Why YouTube Is Important, Even If It Won’t Make You FamousBy
Estimated reading time: 9 minutes
First thing’s first: YouTube will not make you famous.
(Don’t misunderstand us. It also doesn’t mean that you can ignore YouTube. It’s an important tool and platform that musicians should be aware of and using. We’ll explain.)
There are exceptions, those few performers who gain international fame because the right person saw their YouTube video, or those individuals who—as a result of their extreme and innate wit, talent, and ingenuity—have gained millions of subscribers and even more video views. We don’t deny that YouTube can make you famous… we just argue that, odds are, it won’t. Here’s why:
YouTube Is Not For Being Discovered
After signing in to your YouTube account, the home page shows videos of other users. The list of popular videos on YouTube are videos that already have millions of views. The list of recommended videos are based on videos you have watched previously. Unless your video has hundreds of thousands of views or is similar to something users have watched previously, it probably won’t show up on other users’ home pages.
Let’s assume that the user wants to find something new, so they click on “Browse channels”. The page shows 14 featured channels, 111 paid channels, and hundreds of channels that fall into categories like Music, Comedy, Film & Entertainment, Gaming, and so on. These categorized listings of channels, while extensive, only scratch the surface of what is available on YouTube. Users can enter a search term, but that will pull up thousands/hundreds/dozens of videos that fit that criteria. Even a specific search term (such as “fort worth folk blues”) brings up thousands (11,319) of channels in the search results.
Looking at the statistics provided by YouTube doesn’t paint a more-encouraging picture. Yes, the market of potential viewers is huge, with more than one billion unique users and more than six billion hours of video watched each month. However, 100 hours of video are uploaded every minute. That’s a lot of other videos for users to wade through to stumble upon yours.
When taken all together, this means it’s pretty unlikely that YouTube will help you be discovered.
You Should Be On YouTube Anyway
YouTube may not be good for gaining random fans, but it does have its uses. When used properly, YouTube is a great way to:
- strengthen connections with your target audiences
- learn more about your audiences
- make a little more money off your craft
These might sound like small things, but they can have a huge impact on your career as a musician. We’ll elaborate on each below.
Using Video to Connect with Your Target Audiences
As a musician, you might think audio should be your focus. In terms of marketing your music, though, it’s widely acknowledged that video is increasingly becoming an essential element of successful marketing strategies. Video allows you to send a message and connect with viewers in a way that text, graphics, or audio alone can’t.
If you’re going to add video, you need to know what your options are. You don’t need to spend millions on a national television ad campaign, but you probably should add a video player to your band’s website or share videos on your various social media accounts. Instagram and Facebook have added built-in video-sharing functions (15-seconds/unlimited time, respectively), and applications like Vine focus on creating video and sharing it (either with your followers on Vine itself or on other social media accounts like Twitter or Facebook). Websites like Vimeo seem to compete directly with YouTube, although their user count is much smaller. Obviously, YouTube isn’t the only method of mixing video into your marketing strategy. However, its size and market dominance make it worth seriously considering. Additionally, it’s simple for you to share your YouTube videos on your other social media platforms.
If you’re marketing your band, you need to know who your audience is. As an independent musician, your main audiences are your existing fans (your first audience) and their connections (your second audience). With your existing fans, you want to use video to connect deeper and strengthen their loyalty to your band. Behind-the-scenes videos can make fans feel like they’re on tour or in the studio with you. Music videos let you visually tell the story behind your song’s lyrics. Announcing band news via video is the next best option to announcing it in person. All of these video uses help strengthen your fan’s connection to your band. The more committed that your fans are to you, the more likely they are to share you with those around them. In terms of your second audience, they are likely unfamiliar with your work and who you are, but they trust the opinion and recommendations of your first audience. You want to hook them, so your videos need to grab their attention and leave them wanting more of you.
Why is YouTube important in reaching your audiences? Well, remember those one billion unique monthly users? Some of them are your fans. They are already on YouTube, watching other videos. Putting your videos where they already are just makes sense. Additionally, YouTube makes it extremely easy for your fans to share your videos, either with their connections on YouTube or with their friends on other social media sites. Below every video is a “Share” tab, with links to the top ten social media platforms as well as the option to embed the video or email it to someone.
Using YouTube to Analyze Your Work and Audience
YouTube provides you with loads of information (perhaps more than any other social media platform) about your content and fans. You can see how your channels are doing by looking at the number of subscribers, the number of views, and the total time spent watching videos from that channel. You can also monitor an individual video’s number of views, amount of time watched, likes, dislikes, shares, comments, and favorites. For shared videos, you can see how often it has been shared as well as where.
In terms of fan data, YouTube provides information on the age range, gender, and general location of viewers. It also allows you to track your subscribers, helping you understand what gains fans and what loses them. You can break this down further and compare overall viewers to your subscribers. YouTube tells you where your videos are played (on the video’s page, on your channel, on other websites, etc). It also lets you see where your traffic comes from and compare organic traffic versus paid traffic.
This data about who your audience is, how they’re getting to your videos, what they’re doing with your content, and which content is most successful is extremely valuable for marketing purposes. To access this information, simply log in, click the down arrow (at the top of the page next to “Upload”), then select “Analytics”.
Getting More Out of Your YouTube Videos
YouTube gives you a way to learn more about your audience and share content with them; both features are great. With the YouTube Partners program, though, it also gives you ways to make money from that content (as long as your account is in good standing and has not been previously disabled for monetization).
First, you can monetize your videos by allowing ads on your content. When you upload the video, you’ll be able to select the ad format you want on your video. You can also go back and monetize already-uploaded videos. The video will then be reviewed (especially looking at the content and copyrights) before any ads are approved. Note: you must either own all the content yourself (you created it and have retained the rights to it) or have expressed, written permission by the rights holder to use the content; this applies to the video itself as well as the music you’re performing in the video. (Visit here for more information.) Also note that you are currently unable to add ads to private videos. To get paid, you will have to link your YouTube account to an AdSense account and then reach the set payment threshold (in the US, that’s $100). Your profit will depend on the type of ad, the price paid by the advertiser, and the number of views the ad gets.
Another method of making money is by profiting off of others’ use of your content. YouTube allows users to protect their copyright claims on their material (the video itself, the audio of the video, and the lyrics/melody are all addressed separately) through its Content ID program. When you join this program, you verify that you hold all the exclusive rights to your submitted content. YouTube then scans all videos (past, present, and any going forward) to see if your copyrighted material is used. If results are found, you have the option to block the video (either entirely or just the audio, and with different geographic options), track the video’s statistics, or monetize the video. If you monetize another user’s video because it has your content, the profit from the ads will go to you instead of that user. Not every user will qualify for YouTube’s Content ID program, and it won’t work on instances of allowed use (i.e., you can’t monetize a video of a cover of your song if you authorized the cover). However, it’s worth looking into, especially if you know other users have been using your content or want to prevent others from doing so.
So, What Should You Do?
It’s hard to deny or ignore the impact YouTube has had on the internet and on the music scene, and it’s unlikely that YouTube will be going anywhere (but up) anytime soon. While YouTube won’t likely lead to your big break or help you gain a million random followers, it is still a useful tool for marketing your music, connecting with your fans, and adding to your income as a musician. Your best bet is to learn how to use it effectively… and then do so.
Do you use YouTube, and are you a consumer of content or a creator of content? How have you incorporated YouTube in your band’s marketing and social media strategies? Have you monetized your account?