Part Four: Making And Monetising Videos

Last updated on: Sunday 2 September 2018

Video is more important than ever in music, and not just because of YouTube. Though YouTube is a key platform. Find out more…

Video has been a key part of the music mix for decades and became an important marketing tool for record labels in the 1980s when MTV first rose to prominence. But arguably video content is more important in music today than ever before, and that is in no small part because of YouTube.

YouTube is the biggest streaming music platform in the world. It has over 1.8 billion unique users each month, and while that is across the wider YouTube platform – so includes plenty of content beyond music – music videos and music channels are nevertheless a big part of what all those people consume.

For the music community, YouTube is actually a number of different things:

1. It is a publishing platform that allows artists and labels to publish video content free of charge.

2. It is a promotional platform that allows artists and labels to build audience.

3. It is a free streaming service that competes with companies like Spotify and Apple Music.

4. It is a ‘non-commercial micro-licensing platform’ that enables artists and labels to earn royalties when individuals use their music to soundtrack home-made videos.

5. It is a media platform that is now home to a range of influential online TV channels.

So, artists and labels can…

1. Use YouTube to publish their video (and audio) content free of charge.

2. Use YouTube as a promotional platform, encouraging blogs and media to embed their videos, and fans to playlist and share them.

3. Earn income when official videos are played, providing there is ad content around the video (YouTube pays approx 55% of ad revenue to the artist or label).

4. Earn income when their music is used in user-generated content via a system called Content ID, which enables artists and labels to take a cut of ad revenue from other videos that use their tracks.

5. Pitch releases to music-based YouTube channels with a decent audience and relevant editorial policy.

The music industry currently has something of a love/hate relationship with YouTube. Record labels love the free publishing tools and promotional platform. And they love the royalties they get paid from their official videos and user-generated content.

But they don’t love the fact that YouTube generally pays much lower royalties than audio-streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music. Especially when the likes of Spotify and Apple Music point out that it is harder to get young consumers to sign up to their paid for subscription services, because so many young consumers get all their music for free on YouTube.

There are various reasons why YouTube gets away with paying less, but a big reason is that YouTube doesn’t rely on the labels to get its music content, because fans are constantly uploading tracks, whether audio only, or the official music video, or as the soundtrack to a piece of original content.

Labels can request that content be removed and the aforementioned Content ID system helps with that process. But keeping all your content off YouTube is time-consuming for artists and labels. So, it’s better to just keep it there and take a cut of ad revenue.

Except that cut of ad revenue is never as good as the royalties you earn from Spotify and Apple Music. Hence the love/hate thing. The record labels are currently trying to persuade, guilt and force YouTube into paying more money into the music industry. Meanwhile YouTube is trying to placate its music industry critics through its new paid-for premium service. But tensions remain.

Whatever the politics regarding YouTube in the music industry, as a new self-releasing artist, you almost certainly need a YouTube channel. And although you can upload audio with a static image – or a simple lyric video with the words appearing in sync on the screen – for your channel to stand out, proper video content is best.

That might be a music video for your key track or tracks. On a shoe-string budget, that will mean doing something really creative with your iPhone camera and some free video editing software; or borrowing a camera and editing technology from your college or similar; or best of all, finding an aspiring film-maker looking for a great new project to get their teeth into.

But remember: there is more to music video than the music video. Even if you make great music videos to go with your key tracks, most successful YouTube channels regularly post new content, and realistically you’re not going to be able to post a new music video all that often.

So have a think: what other video content could you create that would get people interested and which would complement your music? And how can you make these videos with minimum budget and time?

Once you have some content on your YouTube channel and are gaining some traction there, you should look to become a YouTube ‘content partner’.

You need a certain number of subscribers and views for this to be an option (and those requirements change from time to time). But once you qualify it is worth filling out the forms because this means you will get a cut of ad revenue on your channel. Realistically this is going to be very modest at the outset, but even so, it’s worth being fully signed up.

And if you use a digital distributor to get your content onto Spotify and iTunes (like Ditto Music, TuneCore etc), they may also be able to get you access to Content ID, so you can earn if other people use your music too.

But reality check: at the outset your YouTube channel is really a marketing tool. And to be effective, you need to make content that people will embed, playlist and share. That’s how you can drive people to your YouTube channel, which you can then use to drive people to your music.

There are important video channels online beyond YouTube.

First of all there is Vevo. You probably know Vevo because of YouTube, because many of the big artists and labels make their content available on YouTube via Vevo. Which means they give their videos to Vevo, which then sets up the channel on YouTube for the artist and label, and then manages that channel day-to-day.

But more than that, Vevo also sells the advertising, instead of YouTube. Which, in theory at least, means you get more relevant advertising and – in the main – better royalty rates. Vevo also has its own website, meaning videos get distributed beyond YouTube too.

Although best known for managing the YouTube channels of superstars, any artist can distribute their videos (and pretty much any video content) via Vevo, on both YouTube and beyond. Though you will need a middle-man distributor, like Ditto Music, to go this route. If you do, you are then faced with the question, do you just have a Vevo-managed channel on YouTube, or do you have a Vevo-managed channel and continue to directly manage your own YouTube channel too? That’s a decision you’ll have to make.

Facebook & Instagram
Next there is Facebook and Instragram, which are increasingly shifting over to video, and prioritising video content in their users’ feeds.

Facebook (which also owns Instagram) has only recently done its first licensing deals with the music industry, via which it is starting to pay royalties to artists, labels, songwriters and publishers. In theory, because of these deals, Facebook and Instagram will ultimately start to work like YouTube, in that they’ll pay (small) royalties as well as providing promotional tools. Though for now, especially for DIY artists, it’s all about the promo.

Most artists have so far used Facebook for shorter preview videos, with full videos posted to YouTube and Vevo. Though as Facebook starts to pay royalties, you’ll probably find more full videos are posted on the platform.

People will usually initially see your video via their news-feed with no sound. So you need to do something at the outset to persuade them to stop scrolling, activate the sound and then watch. This is why Facebook videos usually have text or subtitles, especially at the start.

As for Instagram, obviously it’s designed more for very short videos. And although the platform is starting to allow longer videos to be uploaded, short-form content still works best. Most artists are still learning how best to do video on Instagram, though as it becomes a key social network, creating videos that work on it becomes more important.

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Words: Chris Cooke – Last updated Sep 2018