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YouTube Music

YouTube Music

by Mark Halloran and Edward (Ned) R. Hearn

YouTube is the largest aggregator and distributor of music in the history of mankind. It is without doubt a more powerful voice in the music business today than any recording artist, the major record labels and music publishers, or TV singing shows such as The Voice. It has broken the careers of Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, Soulja Boy, and Psy (“Gangnam Style” is approaching three billion views, the most ever). Never have so many musical artists and their labels been able to share the artists’ music with the world at such a small cost. The underlying concept of YouTube music is simple—the YouTube Internet music audience gets to watch/listen to music videos for free (in some instances with commercials)—and you as the artist (or your label) get to upload your music videos for free, exposing them to a worldwide audience. But in our digital world the use of music on YouTube has many daunting complexities, and, as discussed below, has led to high-stakes conflicts that remain unresolved. YouTube is a large part of an even larger trend, the digitization of music and the ability of Internet users to play music performances temporarily by streaming them. The headlock on music distribution in the form of physical copies of recorded music (like CDs) once held by the major record labels is over (though just as they dominated record sales, their music videos now dominate YouTube music videos). And YouTube, like the traditional physical goods record business, is a “hit” business—one to five percent of the videos generate ninety-three to ninety-five percent of the views.

Like the rest of the Internet, YouTube is constantly evolving. It recently rolled out a new service called YouTube Red, which is having difficulty gaining traction with only 1.5 million members so far. The cost is $10 per month, roughly the same as Amazon Prime (which includes Prime Music), Netflix, Amazon Music Unlimited, Apple Music, and Spotify. With a YouTube Red membership, you can watch YouTube ad-free, save videos offline, and play videos in the background. YouTube also now has a controversial music stream-ripping website,, which we discuss below.

We are also on the precipice of a game-changing technology that is in its nascent stages—virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). Technology companies (including YouTube and Facebook) are betting billions of dollars that this technology will be “the next big thing.” For more than a year, YouTube has been adding support for new video and audio formats on YouTube, such as 360-degree video, VR video, and Spatial Audio. These are the first steps on the way toward a truly immersive video experience. YouTube has also developed the YouTube VR app for Daydream, Google’s platform for high-quality mobile virtual reality, which was announced in May 2016 at Google I/O and released in September 2016. It will be compatible only with new Android phones that have the necessary compatibility functions, and will not be compatible with iPhones; you’ll have to buy a VR headset as well. Many companies, including YouTube, are working on VR and AR platforms and content and it’s inevitable that YouTube will play a large part in this new video experience, including music, but how it will play out remains to be seen.

YouTube: Payments for Streaming

Although recording artists and their labels are in many ways dependent on YouTube for the distribution of their music videos, all indications are that it pays less than any other streaming service per view (but receives ad revenues). Artists who own their content get direct accounting from YouTube for ad revenues. The labels are responsible for accounting to artists for the advertising payments they receive from YouTube. These payments makes up, at least in part, for YouTube’s low streaming payments. YouTube’s 2015 reported effective per-stream rate was 0.01 cents, or $1 thousand per million views, half the rate of the year before. In 2014, about forty prominent songwriters (including The Eagles and Pharrell Williams) broke off from the traditional performing rights organizations (PROs) to join a new PRO, Global Music Rights, a company controlled by music entrepreneur/ manager Irving Azoff. Azoff has threatened to pull his Global Music Rights catalog from YouTube, which would make YouTube a copyright infringer if it continued to use videos with songs from the Global Music Rights catalog, since it would not have public performance rights to those songs. Azoff is not the only prominent music businessperson going after YouTube. This year, Taylor Swift led a group of 180 performers, the three major labels, and many other music industry groups, who sent an open letter to Congress seeking reform of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (discussed below). Swift’s colleagues included, among others, U2, Paul McCartney, and Elton John. Although YouTube was not named, they were clearly the target of the letter. Here’s a portion:

“One of the biggest problems confronting songwriters and recording artists today is the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. This law was written and passed in an era that is technologically out-of-date compared to the era in which we live. It has allowed major tech companies to grow and generate huge profits by creating ease of use for consumers to carry almost every recorded song in history in their pocket via a smartphone, while songwriters’ and artists’ earnings continue to diminish. Music consumption has skyrocketed, but the monies earned by individual writers and artists for that consumption has plummeted.”1

No one knows at present how this will all play out, but it’s the classic technology versus artist battle that arises every time there is a new technology for listening to or buying music (over the last century or so, music distribution has morphed from sheet music to player piano rolls to phonograph records to radio and television to audio cassettes to CDs to digital radio to music downloads to streaming). The phenomenon of new technological ways to transmit music shows no signs of stopping. YouTube’s defense to the complaints of the music business is simple—it has publicly stated that it sees its role as giving musical artists a promotion vehicle, not to be a new global record company on which musical artists depend for their livelihoods.

“In a blog posted on December 16, 2016, YouTube’s Chief Business Officer Robert Kyncl wrote that “in the last 12 months, YouTube has paid out over $1 billion to the music industry from advertising alone. (Google itself reported ad revenue of $19.8 billion in the third quarter [2016].)”2 How much of this money is shared with the artists in speculative, but likely only a small portion, depending on the terms of the agreements between the labels and the artists.

It’s not just recording artists who are attacking YouTube; they are also being sued for copyright infringement by the Recording Industry Association of American (RIAA, the trade organization for record companies) because of the activities of the YouTube MP3 stream-ripping site, The site works like this: you insert the URL for the music video you want the music from, and in just a few minutes the site separates out the music tracks from the music video and puts them in an MP3 file that you can download and listen to offline and on other devices. The site is free but has ads, and YouTube pays nothing to the artists or song owners. is the world’s largest stream-ripping site, with more than 60 million unique visitors per month. Stream ripping is a huge issue to music creators and distributors. Recent research indicates that forty- nine percent of all sixteen-to-twenty-four-year-olds engage in stream ripping. The RIAA asserts that from 2013 to 2015 there had been a fifty percent increase in unauthorized stream ripping in the United States, and that YouTube is responsible for more than forty percent of all unlawful stream ripping in the world. Ultimately, the case will boil down to whether the YouTube Terms of Service allow stream ripping—the RIAA says they don’t, and so far YouTube has not taken a formal public position. But it’s fair to say that musicians and labels who upload music videos do not expect that the music tracks will be separated from the video and put in a separate, music-only file that can be used in virtually any way, without permission or compensation.

YouTube as a Streaming Service in Comparison with Other Streaming Services

There are many streaming services, and no two are exactly alike. YouTube is the most popular place, but the web is full of content beyond the ubiquitous YouTube streaming site, ranging from movies to TV shows to music videos and more. Favorite audiovisual streaming media services other than YouTube include Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Amazon Instant Video, Sling Orange, PlayStation Vue, Crackle, Funny or Die, Twitch, and Vevo.

Those services, like YouTube, feature audiovisual programming that focuses on movies and television programs, while YouTube focuses on music videos, both amateur and professional; excerpts from television programs and movies; instructional or “how to” videos and more, rather than full-length programming.

Unlike YouTube, on-demand streaming music services offer streaming of full-length music audio content via the Internet as a part of their service, without the listener necessarily needing to purchase a file for download. This type of service is comparable with Internet radio. Many of those sites have advertising and offer fee and nonfee options. Online music stores as of the date of this article that provide a means of purchasing and downloading music as either files of some sort or on-demand streaming or both include iTunes, Amazon Prime Music, Apple Music, Deezer, Google Play Music, Groove Music, Guvera, iHeartRadio, Napster, Pandora, Rhapsody, Slacker, SoundCloud, Spotify, Tidal, and YouTube Red.

Not all digital music services have survived the crowded marketplace. Examples of discontinued digital music services include Xbox Music, iTunes Radio, Beats Music, Grooveshark,, MOG, Thumbplay, Rdio, and Beatport.

Was YouTube Intended to Be a Music Website?

Ironically, YouTube was not originally intended to be a music website. Two of YouTube’s founders have confirmed that the original idea for YouTube was for it to be a video version of an online dating service. The first YouTube video (in 2005) featured one of YouTube’s founders at the San Diego Zoo. The website has grown like wildfire since it was launched in 2005 (and sold to Google in 2006), and inevitably music has become a very large part of that growth. YouTube is now the top video website globally (with 13 billion videos), is the third most visited website in the world, and attracts over 15 billion visitors a month (roughly twice the population of the world). Videos are now being uploaded at a rate of 500 hours per minute, and 5 billion videos are watched per day. YouTube recognizes that it’s predominately a music website. When you open the YouTube website in Google the top listing is Music. But even though there are no more MTV videos, the current music video creators must tip their cap to MTV. MTV dominated the music video world in the ‘80s, but morphed into a reality channel in the ‘90s and stopped playing music videos altogether in 2001. The “concept” music videos the major artists and record labels put on YouTube today creatively descend from the MTV videos of the ‘80s.

Trends in YouTube Music and YouTube

Things have changed. Or maybe they haven’t, as far as the major-record-label dominance is concerned. Out of the millions of videos streamed on YouTube every day, music videos are by far the most popular category. Forty percent of YouTube’s viewers watch music videos, more than any other category. The two most watched channels are run by the major labels. The most watched video channel is Vevo, a joint venture among Sony Music Entertainment and Universal Music Group (major labels), and Abu Dhabi Media, with thirty percent of YouTube’s views. Warner Music (a major label) has a channel that is right behind Vevo in second place at twenty percent.

In addition to shaping trends, YouTube also reflects trends. First, it is part of the “Long Tail” in the music business. Basically this phrase means that there are many more transactions but each transaction is at a much lower cost to the consumer. (The Long Tail is a mathematical formula that was famously applied by Wired magazine editor Chris Anderson to digital companies such as Amazon in his iconic 2003 article in Wired magazine). Second, YouTube is dependent on Google’s technology, which is necessary to store and access the massive amounts of audiovisual data that YouTube stores. This capacity did not exist until the mid-2000s when YouTube was founded, and when YouTube was purchased by Google in 2006, it gained access to the current essentially unlimited data storage and access capability.

If I Upload My Video to YouTube, Do They Own It?

No, per the YouTube Terms of Service (TOS), the owner of the music video retains ownership rights, subject to a nonexclusive right for YouTube to use the music video on YouTube and any successor to YouTube. The rights as between you and YouTube are governed by its TOS. They are standard and nonnegotiable. They apply only until you remove or delete your video. The language setting forth your license to YouTube in the TOS is very broad, and includes your granting YouTube “a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-fee, sub licensable and transferable license to use, reproduce, distribute, prepare derivative works of, display and perform the Content.” It applies to all media serviced by YouTube. The license you grant to users of YouTube is narrower: “a non- exclusive license to access your Content though the Service, and to use, reproduce, distribute, display and perform such Content.” The user may access the content only for personal use and may not download unless there is a download link, and may not “. . . copy, reproduce, distribute, transmit, broadcast, display, sell, license or otherwise exploit any Content.” To our knowledge this language has not been litigated as to what exactly it means, but interpretation fights leading to litigation are inevitable.

Is YouTube Responsible for Copyright Infringement if Your Music Is Pirated on YouTube?

No. To encourage the growth of Internet service providers (ISPs) and to harmonize the Copyright Act with international copyright treaties, in 1998 Congress passed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which included the Online Copyright Infringement Liability Limitation Act (OCILLA). (The DMCA is what Taylor Swift and her buddies want to change, as discussed above.) Basically, OCILLA gave ISPs like YouTube a “safe harbor” from copyright infringement claims by copyright owners (including music owners), as long as the services agreed to receive “takedown notices” from copyright owners of infringed works and to actually take down the infringing works.

YouTube Content ID and Strike Systems

YouTube has gone a step beyond its obligations under OCILLA by implementing a digital-fingerprint scanning service called Content ID. When a video is uploaded to YouTube it is automatically turned into a “digital fingerprint” and checked against all works protected by copyright in the YouTube digital library. This is similar to the technology Shazam uses to identify songs and artists (and this technology is now built into the Siri services in iPhones). If there is a “match” the new video is automatically taken down, without the necessity of a takedown notice. If you own the music yourself or have cleared the music with the copyright owners you can appeal to YouTube and your video will be restored. YouTube also has instituted a “strike system” where if an uploader puts up a certain number of infringing uploads they are banned from YouTube.

The YouTube Partner Program

One easy, effective way for you to take advantage of Content ID and collect ad revenue is to work with a YouTube Partner service such as AdRev, Exploration, ONErpm, or Songtrust. A YouTube Partner service takes the sound recordings that you give them and submits them to YouTube for inclusion in Content ID. They will then place claims on videos that use your music without your authority, and send you usage statistics as well as your share of the ad revenue.

Your YouTube Partner service can also identify covers of your music, even when the video doesn’t include a fingerprinted sound recording. They’ll do keyword searches to find new versions of your music, and then report them to YouTube on your behalf. Most YouTube Partner services offer free registration. In exchange for their services, most take a portion of the ad revenue, typically between 15 and 30 percent. There are no requirements other than that you own the rights to the music and have a clean history with YouTube.

Partner Program To-Do List

  1. Register your titles with your PRO, such as ASCAP, by logging into Member Access; e.g.
  2. Upload videos that feature your music to YouTube.
  3. Sign up with a YouTube Partner service to get your music onto YouTube’s radar and monetize videos that use your work.
  4. Promote your videos to increase your potential earnings from both ad revenues and the PRO.

Do the Traditional Performing Rights Organizations (PROs) Have Agreements with YouTube?

Yes, all traditional PROs—ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC—license the public performance rights of songwriters and publishers to YouTube, but only for United States performances. (For simplicity’s sake, we sometimes refer to only the largest PRO, ASCAP, but all the PROs operate essentially the same way). Unlike the traditional PROs, the newest PRO, Global Music Rights, has taken exception to YouTube’s public performance licensing rates, and has not only refused to sign an agreement with YouTube, but has also threatened to sue YouTube for copyright infringement unless music videos embodying their artists’ songs are taken down.

However, none of the PROs license sound-recording performance rights or synchronization/mechanical rights to the song, which must be cleared with the owner of the song, be it the writer or the writer’s music publisher. How you can increase your revenue from the public performances of your songs on YouTube is discussed in more detail below.

ASCAP Performance Royalties

Once you’ve joined a YouTube Partner service, you’re in a good position to earn ad revenue from YouTube video plays. You’ve also taken an essential step toward earning performance royalties from ASCAP and other PROs.

Here’s how it works at ASCAP. Once YouTube has received claims on videos that use ASCAP music, YouTube sends ASCAP quarterly performance data about those videos. ASCAP automatically processes this data in their sophisticated matching systems and pays the entitled writers and publishers. For music that doesn’t match automatically, ASCAP will manually match and pay royalties for works that have earned over one ASCAP credit. ASCAP will also manually match and pay royalties on a sample of the remaining songs that weren’t auto-matched.

Two important notes: First, the data ASCAP gets from YouTube includes views only from within the United States. That means the number of views on your play counter may be higher than the data ASCAP receives, since your counter may include performances from around the world. Second, as of now, YouTube Content ID doesn’t automatically detect or give you a way to claim uses of your music that last less than thirty seconds. However, you or your YouTube Partner service can still find such uses and submit claims manually.

By taking the steps above, you can earn money from two sources: ad revenue from your YouTube Partner service, and performance royalties from ASCAP.

Downstream Issues for a Successful Music Video

Let’s say you record your performance of a song you wrote and put it in a video that you upload. It goes viral and has 300 million views. Even though it’s all over the Internet you want to exercise some semblance of control as to how it’s used. You own three copyrights—one in your song, one in your recording, and one in your audiovisual work, the music video. Here’s how it works.

People Start Using Clips of Your Video in Their Videos

Let’s take a look at the extremes. First, “JoeFunk32” uploads your video, putting his production company as the “presenter,” and includes a link for an iTunes-type download for 50 cents. He includes the statement that his use constitutes a “fair use.” This starts steering away traffic from your music video. Second, a video is uploaded that uses your music video for three seconds while cats dance, you are attributed as the musical artist, and there is a link to your website. Here’s what you do in situations like these. As to JoeFunk32, you should immediately send a takedown notice to YouTube. The takedown notice procedure is at Although JoeFunk32 claims that his unauthorized use of your entire video is a fair use, it’s clearly not since he’s using your entire copyrighted material unchanged and co-opted your market for such material. And a statement on a video that it constitutes a “fair use” has no legal effect. As for the dancing cats, the best course is to leave it alone. There’s a very good chance a court would find the cats dancing to your music for three seconds a fair use, and if you go to court over it and lose you could be liable for hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees to the other side. Not worth it. This dancing cats hypothetical is derived from the so-called “Dancing Baby” case. A mother uploaded a very short video to YouTube showing her young children dancing to Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy.” Most labels would have ignored it but Universal was Prince’s label at the time and he wanted all his music to come off the web. Universal filed a takedown notice, YouTube took down the video, and the mother (Stephanie Lenz) had the balls to sue

Universal Music Group, claiming fair use and further alleging UMG had misrepresented their DMCA claim. The Federal District Court sided for Lenz, and held that Universal must consider fair use when filing a takedown notice. Although the Lenz case is not final, for now it appears that you must consider whether a use of your music is a “fair use” before lodging a takedown notice. The “Dancing Baby” video has been put back up by YouTube, and has a robust 1.9 million views. The Supreme Court has taken interest in the case and there’s a good chance it will take the case for a final determination.

People Start Uploading Parodies Based on Your Video

Next, much to your chagrin, your video is surrounded by many parodies, which, taken together, have almost as many views as your original version. That’s what happened to Kesha with her hit song “Tik Tok (“Brush My Teeth with a Bottle of Jack Daniels”). Even though technically these Kesha parody videos were copyright infringements of her performance of the video and her song, there was really nothing Kesha or her label could do, since the parody videos were likely protected by the fair use provisions of the U.S. Copyright Act, which shields infringers from copyright liability when their unauthorized uses constitute a “fair use.” (For a more detailed discussion on fair use, see the article “Music Copyright: A Search for Certainty.”) The most famous case in this area is the “Pretty Woman” case, which involved the rap group 2 Live Crew (notorious for their explicit lyrics, such as those in their song “Me So Horny”) doing an irreverent parody recording of Roy Orbison’s iconic song. The Supreme Court found the parody to be a fair use, because, among other reasons, the use was “transformative.” The Kesha parodies would each likely be found to be a “fair use” as well. For a laugh, you can watch the Tik Tok Kesha Parody: Glitter Puke

Posting Cover Songs on YouTube

Thousands of times each day people are posting cover songs on YouTube, and most of those cover songs are posted without permission from the song’s copyright holder, which permission could include songs that you have written and published, or videos with songs of others that you have recorded and posted.

Cover songs on YouTube are almost always noncommercial in nature. They’re created by fans, mostly amateur musicians, without any negative commercial effect on the market value of your original video—and some argue it has a positive effect.

Unlike audio-only covers of a downloaded song to which compulsory mechanical license rules apply, to avoid problems with posting videos of another’s song, you need to negotiate a synchronization license with the copyright owner that allows you to post the music of others in your video, or to grant a third party the right to post a video using your music.

What happens when you post a cover song without a music license depends on the copyright holder, including you if the posted video uses one of your songs. Some copyright owners are okay with YouTube covers, on the theory that they increase a song’s exposure and may introduce a new audience to the songwriter’s or the performer’s music. If songs are posted by fans and they are your songs, you likely will not alienate them by having their videos taken down. Some copyright owners, however, object to unlicensed uses of their works and file takedown notices, If a copyright owner objects, YouTube has to remove the video or it may negotiate a deal with the copyright owner to obtain and share revenue from ads that appear on YouTube on the page where the video with a third party’s music is used (see below). If YouTube removes the video for copyright issues, it will also place a strike against the poster’s YouTube channel. After multiple strikes, YouTube will delete that channel along with the videos, subscribers, likes, views, and comments. This would be a very harmful result for your outreach to fans if you were the one posting the unauthorized videos.

YouTube is required by law to have a number of licenses. Some people assume that as YouTube users they are covered by these licenses, but they are not. The licenses do not cover the uploader’s responsibility to secure all of the necessary song (and master) licenses and other clearances required before publishing their video. When you post a video to YouTube, you are warranting that you have cleared all necessary rights to the video. YouTube’s policy on copyright infringement is “YouTube respects the rights of copyright holders and publishers and requires all users to confirm they own the copyright or have permission from the copyright holder to upload content. We comply with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and other applicable copyright laws and promptly remove content when properly notified. Repeat infringers’ videos are removed and their accounts are terminated and permanently blocked from using YouTube.”

Trying to determine whether uploading a video with a cover song is legal can be confusing. There are many answers online, but many conflict. Publishers and musicians each give different answers. Even YouTube’s FAQs can be incomplete or made inaccurate by various settlement agreements. There is no shortage of blogs and discussion forums about cover songs. A common myth is that cover songs automatically fall under the “fair use” provisions of the Copyright Act. Despite this, thousands of cover songs on YouTube cite “fair use” in their title or description. Whether uploaders actually believe this or are preemptively using it as a defense is just speculation.

It is ultimately the poster’s responsibility to know whether he or she possesses the necessary rights for a particular third party’s content.

Many music publishers have made agreements with YouTube that allow their songs to be used in exchange for a portion of the ad revenue generated on YouTube. You could do this too for the songs in your catalog that you administer. YouTube, for example, negotiated blanket synchronization licenses for user- generated content with thousands of publishers, most notably the settlement with the National Music Publishers Association (NMPA). That settlement agreement allowed publishers to opt into a program that lets them take a cut from a $4 million advance pool, with additional earnings when the advance pool was fully paid out, namely, up to 50 percent of the advertising revenue from any cover song to which they own the rights. The NMPA does not publish the list of which publishers have signed on, making it impossible to figure out whether the song that you used is covered by the agreement.

YouTube also has expanded its Content ID system beyond original recordings to detect cover versions and live performances using the music’s underlying melodies. Content ID’s technology allows YouTube to identify works in an original sound recording or in a cover version by identifying the underlying melody of a song, using information provided by the publishers. The system is not perfect, however, and some dishonest individuals routinely use Content ID to claim content they do not own to collect ad dollars from unsuspecting users. Other copyright claims may be accidental, as material the claimant does not own sometimes finds its way into the Content ID database.

Using YouTube for Promotion

One of the most important benefits of YouTube to musicians is the use of its platform as a tool to promote yourself, and allow viewers to discover you and your music, and ideally become fans. A series of materials is available that provide useful guides in learning how to use the YouTube platform to pursue these goals. Promotion, of course, can lead to discovery. The most notable discovery on YouTube involved an unknown, 13-year-old Canadian singer and instrumentalist by the name of Justin Bieber. Bieber’s manager Scooter Braun was in Los Angeles looking at another artist on YouTube and accidentally saw Justin singing. Scooter was so impressed that he flew Justin and his mother down to Los Angeles from Canada and kept them in a townhouse in his name (Scooter admits they were in the U.S. illegally). As of 2016, Bieber was the most viewed artist in the history of YouTube, with over 13 billion views. Thankfully, many promotion resources are at your disposal. For example, CD Baby provides a series of links to information guides to facilitate self-promotion, such as those listed below. Links to these also can be obtained from the CD Baby site. The first in the list is the “YouTube for Musicians: The Complete Guide.” That site’s links provide suggested tips and technical recommendations that make up the downloadable DIY Guide. Just some of them are listed above, but all of the available links can be accessed by going to the first URL link.

Free Guides: Make Money and Promote Yourself Music on YouTube!

The following is a list of free online guides regarding making money and promotion on YouTube:

“YouTube for Musicians: The Complete Guide”

The Ultimate YouTube Promotion Guide for Musicians

“Get paid when your music is used on YouTube”

YouTube 101 for Musicians: The Basic Terms

“Musicians: 8 Easy Tips for Creating a YouTube Channel”

“Enhance Your Music Video with YouTube Annotations”

“Make money with YouTube’s Partner Program”

“YouTube’s new video pages—Don’t miss the analytics”

“Music Promotion Tip: Engage Your Fans Using Casual YouTube Clips”

“How to Get Your Music Video to Go Viral”

“5 Tips to Make Your YouTube Videos Work for You!”

Another source of information to access, which provides very useful tips and a tutorial on how to get YouTube to promote your videos, is the site Welcome to Quarterlab; A Video Strategy Firm,, utilizing the following URL:

Using Established Platforms and Channels

The YouTube platform tools are relatively easy to use and generally compatible with other marketing platforms. As recommended by Shaun Letang (, generally it would be helpful to upload your videos to established platforms, even though the initial instinct is to upload your videos just to your own channels. The value of uploading a video to an established platform channel is that it already has a large subscriber base; for example, channels of artists or bloggers that feature content that is compatible with yours or that you feel would have the audience or following who would appreciate your music. You can review other platform sites to determine which would be compatible with your music, and thus likely locations to place some of your videos. If you have a video of yours attached to an established platform, then whenever you upload a new video, YouTube will inform the subscribers of that, which may facilitate quicker views of your video and likely a larger quantity of views. Established channels may be amenable to accepting new content (particularly if it is well done), because it will be new entertainment material for their subscriber base and will likely add to the earnings of the established platforms relevant to the share of advertising money. In addition, those who view your videos on established platforms may have the incentive to go directly to your channel and perhaps subscribe to it. It may even be useful to not include on your channel the video that you uploaded to an established platform, so that when the subscribers from that established platform go to your channel to view your content, they will see new and different material as noted above. You should research what channels are popular for your genre to get a better sense of what content of others has been added to that established channel and determine whether it would be a good environment that would attract your likely audience.

The Demonetization Process

Fairly recently, YouTube announced that it has improved its “demonetization process” for videos that are deemed by YouTube as being not advertiser friendly. As part of this process YouTube tries to prevent ads from appearing on those video channels that advertisers may, as part of their policies, prefer not to be associated with. YouTube now communicates to the content owners those videos it has deemed eligible for demonetization, and it also has a review process that you can use if you think
your video has been demonetized in error. The kinds of videos YouTube determined that are not “ad friendly” include

  • sexually suggestive content, including partial nudity and sexual humor;
  • violence, including display of serious injury and events related to violent extremism;
  • inappropriate language, including harassment, profanity, and vulgar language;
  • promotion of drugs and regulated substances; including selling, use, and abuse of such items; and
  • controversial or sensitive subjects and events, including subjects related to war, political conflicts, natural disasters, and tragedies, even if graphic imagery is not shown.

The policies that YouTube follows related to videos that are demonetized due to concerns about advertisers and their content include the following:

  • It will change the $ icon in Video Manager to yellow with the hover message “Not advertiser-friendly. Request manual review” to make it clearer when a video is demonetized.
  • A video may be monetized for a period of time after it is uploaded, and then become demonetized.
  • You can click on the yellow $ icon in Video Manager next to any video that is demonetized due to advertiser-friendly content concerns to request an appeal by human reviewers. You will be notified once a decision is made on the appeal, and if it is successful, your video will immediately be monetized again and have a green $ icon in Video Manager.

YouTube also provides links to pursue questions about its “ad friendly” guidelines, such as

Tracking YouTube Data: Google Analytics

Many independent, “do-it-yourself” recording artists and record labels (along with major artists and labels) use Google Analytics to track the data regarding their music video audiences so they may more efficiently create interactive opportunities with the artist’s fans. Google Analytics is a freemium3 web analytics service offered by Google that tracks and reports website traffic; it is the most widely used web analytics service on the Internet. In addition to its freemium version, Google Analytics offers two other versions: the subscription-based Google Analytics 360, which targets enterprise users, and Google Analytics for Mobile Apps, a software development kit that allows the gathering of usage data from iOS and Android Apps.

With Google Analytics, integrated with AdWords, users can review online campaigns by tracking landing page quality and conversions, which can include sales, lead generation, viewing a specific page, or downloading a particular file. Google Analytics’ approach is to show high-level, dashboard-type data for the casual user and more in-depth data further into the report. It can identify where visitors came from, how long they stayed, and their geographical location. It also provides more advanced features, such as custom visitor segmentation. Google Analytics ecommerce reporting can track sales activity and performance. The e-commerce reports show a site’s transactions, revenue, and other commerce-related data. While a user can have up to one hundred site profiles, most likely you will not need more than a few site profiles. Each profile corresponds to one website and is limited to sites that have a traffic of fewer than 5 million page views per month (roughly two page views per second), unless the site is linked to an AdWords campaign. Again, likely your need will be well below these ceilings.

The Google Analytics API is used by third parties to build custom applications, such as reporting tools. Many such applications exist. One was built to run on iOS (Apple) devices and is featured in Apple’s app store. Some third-party products also provide Google Analytic-based tracking.

When you log into Google Analytics, you are taken to the Home page to see a list of all the websites you have set up in your account. The list shows you some basic data, such as number of sessions, average session duration, bounce rate, and goal conversion rate. If you have many websites, you can use the search box under the data range to search for a particular domain. If you want to review only the domains that are most critical to your business, you can mark them and change the settings to list only the starred websites. You also can use the data range to see your data over any specified time periods and compare current time periods to previous time periods to see the changes in sessions, average session duration, bounce rate, and goal conversion rate. The core of Google Analytics data is found in the Audience, Acquisition, Behavior, and Conversions sections. Those are the in-depth reports on users, traffic sources, and content and goal completions. Also, you can create custom campaigns to track visitors from specific traffic sources.

Many websites provide background about Google Analytics and instructions and video tutorials on how to implement it, some of which were reviewed to provide information for this section on Google Analytics:

You are encouraged to review these sites and others that you can “Google” and study their content to better appreciate how Google Analytics as a tool can enhance and inform social marketing to your fans.

Regulations of Views

Starting in 2012, YouTube implemented a program to cut fake views of YouTube channels; that is, views that did not happen and were used to pump up the number of credited views to drive further views and advertising share claims. In that year, YouTube video channels cut 2 billion fake views from major record company sites, which were the principal offenders increasing views by artificial means. Record company sites that were impacted included two of the major labels: Universal Music Group, which reportedly lost 1 billion of its 7 billion views, and Sony, which lost 850 million views. The cuts affected marquee names, like Rhianna, Beyoncé, and Justin Bieber, with YouTube noting that the figures had been deliberately and artificially manipulated by the labels. The push was enacted to combat hackers and social media promotion sites that built up views and likes on YouTube to make them appear more popular and drive advertising revenues.

Under the YouTube Terms of Service, users “agree not to use or launch any automated system, including, without limitation, ‘robots,’ ‘spiders,’ or ‘offline readers,’ that accesses the Service in a manner that sends more request messages to the YouTube servers in a given period of time than a human can reasonably produce in the same period by using a conventional online web browser.” YouTube also started ranking its most popular videos by “engagement”—how long videos are watched—rather than mere view counts.

The Curious Experience of Chase Hoffberger of The Daily Dot

A telling example of the unauthorized manipulation of YouTube views is contained in an article written by Chase Hoffberger, who worked at the Internet newspaper The Daily Dot, titled “I cheated YouTube for 5 months and finally got caught” ( After Hoffberger spent more than five months and $500 procuring half a million fake views, YouTube finally caught up with him and deleted his video. To determine what he could do contrary to YouTube’s policies and test how long it might take to be challenged, Hoffberger started the day after The Daily Dot noticed that YouTube had cleaned house on the fake-view counts generated by Universal and Sony, as discussed above.

Curiously, Hoffberger purchased 60 thousand views for a video in which he performed the Cinnamon Challenge (an Internet food challenge involving making a video while you ingest cinnamon with no liquid and then posting your video). Dozens of sites, found through simple Google searches, offer views by thousands in a matter of minutes at roughly $1 per thousand views. Mr. Hoffberger detailed his experience on YouTube (not surprisingly, this video is now nowhere to be found on YouTube). He told a YouTube representative what he was doing before he did it, published the story, and then waited for the site’s cleaning service to come around and take the video down. But the takedown did not happen at that time.

Reportedly, an online marketing specialist who had spent years gaming YouTube advised Hoffberger that YouTube had ignored him because it was not concerned about any view inflation as long as money was not being made for the views. A few days later, Hoffberger installed AdSense, Google’s revenue- generating advertising program, put a few banner ads on the channel, and waited to see if YouTube would do anything, but again nothing happened. He then purchased another 345 thousand views for $170 and hoped that the new tally, which put the video’s view count over 500 thousand, would finally get the site’s attention. More than 150 days later, he finally received an email from The Daily Dot’s community manager informing him that the video was no longer active.

The email came as a forward from YouTube, and read:

“Regarding your account: Daily Dot

This following video was found in Violation of TOU #4 Section H:

The Daily Dot Cinnamon Challenge Anniversary Spectacular
You agree not to use or launch any automated system, including without limitation, “robots,” “spiders,” or “offline readers,” that accesses the Service in a manner that sends more request messages to the YouTube servers in a given period of time than a human can reasonably produce in the same period by using a conventional online web browser. Notwithstanding the foregoing, YouTube grants the operators of public search engines permission to use spiders to copy materials from the site for the sole purpose of and solely to the extent necessary for creating publicly available searchable indices of the materials, but not caches or archives of such materials.”

YouTube and Music Piracy

For years, record label executives have complained that they can’t compete with distribution of music that is free to the consumer, but with billions of views every month and resultant ad revenue, the major record labels are making millions by sharing their music for free. While YouTube may take away the incentive for many people to pirate, it also may diminish legal music sales.

Previously, if someone wanted to listen to their favorite music online without paying, many chose piracy, such as the file- sharing service Napster (now closed down due to a Supreme Court copyright infringement case). Today there is a wide variety of legal options. A large segment of the public has gravitated to listening to favorite tunes for free on YouTube. Major-label recording artists are now getting many billions of views a month, and this number is continuing to rise. This is not only a plus for the record labels, but also for Google, since music videos are a substantial revenue source for it through advertising.

One major label executive noted that his label gets half a penny for each YouTube play. Half a penny is small, but not when multiplied against billions of views. One billion views at a half penny each equals $5 million. By comparison, the average master owner would have had to sell more than 3.5 million singles to earn that much from “paid” music.

In part, YouTube’s success may be at the expense of music piracy, but that does not mean that music-sharing pirating is fading away. Rather, it is the more casual downloaders who now have an alternative in YouTube and other streaming services. The downside to the labels, however, is that actual sales of recorded music also are affected as CD sales and downloads continue to shrink, with streaming with free or low monthly fees becoming more the norm.

The “streaming effect” to reduce piracy does not seem to be working in the United States. Rhapsody has been streaming major-label content in the United States since 2002, yet filesharing has greatly increased since then. Spotify debuted in the United States in 2011, yet file sharing in the United States has continued to rise. The U.S. Copyright Office published a report in February 2015 entitled Copyright and the Music Marketplace. In referencing piracy, the report stated, “Unlike in the Napster era, stakeholders now seem resigned to this marketplace condition and the perhaps irreversible impact it has had on the industry.”4

With respect to the effect of streaming on illegal downloading, the narrative often heard is that “people are willing to pay if they can get what they want when they want it.” This is a direct quote from Daniel Westman, researcher at the Swedish Law and Informatics Research Institute at Stockholm University. A recent study from Lund University in Sweden stated that “the number of users [in Sweden] who share files on a daily basis has dropped from 32.8 percent in 2012 to 29 percent in 2014.”5 The study credits streaming services such as Spotify and Netflix with this shift. Nevertheless, what is not discussed is that in 2014, consumer Internet users in Sweden used an average of 363 petabytes per month, with 82 petabytes, or twenty-two percent of that, used for file-sharing. On an annualized basis, this is the equivalent of 1.5 million CDs worth of content file-shared in Sweden in 2014. Piracy, despite the growth of streaming, still is very much present.6

View and Organize Comments on Videos

Comments on videos are a very important part of your presentation online, yet few artists know how they work. Thankfully, there are tools to manage the comments at your disposal. YouTube provide procedures on how to manage comments posted to your videos on YouTube, and these are some of the useful links.

Moderate Comments on Your Channel—YouTube Help

Channel owners also have tools to moderate comments before they are published under a video, including the ability to block certain words and enable auto-approval of comments from specific YouTube users. The comments sections are also personalized for each viewer. There can be posts at the top of the list from the video’s creator, popular personalities, engaged discussions about the video, and people in your Google+ Circles, while viewers will still be able to switch back from this “Top Comments” order to a “Newest First” mode. YouTube users also are able to start conversations under videos that are only viewable by people in their Circles on the Google+ social network, or by individual friends.–%20Comments%20|%20YouTube%20|%20Google%20Developers%20

View Comments on Videos

To view comments on a video, scroll down the video’s page. Replies are threaded to make it easy to follow conversations. All comments on YouTube are public, and anyone can reply to a comment that you post. If you see a comment that you think is inappropriate, you can flag it as spam or abuse. If you are a creator, you can also use the comment moderation tools to manage comments on your video.

Also see “YouTube aims to tame the trolls with changes to its comments section” at

Change Which Comments Show First

On the web, you can change how comments show under a video by using the drop-down menu to choose top comments or newest comments:

  • Top comments first: Show comments in a ranked view that highlights comments, such as those from the video creator, comments generating discussion from the viewers, and comments that have been voted up by the community.
  • Newest comments first: Show the most recent comments at the top.

Moderate Comments on Your Channel

If other YouTube users can post comments on your videos or channel, you can use tools to moderate or remove those comments.

Take Action on Comments

You also have the ability to remove, report, or hide comments. When someone comments on your video, you’ll get a notification. Click the arrow in the upper right of the comment to manage comments:

*          Remove: Take down the comment and replies from YouTube.
*          Report spam or abuse: Report comments that you believe are spam or abuse to YouTube team.
*          Hide from channel: Block the user from posting comments on videos on your channel. If you change your mind, you can remove the user from the hidden users list in your community settings.

Review Comments Filtered as Spam

If someone leaves a comment that looks like spam, you’ll see a blue banner on the channel or video. You can review, approve, or delete those comments.

Hold Comments for Approval

You can require that all new comments be approved by you before they’re posted to your video or channel by following this procedure:

1. Find the video in the Video Manager.
2. Under the video, click “Edit.”
3. Click “Advanced Settings.”
4. Under “Allow comments,” select “Approved.”

Post and Interact with Comments

If a video’s owner has enabled comments, you can post comments and like, dislike, or reply to other people’s comments on a video. You can also edit or delete any of your own comments. Replies to a comment are threaded beneath the original comment so you can follow the conversation.

Turn Discussion Tab On or Off

You can decide whether you want to allow viewers to comment on your channel. To do this: Sign into your YouTube account on a computer.

  1. On the left, select “My channel.”
  2. Under your channel banner, click “Settings.”
  3. Turn the “Show discussion” tab on or off.

If you have the discussion tab turned on, chose this comments setting:

*          Don’t display until approved: Comments won’t show on your channel until you approve them.

Public Videos

All comments on public videos on YouTube are public, and anyone can reply to a comment that you post. If you’re a Google Apps account user, any comment you post on YouTube is publicly visible to users outside of your domain. To add a comment, just type in the “Share your thoughts” or “Add a comment” box under the video, and then select “Post.”

Private Videos

Comments are not available on private videos. If you want to allow comments on a video that is not publicly available, post an unlisted video instead.

Unlisted Videos

You can comment and reply to comments on unlisted videos. Comments on unlisted videos can be seen by anyone who has the link to the video.

 “Gangnam Style” Has Made Psy a Very Rich Man

The tongue-in-cheek K-Pop dance/music video hit by South Korean recording artist Psy (Park Jae-sang), “Gangnam Style,” was uploaded on July 15, 2012. It was Psy’s eighteenth single. It unexpectedly went viral and became the first video to hit 2 billion views on YouTube, and is the most-liked and most-viewed video in the history of YouTube. The New York Times quoted a video ad-buying platform named TubeMogul that, based on its analysis, over the first couple of years of the video release Psy earned the better part of $1 million from YouTube ads, most of which came from the “Gangnam Style” video. These ad figures are tricky to figure out and not capable of computation with simple math. YouTube has Partner Programs with many content creators, but the deals it makes with them generally are not disclosed and reportedly vary widely. In general, YouTube keeps half of earned ad revenue, with the remainder going to whoever owns the content.

While the “Gangnam Style” single had its time on the charts, it has now fallen, as is the norm in pop music with the passage of time. It is no longer experiencing the radio and sales acclaim it once did, but it is still earning Psy (and his record label YG Entertainment) substantial money from the video. In the year following its release, “Gangnam Style” continued to add on average just under 3 million new views per day, so the value of that video’s life through YouTube lasted far longer than radio hits ever experience. Psy also went on to sign to the label owned by Justin Bieber’s manager, Scooter Braun. While one can’t be precise about the amount of money Psy has made for his incredible success, it is millions, and that with only around 100 thousand physical CDs sold in Korea. “Gangnam Style” was not even initially released as a CD in the United States. This event could not have existed just a few years ago. Indeed, Psy earns money from several different sources that did not exist just a few years ago, including:

  • Every time a YouTube member watches his video or just visits his channel, advertisements are shown, and Psy gets a share of that revenue. By the end of the first year of release it is estimated that Psy earned $1 million from his YouTube revenue share.
    • In the first year of its release on iTunes, “Gangnam Style” was downloaded by 3 million buyers, which generated roughly $2.6 million for Psy and his label after Apple’s 30 percent cut.
  • A third source of revenue is from streaming plays
    on digital radio platforms like Pandora and Spotify. These sites pay tiny fractions of pennies for each play, so Psy’s total worldwide streaming earnings in that first couple of years would likely have been less than $200 thousand.
  • Finally, Psy makes money through endorsements estimated to be as much as $5 million or more by signing deals to endorse a range of products for brands like Samsung and LG.

In total, Psy may well have made as much as $8 million to $9 million off the success of “Gangnam Style.”


It’s highly unlikely that your music video will reach as many views as “Gangnam Style,” or that you will be discovered like Justin Bieber, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t monetize your music and promote yourself on YouTube. Every musical artist of any note has their music videos on YouTube, and even though Taylor Swift and her friends are attacking YouTube, it is highly unlikely that they and their labels will take down their videos anytime soon. YouTube has become the unbeatable music business behemoth that you should learn how to manipulate— they’re too big and powerful to fight. You have a choice to look on the bright side—twenty years ago the major record labels had a stranglehold on the distribution of music, and unless you were signed to a major label you were likely relegated to playing in your local club, an awfully hard way to build a sizable audience. Through YouTube you now have access to a multibillion-member audience, for free. We hope that we’ve given you some tools to take advantage of that—now it’s up to you.


1 Hassan, Charlotte, “180+ Music Artists Appeal for Urgent DMCA Reform,” Digital Music News, June 20, 2016

2 Flanagan, Andrew. Billboard, Dec. 6, 2017.

3 Freemium is a pricing strategy that provides a product or service free of charge.

4 Copyright and the Music Marketplace. Registrar of Copyrights, page 78.

5 “Illegal File Sharing on the Wane in Sweden” The Local, June 3, 2014.

6 Ibid.

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