique your cover or original might be.
As it stands, 300 hours of content is uploaded to YouTube every minute, standing out can be quite hard let alone making money.
Let’s assume you do get lots of views on a video of yours, 100,000 for instance. That’s quite impressive for someone without a marketing budget or acting as solo, independent singer songwriter and it’ll turn heads for sure when talking about your accolades. But when the stars are tallying up 43 million views in 24 hours all of a sudden your 100,000 doesn’t sound that impressive. Artists with big budgets and a gang of producers behind them make it a lot harder to get your music recognised on YouTube. They make it harder for your music to rack up views which in turn earns money. Sticking with this figure of 100,000 how much money might that make you?
PJ Wasserman, a composer of trance music calculated that a single play of one of his songs on YouTube earned him $0.000065. His 151,781 views with 681,104 minutes playtime in eleven months generated an income of $10.02 US Dollars. This means one million views would generate about $65. Wasserman goes on to explain further problems with the payment process on YouTube - that his songs, two of the same tune but with different titles earned different amounts per view. This can likely be explained by the types of content that the two songs were labelled as, as well as their ‘packaging’, by this we mean whether one was more ‘advertiser friendly’, more relevant to audiences who statistically speaking spend more money. If this was the case, then one song would demand a higher cpm than the other, meaning more money was made. Wasserman was earning $0.000065 per view something that was dependent on the type of content he was making - and the audiences watching. With this in mind, we personally know artists who earn $0.00061354 per view on Youtube, on average. While this is a minuscule figure it’s still a lot more than what Wasserman was earning and eventually it all adds up. Do keep in mind that there are varying amounts of money to be made per view and it’s not a definite figure that doesn’t vary or fluctuate.
The takeaway here is that YouTube shouldn’t be seen directly as a source of income, because the time and effort it takes to even make a small amount through advertising revenue isn’t really worth your time, unless you get very, very lucky.
YouTube Is A Relationship Builder.
So what’s the point of building a YouTube account if you’re a music maker ? Views don’t mean as much as they did in the past, money is hard to come by and the market is incredibly oversaturated. It’s not the end of the world if you’re not trying to make money from the platform. If you look at YouTube as a relationship builder with your audience then the platform still has tremendous value to you. It’s a way to directly connect with your audience - you can create content and share it to your audience, whether through a direct upload on YouTube or embedding the link in Facebook, Twitter or elsewhere.
YouTube allows you to show what you do and although you can’t afford to neglect each video you make you don’t need to worry about views stacking up. Why? Simple, the main goal isn’t to reach 50,000 different people (of course that’s great) but when uploading to YouTube you want to reach people who genuinely care about what you do - those who want to build a relationship with you, people who will develop into true fans. It is said that all you need is 1,000 true fans to be able to make a career out of your creative endeavours. Would you rather reach 50,000 people and have an empty inbox or 2,000 people with a few emails from promoters, booking agents and venues?
Depending on where your priorities lie, accumulating views which pays very little shouldn’t be the be-all and end-all. Of course, we understand that if you reach more people there’s a greater chance of your inbox filling up with enquiries, but only if you look at ‘views’ in a different way, they need to be genuine and come from people who care. In this case it still stands that 2,000 true views are worth more than 50,000 ‘just-passing-through’ views. So don’t be too concerned with the view count, but at the same time don’t forget to promote anything you upload - there is no excuse to have 20 views on a video you uploaded 5 months ago.
The implementation of new technologies helps you connect even further with your newly-emerging, loyal, audience. Ticketmaster is rolling out a new integration with YouTube that will allow you to purchase tickets for concerts underneath music videos. Ticketmaster has worked with the video platform to add tour dates below official music videos for major artists, with the closest date to your location listed first. This isn’t quite a home-run for the smaller independent artists, but it’s something that can soon emerge into a game-changer for the smaller artists, making ticket sales more fluid by connecting audiences on all platforms. Those 2,000 views from 2,000 true fans can convert quite easily into money with this approach.
So How Do You Build Your Channel?
This is the golden question and while many would disagree with what we’re about to say just keep in mind that breaking out on YouTube and creating a viral video is very hard if not occuring in a completely arbitrary manner - not to mention the YouTube music scene is delightfully diverse but oversaturated at the same time.
That said, we believe you shouldn’t set out to build a bog-standard channel of original music or even covers as it’s been done again and again and again and again etc. If you’re asking how to build your channel for YouTube you’re asking the wrong thing - what you want to be asking, as a musician, is ‘how do I build up my relationship with my audience?’. YouTube is a fantastic platform but don’t limit your sights to building up only your YouTube channel. Use it as a tool to build your relationship with your peers, fans and extended network.
So, if you want to reach more people with the end-goal of extending your community, here are a few tips for getting that done via YouTube.
Start - Get out there and start recording and creating. Don’t be afraid about taking this leap of faith. Your videos can only improve by churning out content. Like an exercise plan, starting can be the hardest part but you’ll eventually get the hang of what you’re doing. Not everything you upload has to be perfect studio quality - a lot of the quirks and rawness of a performance give it character.
Consistency - Make sure you stick to a schedule. If you set yourself the target of one video a week then stick to it - by all means. Becoming relaxed about the whole process and missing a deadline here and there is a slippery slope. Setting a goal and holding yourself accountable helps with your productivity. Again, don’t be put off by something you don’t think is ‘perfect’. It can be the difference between you creating an upload schedule and your channel gathering dust.
Titling - As mentioned earlier, Youtube has the largest website- integrated search system in the world. Don’t forget to put the right keywords into your video. Make your title readable, and if performing a cover place the artist’s name first rather than yours as it will draw in attention quicker.
Be Genuine - Whatever you film, record or create - do it how you’d like to do it. If that means performing a cover in a different style then go for it. You’re trying to attract people who like who you are rather than those who like your imitation of someone else. The fans who like your impression of a different artist won’t stick around for the long-haul.
We also could also talk about collaborating and staying relevant - as suggested by many - but those two things can have a negative impact. When someone covers a song that was released 3 hours ago the musical integrity is often questioned - did the cover artist upload it because they genuinely loved the song (which they only heard 3 hours ago) or because they’re trying to draw in passive views? As for collaborating it can result in a hollow relationship with another content-creator, set up purely for views - which as discussed isn’t the end goal. As you’re not aiming for views the most important thing to remember is be true to yourself about what you’re creating. You want people to stick around when they discover who you are and what you do.
With 1.5 billion people accessing YouTube for music every month, YouTube’s connection to the music scene and the music industry becomes increasingly important for record labels and the music industry. While the guys with bigger wallets make it easier for their teammates to get further with views and distribution even then they need to rack up millions of views to see any kind of respectable pay out for their music.
YouTube offers music pretty much ready-to-go but what’s great for consumers is potentially dangerous, for artists, as this model of consumption - an ad-supported business - encourages piracy, ultimately giving away music for free or for very little. If this is the route that you want to go down, it’s a long lonely journey - keep in mind the more people you add to your team the smaller your share will inevitably be. That’s not to say it’s not an impossible task.
The other option - and the more sensible one in our opinion - is using YouTube as a marketing tool to help discover the people who genuinely like what you do and want to be part of your journey. These people could be fans, or network connections - helping you connect the dots or helping to take your music to new places.
A lot of the sessions we’ve filmed have helped artists get residencies, regular gigs, touring work, session work and much more - they’ve helped the artists earn an income. Creating videos of you performing your music live - which reach the right people - are hugely valuable as all it takes is one person to watch the video and send a business opportunity your way.