by John Seay, Atlanta Entertainment Lawyer: The Seay Firm LLC (@TheSeayFirmLLC)
I subscribe to a listserv called Digital Music News and so should you. Every weekday morning, I receive an email with story blurbs and links to articles that illuminate—or in some cases, further obfuscate—some aspect of the music industry. Today, my daily email blast included a guest post from Brandon Martinez, founder of Indmusic, a YouTube Multi-Channel Network for unsigned and independent musicians and labels.
YouTube Partner Program
The guest post, which you can read in full here, discusses the monetization of artist content on YouTube. Because this is something I regularly discuss with my clients (and have posted about before in a blog about artist revenue streams), I thought it would be worthwhile to list some of the highlights from the guest post here. But before we dive into that, you should know, if you don’t already, that you can monetize your YouTube videos fairly easily. First, join the YouTube Partner Program. While there are some guidelines to joining, most of them relate to non-infringement of intellectual property and community standards (i.e., your work can’t be sexually explicit, profanity-laden, or violent).
Once you’re a YouTube Partner, you’ll be able to monetize your videos, specifying whether you prefer ads that play before your video plays, or adds that pop up at the bottom of the video screen while your video is playing. How much money you’ll make from those ads is impossible to estimate. You probably won’t make much at all unless your videos have views in the upper thousands. But, it’s free and relatively easy to monetize your videos; every single cent that you make counts; and if the video blows up, you’ll have the ads already in place so you don’t lose any revenue while you’re scrambling to monetize the ad.
Boosting Your Channel
In his guest post, Martinez makes some good points about YouTube and the service industry that has cropped up around it. For my purpose though, I’ve summarized and in some cases expounded upon four of the points Martinez discusses in his guest post.
First, Don’t Treat Your YouTube Videos Like Unwanted Stepchildren
When you post your videos, take the time to fill out as much of the metadata as you can: song title, album title, ISRC, UPC, etc. Also, tag your video so that potential viewers may stumble across it in their searches. As with any use of tags, only use the most relevant tags. Finally, and this might go without saying, promote your video and your YouTube channel generally. “Check out our videos online” is almost equivalent to a phrase you’ve certainly used if you play in a band: “We have merch for sale in the back.”
Second, Simply Posting and Promoting Isn’t Enough
Curate your YouTube Channel. Martinez suggests placing your videos in a curated playlist. That way, when one video ends, another will start playing automatically. Think of this in the same way you would the sequencing of your album. Also, annotate your videos to provide options for additional viewing. Martinez suggests an InVideo Avatar as a way to build subscribers to your YouTube channel. Like with Twitter and Facebook, the accumulation of followers of your channel on YouTube is a very good thing.
Third, Participate in the Community
Okay, this one I don’t see a lot of artists doing, but it’s worth echoing here: participate in the YouTube community. Your band may not make many videos, but you can “favorite” and comment on other videos, and those actions show up on your own feed. Those users who subscribe to your YouTube channel can get to know you and your band better, and potentially interact with you. You can even include videos from some of your influences or other current bands you like or have played with. If those bands return the favor, then you’ve successfully boosted your potential viewership and therefore fan base.
Fourth, Don’t Sweat Monetization
I remember back when allowing your song to be used in an advertisement was “selling out.” Those days are gone. Forever. So don’t sweat placing ads on your videos. As Martinez suggests, look at it like this: “Claiming your content isn’t just about monetization. It’ also about protecting and owning your rights on the platform.” You also, as Martinez later notes, have the option to track and block videos that impermissibly use your content. I’ve found that even smaller artists I work with occasionally have that one bad-egg-of-a-fan who posts all the songs from the album online and then monetizes them him or herself. If you’re a YouTube Partner, it’s easier to have that content removed or monetize it yourself.
So that’s that. Look, curating your YouTube channel might not be at the top of your list. But the good news is that it’s easy to do, and at the very least you’re likely to make enough money to pay for a couple of drinks. And with more and more people using YouTube as music discovery services, you really should set aside the time to make sure at the very least that people searching for your band are directed to the official YouTube channel. These little steps aren’t very glamorous, but there’s potentially money in them for you.
As always, feel free to contact us if you have any additional questions or concerns.
 No one knows exactly how YouTube decides what to pay—it’s believed that the money you make from your videos depends on when they are viewed and the ads that attach to them, among other criteria. You can’t change those criteria, so don’t stress about them.