How to build your fanbase using YouTube Cards

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How to add YouTube cards to your video[Take your YouTube presence to the next level with Illustrated Sound. Click HERE.]

Cards: the evolution of annotations

Have you used YouTube annotations to enhance your music videos?

Well get ready for YouTube “cards” — the new, mobile-friendly YouTube interactivity feature that will eventually replace annotations.

(Don’t worry, though; YouTube claims they won’t phase out annotations until cards can do everything that annotations did — and more).

So, what can musicians do with YouTube cards?

1. Raise funds through crowdfunding AND direct fan contributions

2. Sell merch

3. Build your email list by linking to your website

4. Announce tour dates or new releases (again, by linking to your website)

5. Drive video and playlist views (because the more watch-time your videos encourage, the better they’ll perform in YouTube’s algorithm)

Note: there’s no “subscribe” card yet, so you’ll have to keep using annotations to specifically drive YouTube subscriptions. Otherwise, there’s always hoping that people click on your channel watermark!

Here’s YouTube’s description of the six current card types you can add to your videos today:

Merchandise card — Similar to merch annotations, merchandise cards can promote a creator’s licensed merchandise directly from the video.

(Note: since iTunes is not supported on Android, merch cards that link to iTunes will not be shown on Android devices)

Fundraising card — Similar to fundraising annotations, fundraising cards can link viewers directly to projects on whitelisted fundraising sites.

Video or playlist card — This card can link to another public YouTube video or playlist which can be of interest to the viewer of the current video.

Associated website card — Link directly to your associated website from a card.

Fan Funding card — This card lets your fans show their appreciation for your videos, by making a monetary contribution directly on the video page.

I added a couple cards to a recent video of my own, so you can see how they work (I set them to “surface” at 1:06 and 1:40 — but notice how you can view them both at any point during playback):

A few important things to know about cards:

* They look good! (Way prettier than clunky annotations, which also still appear in the video above).

* You can customize each card with a call-to-action, title, and image.

* Your channel’s branding watermark will now appear in the lower right corner of the video, to not compete with cards.

* Though you can choose the time for the card’s teaser to appear in your video, cards are available to open and view at any time (users can hover over the video to make card icons appear, and then click the “i” tab for the desired card). For this reason, it’s best not to put too many cards in a single video because it’ll start to get a little cluttered.

* And then there’s that whole mobile-friendly thing. Cards work across mobile AND desktop, which is huge for anyone who’s ever been frustrated by the lack of annotations when you’re watching a YouTube video on your smartphone.

* You can check a card’s performance in YouTube Analytics.

* As YouTube continues to develop the cards system, they will “surface” the most relevant card teasers based on card performance, fan behavior, and the device they’re using to the view the video. So YouTube recommends that you NOT actually point to a card in your video content (as thing might move around).

This last point brings up a question (which may’ve already been answered somewhere, so if you’ve heard the news, lemme know!): if you cannot specify with absolute certainty which cards get surfaced when, and if annotations are getting phased out, what will users do with older videos that included specific calls to action in the video itself, as well as end cards that used annotations to link to specific videos?

Anyway, answers for another day…

As for now, are you ready to get started with cards?

How to add YouTube cards to your videos

If you’ve used annotations in the past, the cards process will feel fairly intuitive. For anyone unfamiliar with the process, here are YouTube’s instructions:

1. Log into YouTube and visit your Video Manager.

2. Click Edit for the video you want to add cards to.

3. Click Cards in the top tab bar or the video drop-down menu to get to the editor page.

4. Click Add card.

Adding cards to YouTube videos

5. Click Create to open the creation dialog for the selected card type. If you haven’t used merchandise or associated website annotations previously, click Enable to accept the Terms & Conditions and proceed to the creation dialog.

Creating YouTube cards

6. Enter a valid URL that is supported for the chosen card type. This is the destination URL for the call-to-action and automatically populates the dialog boxes.

7. Upload an image or select one of the suggestions from the site. Uploads need to be in .jpg, .gif, or .png format, no larger than 5MB and will be cropped to be square.

8. Edit the title and call-to-action text to fit in the allowed character count of 50 for the title and 30 for the call-to-action. Note that there are no customization options for video or playlist cards and that the call-to-action text also serves as teaser text if not specified otherwise.Adding YouTube cards to videos

9. Click Create card when you’re ready.

10. If appropriate, adjust the start time for the card teaser in the timeline.

11. You can add up to 5 cards to one video and you can edit your cards anytime by clicking on the ‘edit’ icon next to the card in question under the Cards tab.


I promise it’s easier than all of those steps suggest. So, are you excited about YouTube cards? Are you pissed because you put lots of time into annotations, and now they’ll be getting phased out? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

[Take your YouTube presence to the next level with Illustrated Sound. Click HERE.]

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Join the Conversation

  • This is great! Way more visually appealing. I will definitely be testing this out for my new album.

  • Beat me to the step by step process 🙂 After my DMN article about this this was going to be the next Ari’s Take. Well done! One benefit of not being at SXSW is you can be productive…

    • Exactly! I actually got a ton done last week (meaning you can also be more productive when your co-workers are out of the office!) How was it this year?


  • I try this and I like!

    • Hi Chris, we tried it out on our song Headstrong with the Merchandise card link to iTunes at 34sec and at 3:52. The song is also distributed by Cdbaby and i love the information you guys provide in these articles.

  • Nice. How’d you use it? Link to video?


  • Yeah. I thought so. Annotations look so 2007. Thanks for reading and commenting.


  • Thanks! Now you guys just have to hope your fans aren’t all Android users.


  • Joe Bowbeer

    I was just reading your earlier post about the YouTube Music Key service, and it raises a question:

    Will artists be able to add Cards to these auto-generated Art Tracks?

    I hope that Music Key makes it possible for the artists to claim their auto-generated Art Tracks. Otherwise, the artists are losing out on an opportunity to engage their listeners.

  • Hey Joe,

    I can’t see something like that happening (at least not soon). Though I agree it’d be a great way to engage more listeners.


  • dfabs4

    I noticed that your Card doesn’t stay up that long. Was that by design or just to demonstrate how they work? Seems like you would want viewers to have more opportunity to see it and get to it.
    Also, I like the execution of your video…simple, homemade-vibe but still has different angles and cuts. How did you set up to do it? Multiple takes? Multiple cameras? How did you edit? (Maybe a new article idea…hint, hint…)

  • First look at the cards. Impressed with the card idea but what really got my attention was your video actually. Funny, I’ve been reading your articles for a while now but I’m ashamed to say I never took the time to research your material. Okay, now you really have my attention! Great song and performance…

  • Sarah Kate Michel

    Hiya Chris,
    Thank you so much for sharing this! It’s really interesting and will be trying it out today 🙂
    Especially for crowdfunding and mailing list.
    Just one comment… Which may be useful to you and others… The card did not appear on the embedded video version?
    Happy weekend and Easter if you celebrate.

  • The peculiar workings of “consumer mind” defy my own sense of logic. Hence I wonder at the fact that the info in the cards was already available in the blurb under the video window. What do your stats tell you about to what extent fans fail to chase the bait, and how much we actually need to insert the hook?

  • Thank you so much for sharing this. I had no idea this was something YouTube had started doing. I love it. Thank you.

  • Cool. Glad it was helpful. Thanks for reading!


  • Well, to be honest, I didn’t put too much thought into which cards to put up on this video. I was really just trying to get a couple up there to use in the video as an example of look and function. That being said, I do think that different users engage with YouTube videos in totally different ways, so it’s not a bad idea to reiterate a few of the most important things via cards. Personally, I hardly ever read the notes/description below the video, so I would miss most of those calls to action unless they appeared as cards/annotations.


  • Weird. The cards in the embedded video work for me in a few different browsers. I wonder if it’s a browser issue, though.
    Anyway, thanks for reading. Glad it was helpful, and happy crowdfunding (I’m about to launch a campaign myself).


  • Hi Michael,

    Thanks so much. Glad you liked the song. (Full-band version to be released soon!) Also, thanks for reading my articles. If you end up using YouTube cards on any of your videos, put a link in the comments here!


  • As far as I know, there’s no way to change the duration of the “teaser text” that pops up for each card. YouTube shows the text for a few seconds, and then it gets reduced back to the “i” icon and if you want to view more, you have to click on the icon and scroll through cards (if there are multiple cards). They probably limit the time the teaser text appears as to not make the viewer experience to disruptive or something.

    About my video, thanks so much. So, two of the angles are live (iPhone cameras) which I recorded while recording the audio (using that Snowball mic right to Garageband on my laptop). Then I played the audio back and played along. I used those two iPhones again to catch two more angles, plus a fifth “take” of capturing some b-roll from the room, just so I’d have some extra stuff to cut to while editing — which happened in FinalCut (the first thing I’d ever edited in FinalCut, so… learning curve!)

    Thanks for watching. Glad you liked the vibe. And yes, I should do an article on that. Thanks!


  • Michel Griffin

    The cards did not appear on an iPhone when I linked thru’ from the CDBaby email (from the Gmail app I use for email) nor on Safari direct from the CDbaby site.

  • Austin Jones Band

    Do cards not show on mobile devices? I don’t see any on my iPad.

  • Pingback: YouTube Cards for Musicians | New Artist Model()

  • They’re supposed to. That was one of the big touted benefits of cards — they work across devices. Any luck yet?


  • Ed

    Do you recommend using a card to point to:
    1. this video, but in a playlist, or
    2. next video in a playlist

    I assume for #1 that we’d want the card to pop early in the video, whereas for #2 we’d want the card to pop later in the video.

  • Are you asking if you’d want to use a card to bring someone to the exact same video, but within a playlist? My answer would be no. You shouldn’t do anything that would interrupt someone’s engagement with the video they’re currently watching. If there’s a related playlist that would interest them, or some kind of watch flow you’d like them to proceed along, use the card to introduce that flow with the following video.


  • Appreciate you fam this was help