You can build an entire career with a well-set-up YouTube channel! And with the proper preparation, quality, and consistency, you can make quite a bit of money on YouTube. For example, after you’ve created your channel and have enough followers, you can join the YouTube Partner Program and earn money with your videos. It is also possible to monetize your music through YouTube Content ID and make some extra cash when somebody else uses your music in their video. This ultimate guide will teach you more about how to make money on YouTube.
Few services are as relevant for artists as YouTube is. Why? The platform has more than 1.9 billion monthly active users. It is the second-largest search engine after Google. And it has an extremely interactive and involved audience. Also, YouTube paid out over $1 billion in revenue to the music industry from advertising alone in the last 12 months!
Of course, artists can release their songs on music streaming platforms like Spotify through a distributor like iMusician — without any video content. However, according to Cisco, almost 82% of all internet traffic in 2021 was video traffic! Of course, YouTube absolutely dominates the video landscape, and you shouldn’t miss out on that additional source of income.
On the other hand, more than five hundred hours of content is uploaded to YouTube every minute. So, be aware that building a YouTube channel takes dedication, time, and patience.
Starting a YouTube Channel
When setting up a YouTube channel, consistency, quality, and coherence are the three main goals to keep in mind. First, set a release schedule. Start out with regular releases every week or two and slowly pick up the pace when you’re getting more engagement. Second, the quality of the videos needs to be as professional as possible, both in terms of audio and video quality. This extends to many other elements of your channel: the video’s thumbnail, the pictures of the header of your profile and the descriptions of your videos.
Coherence refers to a consistent thread running through every bit of information, every visual aspect of your channel:
- Band pictures
- Artist logo
- Color palette
- Band/artist logo in every picture
Make it as consistent as possible.
When you’re uploading new content, consider your target audience. Which keywords and hashtags seem to work best? For hashtags, a large variety of similar-sounding bands and genres is always a good start. Also, cities or countries where your genre is popular might work as hashtags.
Research what hashtags your “competition” (or similar bands/artists) use. To find that out, load a video you want to research on YouTube with either Chrome or Firefox. Then right-click anywhere and select “View Source”. Then hit CTRL/CMD+F and search for “keywords”. If you’re posting something other than a music video, like a play-through or a vlog, also research the competition!
Besides keywords and hashtags, research the visual aspects as well. What do similar artists use as their titles and thumbnails? Or a thumbnail that reveals something about the video. Obviously, if you’re posting a new song then your title is pretty much set. But if it is something like a tour VLOG or a play-through, consider using a title that makes the audience curious. Also, research which of your previous videos created the most comments and interactions with your audience.
‘YouTube for Artists’ is a set of tools created by YouTube for marketing and setting up campaigns for interacting with your community. Thanks to your digital music distributor or YouTube partner manager, you can request an Official Artist Channel (OAC). Not only does this look much more professional, but once this artist page status is granted, you also have more control over your artist page on YouTube Music!
Official Artist Channel
Benefits of an Official Artist Channel
- Automatic creation of single and album playlists of all your music videos
- Selecting which video is highlighted in the “Featured” video slot
- Detailed analytics about your audience
- Talk directly to viewers with Community posts
There are several criteria that make a channel eligible for becoming an Official Artist Channel. You need to:
- own and operate a YouTube channel that represents one artist or band ;
- with at least one public video ;
- and no policy violations.
You also need to have at least three official releases out on YouTube Music and in addition, you need to be working with a YouTube Partner manager or be part of the YouTube Partner Program yourself. (see below)
On top of the aforementioned perks, YouTube for Artists also offers analytics.
Not only do you get detailed reports on which video performed the best, but you also receive information about your target audience. Who (age, gender, geographics) watches which of your videos for how long at what time of the day? What other channels do your subscribers and viewers watch?
As mentioned before, YouTube for Artists allows you to talk directly to your viewers through the Community function. With Community posts, you can interact with your audience through text, live videos, images, animated GIFs, and more.
Join the YouTube Partner Program
One of the first ways to earn money on YouTube is to join the YouTube Partner Program. However, there are a few requirements to be met, before you are eligible:
- You need to follow the YouTube channel monetization policies.
- The YouTube Partner Program must be available in your country or region.
- You cannot have any active Community Guidelines strikes on your channel.
- You need more than 4,000 valid public watch hours in the last 12 months, meaning your videos must have been watched more than four thousand hours.
- You need more than 1,000 subscribers.
- You need a linked AdSense account.
Once you have the required numbers of subscribers and watch hours, that last step is very important. Without an AdSense account, you cannot get paid through YouTube.
How to set up an AdSense account
Follow those 6 easy steps to create your AdSense account.
If you haven’t already, sign in to your Google Account.
Then select whether you'd like AdSense to send you customized help and performance suggestions or not.
Select payment country or territory. This cannot be changed later so make sure this is an address where you can receive the Personal Identification Number (PIN) that Google will send you in the mail after account creation.
Review and accept the AdSense Terms and Conditions.
The review process for the YouTube Partner Program takes about one month. You can check your review status on your YouTube Studio dashboard (you need to be logged into your YouTube account for this link to work). Once you’re approved, you have access to the YouTube Creator Support team. The support staff is specifically there to help and support the members of the YouTube Partner Program.
Making money with the YouTube Partner Program
In addition, you can then access the Copyright Match Tool and a variety of monetization features. The Copyright Match Tool helps you find other content creators using your music without your consent. The tool gives you the option to request the removal of those videos or to directly contact the creators to negotiate a deal.
Once you are accepted into the YouTube Partner Program, there are numerous possible income streams:
Advertising revenue share
You get a 55% share of all advertising income generated through ads that YouTube runs on your videos.
Set up channel memberships for your subscriber
By paying a monthly fee, they can get access to additional videos, promotional deals or early access to new content.
Fans can pay to have their message highlighted in the chat.
You receive a share of revenue from viewers with a YouTube Premium subscription.
You can offer clothing items like t-shirts, beanie hats, or coffee mugs to your fans directly on your channel’s profile page. The collaboration between YouTube and Merchbar is easily set up:
- Step 1. Open YouTube Studio
- Step 2. Select “Monetization” on the left-side menu.
- Step 3. Click “Merchandise” and then “Get Started”
- Step 4. Choose “Merchbar” and click “Continue”
To be eligible for a Merchbar connection, your channel has to either be the “Official Artist Channel” or be connected to it, like the record label, and have at least 10,000 subscribers. You also have to be in the YouTube Partner Program and the option has to be available in your country or region. In addition, your channel’s audience cannot be set to “made for kids”.
Another way to display your merch is through Cards that you can add to your video. Creators often use these small overlays to link to other videos, playlists, or channels. If you are a YouTube Partner, you can also add external links to websites in your cards.
Monetize your music with Content ID
Another way to make money on YouTube is to monetize your music with Content ID. Through monetization with Content ID with a distributor like iMusician, you receive a share from the ad revenue other channels generate who use your music. If any other channel uses one of your songs as background music for a video they post and YouTube runs ads on said video, Content ID will automatically divert part of the generated ad revenue to you. If the user watching the video is a premium user, he won’t see any ad on the video so rather than from the ad revenue, your share will come from the subscription revenue.
If you choose to monetize your channel yourself via the YouTube Partner Program (YPP) (and you use Content ID for third parties using your music), don't forget to ask your distributor to add your channel to his allowlist. That way, you will be able to collect the money generated from your channel directly.
If you don’t add your channel to the allow-list, your YouTube partner or digital music distributor will claim your video (a notification will be sent to you) and all videos where there is an audio match in your channel will be monetized by your music distributor on your behalf.
Get money from YouTube Music
If you distribute your music through iMusician, you can select to have your songs be uploaded to YouTube Music (YTM). YTM then automatically creates album art videos for every song. These "Art Tracks" each display the cover image of your album while playing the song. Whenever a viewer listens to your “Art Tracks” and they have a YouTube Premium plan, income is generated for you just like with any other streaming service like Spotify or Apple Music.
In addition, YouTube may monetize your “Art Tracks” which would generate additional income from non-premium viewers. The criteria for when YouTube runs ads on a video and when it doesn't are highly individual and constantly change. That’s why you may see monetized and un-monetized views of your songs from the same region and at the same time.
How to get paid on YouTube
For the ad revenue you generate through the YouTube Partner Program, you get paid through your AdSense account. The minimum amount AdSense pays out is 100 dollars. The average YouTube channel can expect to make about $18 per 1,000 ad views. That translates to roughly $3 to $5 per 1,000 video views.
Also, all income generated through paying channel subscribers fans buying super stickers
If you have enabled YouTube Content ID for a release of yours, whenever that song is picked up by Content ID, you will be paid by your distributor, just like the streaming royalties from YouTube Music and other streaming services.
Additional income streams
Besides becoming a YouTube Partner and having your music be monetized through Content ID, there are a number of additional ways to earn money on YouTube. Depending on the size of your channel and how engaged your audience is, it might make sense to work with brands. You can either do a whole video presenting a product, have a company present a song or playthrough, or place its products in a video. If you do so, make sure you select “My video contains paid promotion like a product placement, sponsorship, or endorsement” when uploading the video. Otherwise, viewers might flag your video and YouTube might decide to take it down.
In addition, you can use your channel as a means to present your music to music supervisors who are looking for new songs for TV shows/movies.
Depending on the content of your channel, placing affiliate links in the description of your video might also be a viable option for additional income. Every time your viewers click on these links and then buy one of the linked products you receive a small payment.
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