Get over it! No one is stealing your music on YouTube

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Stealing music from YouTubeI understand. You worked hard creating your music. You’re proud of it. You’re protective of it. That’s your right, of course. But there’s a point where protectiveness can turn into paranoia.

Over the past few years, I’ve spoken with a couple composers who will only record their music via MIDI keyboard with headphones on because they’re afraid their neighbors will steal their song ideas. I’ve heard about songwriters who won’t play new songs live for similar reasons. I’ve talked to artists who won’t sell MP3s because they think the whole world will pirate their latest album. As far as I can tell, these are otherwise rational people.

And yes, there are many musicians out there who don’t want their music available on YouTube because they think it will be stolen by some nefarious character who spends time using evil software (the YouTube-to-Mp3-converter) to rip audio off the internet — audio, I try to remind these musicians, which would already be available on the video streaming platform FOR FREE to anyone with a computer, smartphone, or tablet. So why would anyone want to go through the trouble to steal it?

Ok, to be fair, there ARE people out there who engage in this illegal practice. So the headline of this article is a generalization; a few folks MIGHT actually be stealing your music from YouTube. But they could just as easily steal your music from a file-sharing site, or burn it from a friend’s CD, or record it onto their computer from some other free streaming platform, right?

YouTube has grown to become the #1 search engine for music in the world. It’s also the #1 preferred listening platform for younger (-18) music fans. Every year, YouTube’s importance in the careers of indie musicians grows. If you have an internet or cellular connection, you can go to YouTube in a matter of seconds and find almost any song. Why would you prevent your fans from hearing YOUR songs on YouTube too? Just to prevent a few bad eggs from ripping the audio? In my mind, that math doesn’t make sense, especially now that you can earn money from the usage of your music on YouTube. (CD Baby has paid over $1.2 million in sync licensing revenue to artists, much of it generated from music on YouTube).

Piracy isn’t the enemy of artists; obscurity is. That old phrase may be a tired mantra in the independent music world, but it’s still true — which I suppose accounts for its frequent use. Music’s most active audience is on YouTube. Your music should be on YouTube too.

Do you agree or disagree? I’d love to hear your thoughts about YouTube’s place in the music world of today and tomorrow. Let me know in the comments section below.

For more information about making money from your music on YouTube, download our FREE guide:

Promote Your Music on Youtube

[Music piracy image from Shutterstock.]

In this article

Join the Conversation

  • StevenCravisMusic

    Good point, Chris. It all comes from the common mis-perception that we are more important, and more in the spotlight than we really are 🙂 !

  • Christopher Hunter

    I think there is more to fear from people who would take your music and market it as their own. It’s rare in the scheme of things but happens, re:

    • I always register my music at the US copyright office, before I add it to youtube and soundcloud (the best places for ripping music + most exposure for your music), so I can prove it’s mine.
      If I do find an infringer then they must choose: either remove the content, make a deal with me, or I will use the “report infringement” option on all the sites where they are selling / streaming the music.
      Those sites will remove the content, and they keep track of these reported infringements, e.g. YouTube kicks infringers off their site after three of these incidents, beatport has a similar policy.

  • Tammie Wilkins

    to shutter whoever, I am not concerned about my music being stolen.

  • Yeah. I’m still dreaming about the day where lots of people want to steal my music. ; )

    @ Chris Robley


      I Like that idea lol,

    • TJR

      I am dreaming (and working) towards the day when most people will respect musicians, music enough to aknowledge that there are proper legal and moral channels to follow if you want to use, or own someone elses intellectual property.
      I also dream (and work) towards the day when the behaviour of those who do illegally appropriate the works of others will be looked down upon by society at large as behaviour that is shameful and unacceptable. In the same way that our society currently looks down on all people who lie, cheat, steal, drive under the influence, spread hate speech, and are cruel to dogs and cats or are cruel to the handicapped.

  • TJR

    Stealing music from youtube takes work and most people don’t want to put in the work for it. Besides you can monetize your music on youtube, so you’d be crazy not to put it there. But I have a lot of trouble with that line “Piracy is not the enemy, obscurity is”. PIRACY IS THE ENEMY. When piracy is allowed and there is no usefull enforcement against it, it devalues musicians everywhere. It give people no incentive to buy music. It informs the general public that what musicians do has no worth, and shold not be paid for. This translates through to live shows (no pay or less pay), merch sales and every revenue stream that muisicians need to survive.

    Copyright is not broken…..Enforcement is!

    • Thomas Nimmesgern

      “It informs the general public that what musicians do has no worth, and shold not be paid for.” – I strongly agree.

    • Sile

      You need to start using terms correctly, the thing you are talking about is copyright infringement. Piracy is when someone makes money from your work.
      The “piracy vs. obscurity” line is not wrong, the music that makes the most money is the one that is downloaded the most, both legally and not.

  • A concerned supporter of music

    Your article neglects to mention that the theft from YouTube is not for private listening, but to steal parts of the music or lyrics. That’s what artists are worried about!

    • Adam

      While that may happen, you run that risk any time your music is played. Should that stop you from making and selling CD’s or playing shows? At least when you upload to Youtube, it’s timestamped–so if you’re worried about your copyrights, an upload to Youtube can even be a dated peice of proof of creation

  • Stani Steinbock

    I recently played a couple of tracks from my latest CD “The Runaway Kantele (available at ) from my iPad to a guy I happened to talk about music with. He asked me if it’s available and I showed him a CD of it. Oh thanks, he said, apparently thinking I was giving it away (!). I said I’m sorry but I’ll hve to charge you for this CD, so he handed it back to me and said (cheerfully) “I’ll listen to you on the web!”.

    What should I think? Am I obscure or being stolen?

    • Ventureshadow

      Streaming on the internet is how media is heard and seen these days. Netflix accounts for a third of all internet traffic, then comes YouTube. Outside newest releases DVD prices in Walmart and similar stores are cheaper than ever. With Netflix etc there is little reason to buy movies. Recorded music is similar. If you want to hear a CD dozens of times you might want to buy it, but how many CDs get that status? Usually after hearing a CD a few times, that’s enough. Sure there are a few exceptions, but just a few.

      It used to be that I felt that buying a CD with 3 or 4 songs I wanted to hear several dozen times was a good value. Not any more. I have piles of CDs like that and I don’t want more taking up space and adding clutter.

    • Rudy Brinkman

      He probably wouldn’t have bought it in the first place. CD’s are a thing of the past anyway.

  • Exactly!

  • Fuad Alabaster

    I head an independent band in Malaysia, where the GDP per capita is easily less than half of the US and the most music consumers haven’t developed empathy. What does this mean?

    Our main demographic has this mindset:

    1) If I use YouTube downloader I can save money cause money is hard to come by, 2) I’m only thinking about myself, I have no idea/don’t care how this affects the artist.

    I have to agree with TJR. If the law bends, it breaks. If there is no enforcement, no one will think about music as the result of blood, sweat and tears. They would feel like it’s their right to free music.

  • You guys, this is total bullshit. YouTube is a HUGE piracy site on the internet, without a doubt. Why do you think there are so many “videos” of entire albums made by random people? Search for any Beatles album on YouTube. Want to download the original mono Revolver? Or any Nirvana album, etc.? It’s there for free and there are SEVERAL simple little apps you can download, also free, that can do it, which I will not promote here.

    I can still remember the days when people used to tape albums or burn CDs for friends. I think I speak for most professional musicians when I say that sharing has its place, BUT – back in those days people would buy the album or CD for themselves at some point, which they do less and less now. Also, the REAL ENEMY, the **crime**, is when people monetize those videos of pirated content and profit from other people’s work. That happens ALL THE TIME. People have done that with the music of my band Mudville and I have worked to have it removed. There are still a couple videos with my songs on them made by fans, but they are not monetized with ads so I left those people alone.

    Artists need to wise up, we are being robbed and shafted at every turn and corporate shysters are trying to tell us we are powerless against it. Not true. Legislation is pending to shore up protections and prevent corporate entities like YouTube and Amazon (which is presently implementing a streaming and download service that will pay artists even less than Pandora per stream, like less than tenths of a cent per) from making things even worse for us.

    Don’t be fooled! Get involved with the Future of Music Coalition, and the org. I’m involved in, Content Creators Coalition, both are making real inroads to help artists’ voices be heard!

    • Raul Stern

      I’m just passing through this website / article, but I have to reply this. You’re just plain wrong. Simple as that. You’re so crazy about people “stealing” your music? I got the solution: never play it aloud; never allow anyone to listen to it.

      The dynamics have changed. Forget the time when music was trapped in solid uncopyable devices. Now music has it’s own life, can spread like a virus. You can’t hold it anymore.
      But one thing I’ll tell you: your goal should be to have your music stolen! More and more people knowing you, speaking of you. You would still have a good percentage of people who would buy your music, and you would also monitize on shows, royalties per use, etc.
      (1000 songs stolen, 10.000 bought, 10% of steals – 100.000 songs stolen, 1.000.000 bought, same 10% of steals, its constant)

      Keep getting your music out of youtube for whatever reason! Everyone I know goes to youtube when they hear a new music of their interest to get to know better the band. If they can’t find anything? THEY FORGET IT! Yes, very well played man.
      (for instance, I went to find your music, Mudville. Found ONE song! Not enough to know a band’s work, I’ll just let it go)

      And try to get this as a constructive critic, don’t be offended by it, be better instead.

      (sorry by any english mistake, I’m not a native english speaker)

  • jimmy kadie

    It is fantastic to make your music available to the world at large, but to much music
    is downloaded for free! This is the reason why most indy muso’s live on the edge.
    Youtube needs to seriously reconsider this practice, so artist can atleast benefit from
    their music. It is a long time overdue.Youtube need’s the artist” and the artist needs Youtube!
    Piracy is secondery to all of the above.

  • Darrell G Looney

    We have to stop and think about WHY people pirate music. Realistically it’s either they cannot afford to pay for it, or they cannot find it easily, quickly/”right NOW”. So what to do about the person who wants it but can’t afford it? I’d rather they dropped me a line and got it in exchange for an email or something, but hey, having them get my music then telling others about it is good too. As a matter of fact, the cost of a copy of one of my tracks is well worth it if they tell someone else! For those who can afford it but do not buy for whatever reason the problem is harder, but has to be solved mostly with making my stuff more readily available. The reality is there WILL be a certain amount of piracy, but the up side of it is that even if your material is pirated by listeners, the tendency is for them to spread the word about your product in exchange, at least on some level.

  • Nancy Stafford

    That’s why there copyright and BMI, ASCAP, to help protect your music.
    if someone tries to steal it. you protected.

  • Alysia LaughingRain Mcalister

    just recently put my music video up on YouTube & tried to monetize it & they said CD Baby “owns” it so couldn’t monetize it. luckily, I disputed it as I think I was talking to a machine of internet technology. I told them CD Baby sells my music, but they don’t own it. so waiting now to see if I can monetize it without further ado. maybe I should send them a link to this article? what a coincidence to find this article.

    • Guy Leroux

      That happened to me, and really the end result is, CD Baby said just leave it be. CD Baby sells your music.
      It’s complicated.

  • Hey CD Baby, you didn’t feel my comment was relevant to approve here? My comment saying that your article was bullshit and propaganda and that musicians, including myself, ARE actually being exploited for profit regularly with YouTube? And that musicians need not feel hopeless in the face of that, plus lower and lower streaming royalties a la the new service that Amazon is launching? Or was it the organizations I mentioned, where musicians can join with other content creators to advocate for protective and punitive legislation so that others cannot profit from exploiting their content? Or was it that I insinuated that its actually wrong for people on YouTube to post videos of other people’s content and monetize that content with ads that they profit from? Is it so strange that we should expect to be AT LEAST ASKED PERMISSION before our content is exploited??

    Who’s side are you on? Not the side of musicians. Future of Music Coalition – Content Creators Coalition – they are making real inroads to implement legislation that will bring the US up to speed with every other democracy when it comes to artists rights. US royalty laws, especially when it comes to radio, are the same as North Korea, Vietnam, China and Iran.

    Does CDBaby have financial ties to YouTube? Why post this article at all? Why doesn’t CD Baby advocate for artists’ content rights?

    Please allow this post to be seen. Thank you.

  • That warning was appearing because you elected for CD Baby to monetize your music across all of YouTube. We don’t claim to own any of your music, just that we have the right to collect ad revenue on your behalf. If you’d like to directly monetize the videos in your own channel, but continue having us monetize your music for the REST of YouTube, send an email to

    @ Chris Robley

    • TJR

      Did not know we could do that. I thought we had to completely remove it from the Rumblefish liscence agreement.

    • Alysia LaughingRain Mcalister

      I only plan on just that one video on utube for the moment so I don’t understand what u mean by my music for Rest of YouTube. could u explain that differently? btw, I’m satisfied with what CD Baby has done for me. did not want to imply anything other. if I knew anything about finances I’d probably not be as broke as I am. I put up a dispute email to YouTube so maybe I won’t have to email CD baby. thanks for your response so promptly.

  • Hi Marilyn,

    I just went through and approved all the comments pending since yesterday, so it’s live now. I love the Future of Music Coalition and re-post much of their content in an attempt to spread awareness and get musicians involved with their organization. But as to YouTube monetization, their content ID system lets artists monetize their music EVERYWHERE it appears in the YouTube universe, not only on their own official videos — so the more user-generated content that exists on YouTube with your music, the more money you’ll make. Some artists have earned 30-40k through CD Baby’s YouTube Monetization program, and much of that money has been generated because other people are uploading videos with their music. So at least on YouTube, the more your music is used (for free, by users), the more you can earn.

    @ Chris Robley

    • What are we missing? I didn’t make any money off the people who are showing “videos” of my songs, how do you figure that? Someone just put it up and monetized it with ads. I just sang with David Byrne, someone shot it and posted it WITH ADS on their YouTube channel. How do I, or David Byrne, get paid for that? And, equally as importantly, why should anyone but me get any payment at all for MY CONTENT??

      I don’t know enough about your YouTube monetization program, but what I do know is that regardless of its potential benefits, the real problem and obstacle to artists making money off of their content is AD-BASED PIRACY, which is what *we* need to focus on stopping (its being fought for as we speak) before we sign up for another service to “promote” our music on YouTube, for which we need to share the returns with yet another company. CD Baby is, by and large a decent company, but with this you are exploiting a flaw in the system, which doesn’t help artists at all and gives me pause. Thanks for posting my comments.

  • Craig Einhorn

    Let’s get real about the sync licensing. If CD Baby has paid out 1.2 million that means that the average CD Baby artist has been paid fifty cents. You can’t rely on youtube and other sync licensing and abandon the idea of selling music if you want to survive as a musician. Internet companies like Youtube make more than the artists thanks to a congressional decision voted on by politicians who knew little about what they were approving. But you’re right about obscurity being the enemy. Unfortunately to fight the obscurity you must create a youtube presence allowing your fans to listen to you for free. It’s a true conundrum.

  • Slooky Rowan

    Only record music via midi with headphones on? If you believe that then I,ve got an island to sell you, geesh!

  • What I mean is this: if anyone ELSE on YouTube uploads a video that includes your music, YouTube will ID it and we’ll be able to collect ad revenue generated by that video. So, it’s not just about monetizing your own videos; it’s about making money from the usage of your music in ANY video on YouTube, regardless of who uploaded it. Does that make sense? If you have any questions about how our YouTube monetization program works, feel free to call us at 1-800-Buy-My-CD or write to

    @ Chris Robley

    @ Chris Robley

  • You can continue to directly monetize your own channel videos, and have us monetize the rest of your music on YouTube (the stuff outside your own channel). To do so, write to

    @ Chris Robley

  • Katalinwordsandmusic

    Not that rare it has happened to me

    • Danny Beatz

      yep, they’re stealing my music.

  • Katalinwordsandmusic

    I agree with the previous poster. It has been very painful when someone took my song claiming it to be their own and it does happen especially when it’s a great song. In my case my song was first released on vinyl, not on youtube …the song was taken word for word but a new title and production….funny enough I found it accidentally on youtube, was released by a well known artist also claiming all writing credits….still working on a solution…

  • Marilyn,

    I agree that there needs to be better solutions for claiming ownership or an ownership share in content, in general. So I’m not sure what the best solution is for indie artists in terms of collecting ad revenue for live videos posted by others, video clips of lectures, etc. But if it’s a piece of recorded music being distributed through CD Baby, YouTube’s content ID system will find it anywhere it’s being used on YouTube and we’ll collect the ad revenue for you.


  • I have Google alerts set up for the artist I manage and we get 2 – 3 hits/week from different sites offering free downloads of his music in the MP3 form. Each notification is coming from a different site. Are they really giving away MP3s? Here’s an example:

    king carrasco MP3 download

    Joe King Carrasco – Don’t Let A Woman Make A Fool Out Of You mp3. 5:49.
    Download. Joe King Carrasco Don’t Let A Woman Make A Fool Out
    Of …

    Kim (manager)

    Flag as irrelevant

  • Not sure, as I don’t want to click ‘download’ to test it (in case it’s something else). But chances are good. There are tons of those kinds of sites out there.

    @ Chris Robley

    • Yep – I’m afraid to click on the ‘download’ button as well. Was hoping someone knew something about them. One place that I did look at said free MP3 when you click their download button and then in small letters at the bottom it said something about how all music was owned by the artist and they did not own or house any of the music – they were only telling people where to go to get the music for free. I don’t know what that means.

  • First of all, you can always upload a short preview instead of the whole song and then add a link to your spotify page, saying “listen to the full song here!”.

    I go for the pre-emptive strike approach: if people find your music interesting enough they will share it anyway, so I just share my songs in low bit rate files on several places, like hulkshare and 4shared.
    Eventually they end up everywhere, clogging all search results for me on free download sites, and of course I added a link to my website in the mp3 tags, where people can find high quality files. I think most people actually know me from these free downloads, at some point I was up to 800 – 1000 downloads per week.

    I’m thinking of trying this with short previews for my next release. This way I decide what free downloads people find!

  • Nicolo Dine

    That’s a lie. I only steal from Youtube.

  • Luca Montana

    Any music artist who performs live = giving away their music for free because phones record video / audio. Putting up songs on Youtube or a myriad of other sites = same difference because a kid who is 10 can rip it from the internet.

    You see, Mr. Author, in many cases, musicians give up their entire lives and opportunities in the ‘conventional world’ to pursue their art. What used to be a grim scene before the internet has now derailed the likes of the mega millionaire musicans and hip hop artists alike.

    Record companies have no clue what to do.

    Artists have no clue how to defend or protect. Yes some will abstain from performing new songs live or uploading to Youtube with the philosophy if you don’t enter a salt water ocean, you won’t be attacked by a shark…right?
    The only sustainable and profitable revenue stream for 85% – 90% of music acts will be to tour. Then again, they are giving away their songs to be recorded for free at their shows.

    Once an artist can get to this level – it’s hard, hard work but at least they get paid and can do so for the rest of their lives if they remain healthy.

    I don’t think that artists are being ‘paranoid’. In Rock, Blues, Americana (any song that involves not ‘biting’ a back-track like rap does) one song can take 1 week to 1 or more years (that’s plural) to record 1 song. Ask Axl Rose…about “This I Love”…so no – Not to be disrespectful to you but those who listen to music are like virgins watching a lot of pornography. Sure they can B.S. their way about the topic of sex but they themselves have no experience or very limited experience within the topic.

    Music composition and recording is not like being a writer either. You can be a freelance writer and still make decent money being self employed. Music artists MUST take as much precautions as you printed to have full control of what they want out in cyber space.

    It’s a quagmire conundrum of sorts for the average artist to figure out how to leverage, when to leverage and how to profit from their work…and in most cases they won’t figure it out. If the record companies can’t figure it out with people who all connected to mega Jewish owned media conduits that run the entertainment cloth of the United States with MBAs and PhD’s then you can bank that the average artist won’t get it either.

    Musicans have taken a substantial pay cut since the advent of the internet and digital media has arrived and it’s in their best interest to protect their creative efforts though as stated…they are damned if they do….and damned if they don’t…they just have to figure out which one is worse and derive strategies around varied loop holes that can benefit them, and their songs…

  • Luca Montana

    Author is so very wrong…and censored my last commentary – no worries, Chris Robley….I’ll just do a vlog about you and share with my G+ social network about your post and opinion…feel free to flag this post too…

    • Didn’t delete your previous post. I just hadn’t moderated comments in a bit. It’s up now.


  • Those YouTube third-party copyright notices can be a little scary and misleading. It just means that CD Baby is acting as the YouTube monetization solution for the owner of that music (meaning we’re collecting ad revenue for the usage of the music across YouTube – in his own channel and beyond). If your husband owns the rights to the music, and authorized us to act as his monetization solution, we’ll collect and pay his share of ad revenue to him.

    • Yes, he contacted CD Baby and they did a thing called whitelisted, I think it was called, so that he can keep it on YouTube and collect his own affiliate payments from it now. He plans on doing a lot more videos on his bike and with his drone so he wants complete control over it. And yes, he definitely owns all his music and is copyrighted and has been affiliated with BMI for years now. Your article was helpful though so now it is all taken care of. Thanks!

  • Alice Rainbow

    This is not true.
    They steal my Music and make money with it.
    They are monetizing my music on Youtube and making money with it.

    • Who is “they?”

      If your music is signed up for monetization through a Content ID service (such as CD Baby’s YouTube Monetization program) then ALL eligible videos on YouTube that contain your music will be monetized for you.

      Follow me to the end of the rainbow on Facebook, Twitter, Spotify, Instagram, or subscribe to my newsletter and get a free PDF of my poetry chapbook: I Say Potato, You Say Apocalypse.