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How Musicians Make Money from YouTube[Click HERE for all the details about how CD Baby can help you earn money from the usage of your music on YouTube today.]

YouTube has become the most popular music-discovery tool in the world and the most popular listening platform for people under the age of 18. Now the video streaming giant is also one of the best ways for independent artists to earn money from their music.

That’s right: with our Sync Licensing Program (FREE for all CD Baby artists), you can get paid for the usage of your music in ANY video across the YouTube universe that uses your songs — as well as earn money when your music is used in film, TV shows, commercials, video games, and more.

CD Baby has already paid out over $1,000,000 to independent artists for their music on YouTube, and that figure is growing fast. 

So, how does monetizing music on YouTube work?

YouTube’s content ID system

Once you’ve opted in for CD Baby’s Sync Licensing Program, your music will be delivered to YouTube’s content ID system. This means that YouTube will scan your tracks with their magical high-tech machinery and register an exact sonic “fingerprint” for each and every one of your songs in their database.

From that point on, any time someone out there in the YouTube universe uploads a video which uses one of your songs, YouTube will place an ad on that video and you will earn a share of any ad revenue generated. Remember: this includes placing ads on the videos you have already uploaded to your own YouTube channel — but more on that later!

When will I earn ad revenue from YouTube? And how much money will I make?

If a video on YouTube features your music, YouTube will serve up an ad. That video will generate ad revenue if the text or banner ad is clicked  — or, in the event that it’s a commercial, you’ll earn a share of ad revenue if the viewer watches the entire ad (if shorter than 30 seconds) or a minimum of 30 seconds of the ad (for commercials longer than 30 seconds).

There’s no real way to estimate how much you’ll make from ad revenue on YouTube, because the ad rates vary depending on many factors. YouTube is a Google company, after all, and YouTube ad placements are bid upon by advertisers. Plus, advertisers pay a different amount depending on the type of ad that’s run, the popularity of the video/channel/network, etc.

So, while it’s difficult to give an average payout per ad or per artist, you WILL be able to view a complete breakdown of your YouTube ad revenue in your CD Baby members account.

The more videos on YouTube using your music, the more money you can make

Once YouTube has fingerprinted your music in their content ID process, every video that contains your music will have the ability to generate ad revenue for you — so the more the merrier. Encourage your friends, fans, and family to use your music in their crazy cat videos and holiday party blooper reels.

What happens to the videos I’ve uploaded myself? And why am I seeing a notice saying that I don’t control the rights to my video on YouTube?

YouTube is a brilliant invention, but it’s only a machine. It doesn’t actually “know” your music or know that YOU created those lovely tunes — so it’s going to place ads on the videos in your channel too (if they feature your music).

In the eyes of YouTube, your songs are all just nameless, faceless digital files with meta tags letting them know that CD Baby administers the rights — and they’re going to pay ad revenue for those usages to CD Baby (since you’ve elected for us to administer your licensing rights in this circumstance). Simple: YouTube pays us and we pay you.

It’s important to remember, we’re only claiming the administrative right to license your music and collect money on your behalf. You retain 100% ownership of your music and can cancel your involvement in CD Baby’s Sync Licensing Program at any time.

So, long story short, if you log into your YouTube account and see a notice that says “matched third party content” (like in the example shown below)– don’t worry!

YouTube: Matched Third Party Content

As I mentioned above, no one is claiming ownership of your music. This just means that YouTube’s content ID system identified your song correctly and registered that CD Baby is the party you’ve authorized to collect ad revenue on your behalf.

What should I do if YouTube shows me a “matched third party content” notice concerning videos I’ve uploaded that contain my own music? 

If you see this warning, it’s an indicator that your music is now ready for monetization on YouTube. Simply click on the “Matched third party content” link. It will take you to a page that looks like this:

YouTube: Matched Third Party Content

If you would like CD Baby to continue monetizing your music on YouTube, click “Acknowledge.” 

Then what? Well, then you go make some more music and let CD Baby collect money from YouTube for you! And hey, since you saw the “third party matched content” notice for your videos, you’ll have the peace of mind that the system is working just as it should for all videos featuring your music.

I’m already a YouTube partner and have ad revenue set up for the videos in my channel, will the exclusive content ID rights affect my standing with the revenue stream on my videos?

This will not interfere with your monetized videos that DO NOT contain music that is a part of the CD Baby Sync program. But it’s possible that it could interfere with your videos that do contain music you’ve opted-in for CD Baby’s Sync Licensing Program.

If you are already making money from monetizing your YouTube channel, CD Baby will still collect revenue for the videos that contain your songs that are a part of our YouTube monetization program.

In that event, you can do one of the following things:

* Keep things simple and let us take over the management of ad revenues for your YouTube channel. There are no payout thresholds to meet when you go through CD Baby.

* Have CD Baby “whitelist” your channel. This will allow you to continue collect revenues directly from your channel while giving CD Baby the ability to collect ad revenue whenever your music appears in someone else’s video.

* Opt-out of CD Baby’s YouTube monetization program. However, this will remove your music from YouTube’s Content ID system that enables you to make money off of other videos on YouTube that are using your music.


Well, I hope this adds some clarity to a somewhat complex — and exciting — opportunity for artists to make money from their music. As always, if you have additional comments or questions, please leave them in the section below.

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

Free Guide: 
Make Money From Your Music on YouTube

In this article

Join the Conversation

  • Kyle

    This is a cool system. I can see clever bands creating fan competitions using their music. Fans would then share their own video which would help promote your songs as well as give you greater chance to have an ad clicked and earn some extra cash.

  • Liam Sckhot

    What if I have my own code barcodes and watermarks secretly inbeded for my control?

    • I’m not sure I understand the question.

      @ Chris Robley

      • Liam Sckhot

        Guess I am not real comfortable about outsource control of any of my material.years ago probably before you were born saw people get cheated big rip offs by major lables.Like Sloopy ,that was written by a military vet came home to find was cheated by a recpord company.when he came to our studio they would not let him re mix said he did not own the song.Because they owned. Stole it

  • Any way to reverse engineer the licensing to find out what YouTube video got the nearly two hundred thousand hits while using our song (surely wasn’t one of our vids). Rumblefish paid a small amount via CD Baby for “Sync Y” (YouTube), and just out of curiosity it would be fun to see the video…

  • Hi Rich,

    We don’t currently have a way to provide that info to artists in a streamlined way, but we’re working on it. In the meantime, if you write to cdbaby@cdbaby.com and provide your artist name and a song name, we can look up the info for you.

    @ Chris Robley

  • Brad

    How do I “whitelist” my youtube channel

  • Send an email to cdbaby@cdbaby.com with the details about channel, artist name, etc. We’ll get it straightened out.


  • Mark

    It should be mentioned that doing this with any of your music may invalidate any previous non-exclusive agreements you have in place with any production music libraries. YouTube can’t tell the difference, and uploaders are not required to list the music publisher, track name and writer in detail as TV and Radio broadcasters are required to do. In other words it should be made clear to everyone that any music must be completely unhindered and not placed in any other libraries for use – as this will present a conflict of interest.

  • Great article. This clears up many of the frustrations I had when I first saw the “matched third party content” warning a couple years back. I too would love to know which YouTube videos are using my songs. Perhaps it would help artists find an algorithm that would be useful for figuring out the demographic and future marketing. Also, and this might be Youtube’s territory, but I would love to see a credit displayed on videos using our licensed songs, as well as a link to the website (or somewhere our music can be purchased).

  • Hi, thanks for this article, it helps a lot! I still wonder something though : Is there a way to “scan” your Youtube channel so that CD Baby knows about songs used in your videos? I didn’t opt-in for Sync Licensing Program when I registered my albums on CD Baby, I opted in some days ago and remove Youtube monetisation on my videos to let CD Baby manages this, do I have to do something else? Thank you for your help!

  • Nope. You should be all set. If you opted in for CD Baby’s Sync, YouTube’s Content ID system should kick in sometime soon and automatically identify your songs in videos.


    • Thank you Christopher, really appreciate!

  • mrskytown

    hello i have a question on content id, im a music producer and i sell my customers the licence to use my
    productions under my terms and conditions and i make original music and i also buy royalty free sounds and loops and incorporate them into my productions, im wondering if my customers will have any issues with this whole content id thing, i understand that me using those royalty free sounds can cause issues if other people buy and use them, but i was wondering is there a way i can bypass the content id from my content to avoid issues, i think the term is whitelisting. this is a headache, going to stop buying loops next time i guess

  • There’s no way to get around content ID on YouTube. It’s how they identify rights holders. Even if your music isn’t signed up for CD Baby’s Sync Licensing/YouTube Monetization program, if someone else is claiming to own some element of your sound recording (those samples you used), the content ID system will probably recognize that in your music on YouTube and a rights dispute will ensue.


  • I was wondering something about Youtube and CD Baby: Is it possible to opt in for CD Baby’s Sync Licensing Program for one song but without selling that particular song on CD Baby? So CD Baby would just manage my music monetization from Youtube. Thanks.

  • Yes, though it’s a manual process on our end (meaning you can’t really elect to do it during our signup process). Give us a call or send an email and we can work out the details.


    • Ok thank you very much. I’ll contact you then for my next songs. I would like that CD Baby manage my Youtube stuffs but I don’t want to sell downloads of these particular songs so that’s why I asked if it was possible 😉 Thank you for your help 🙂

  • samia

    Hi, ultimately, what’s the difference between monetizing my songs directly through the Youtube website, or through CD Baby?

  • When you monetize your videos directly with YouTube, it only works with videos you’ve uploaded to your channel. When you monetize your music (through CD Baby), we’ll use the content ID system so that YouTube can spot ANY instance of your songs on YouTube (in videos uploaded by other people), and pay you your share of ad revenue.


  • David Nilles

    so do i actually get this right? does that ultimately mean: i upload for example a cover art video with my song that cd baby has fingerprinted for me and when someone listens to 30+ seconds of the song i earn money just by having the song/ video played?

  • The payment is not based on plays/views. It’s based on ad revenue. So, you’d earn money when someone clicks a banner ad in your video, or when someone watches a certain amount of a video ad that plays before your video.


  • Hi, great tool to collect revenues when our music is uploaded by other users, but my question or doubt is when we upload our own music to our channels. A few weeks ago I added to my channel some (Only audio videos) but I can’t monetize them because of the third party content, so if I can’t monetize my music in my own channel how can you get the revenues in the official channels of the band/artist ? so that is my biggest doubt, I have to whitelist my channel so I can monetize my own videos?

  • If the music in those videos is included in CD Baby’s sync catalog then those “3rd party” notices are actually proof of Content ID working. YouTube has identified us as the administrator of those rights on your behalf. We will collect ad revenue for those videos and pay you. OR… if you prefer to monetize the videos in your own channel/account directly, just give us a call or write to cdbaby@cdbaby.com. We can “whitelist” your channel.


  • No. Ads are served up based on the viewer’s interests, history, etc.