Why YouTube is More Important Than Anything Else in Your Music Career

August 2, 2013{ 36 Comments }

Why YouTube is Crucial to Your Music CareerYouTube: the new radio, the new MTV, the new record store, the new music magazine, the new everything

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Let’s state the obvious: the world has changed, especially for independent musicians.

Music consumers aren’t moving away from the idea of music “ownership” outright (a huge part of the global music market still prefers to buy CDs, after all), but legal alternatives to ownership (ummm… streaming!) have dramatically changed the way listeners engage with music in the first place.

Convenience and cost are a big part of that shift, of course; Spotify gives you access to an enormous catalog of tunes, anywhere you go, for the price of two cups of coffee per month. But sharability is also a huge factor in our changing habits. When you listened to a song on terrestrial radio, or on a listening station at a record store, or even on a CD — it took some effort to share that experience. (Well, you’d at least have to type out a tweet and search around online to find a good link to share that music with your friends).

And that’s where YouTube has really succeeded. Not only is YouTube THE most popular online tool for music discovery, but amongst the younger demographic (18-) it’s also become THE preferred platform for listening to music. I have to assume that the user-friendly social aspect of YouTube (pretty seamless integration with Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc.) is a big part of that — in addition to convenience (smartphone apps) and cost (free). Oh, and then there’s that whole VIDEO thing, too.

As an artist — absolutely — you should have a website, and write good songs, and practice, and play gigs, and do interviews, and run smart PR campaigns, and have worldwide music distribution (w/ CD Baby, if I have any say in the matter). But when you combine a great song with great visuals, you’re greatly magnifying your greatness, which is great for your career. ;-)…

… and THAT’s why YouTube can be the most powerful tool you have to promote your music career. Think of artists like OK Go, Gotye, Walk Off the Earth, Justin Bieber, Karmin, and Pamplemoose. None of these artists’ careers would have gone nearly as far without YouTube.

And the social aspects of YouTube’s functionality (easy sharing and embedding, views counter, comments section, etc.) means that music fans can now play a more active and immediate role in recommending music to other listeners. So YouTube is even taking on some of the responsibilities that traditional print media once played.

So, have I convinced you yet that you should be spending more energy creating YouTube videos your fans will love to share? Here’s a recap:

5 reasons you should be boosting your presence on YouTube

1. YouTube is the #1 search engine for music fans

2. YouTube has become the #1 listening platform for younger music fans

3. Many artists have built their careers strictly through YouTube

4. There’s no easier way to beam your music/brand/personality into someone’s ears/eyes/home/imagination than through engaging music videos

5. Big ad-revenue is being generated by YouTube and you can earn your share by monetizing your music on YouTube

Once you’ve used YouTube to get your music videos heard, seen, and shared in the first place, THEN you can sell your music to your new fans, collect email contacts to build your newsletter list, and get folks to come out to your shows.


What do you think? Am I overselling the importance of YouTube for breaking new artists? Have you had big successes using YouTube for your music promotion? Let me know in the comments section below.

To find out HOW to promote your music on YouTube, download our FREE guide:

 Promote Your Music on Youtube

  • You can monetize your songs on YouTube long before 200k. With CD Baby's Sync Licensing program, there's no minimum engagement requirement. In the next few weeks we'll have paid out almost 3 quarters of a million dollars to indie artists for the usage of their music on YouTube. I hear your concern, but I don't think people are converting YouTube videos to MP3s much anymore. Not when they can access a YouTube stream from any computer, smartphone, tablet, or iPad. Of course, there is still a giant concern about streaming vs. owning — but that's whole other debate.


  • Thanks, P.


  • Sure thing. And if you're shopping around, Final Cut Pro X has a free 30 day trial.


  • Well, from a bunch of bands who've done it right, that seems to be the secret. I've heard a number of artists say that consistency is key on YouTube, and that things didn't really start to feel like they were building until 6 months had passed.


  • nevilleelder

    I think you're right about a lot of this but.."but amongst the younger demographic (18-) it’s also become THE preferred platform for listening to music." Define younger demographic please.. and where is this data? This is the first I've heard of it

  • Michael

    When I think of Youtube, I think of guys like Peter Hollens and Smooth McGroove, Mike Tompkins and ThePianoGuys. Without Youtube, we'd be without great music. Also, Youtube has practically resurrected the Barbershop Harmony Society and created new younger-generation interest in this musical style. Yesterday, out of the blue, a larger community church contacted me because of a Christian song my wife and I wrote and uploaded to our music channel last year. They want to play it for their congregation on Sunday. I'm slowly building our audience, but Youtube's all about being good at content creation and getting your stuff out there. Its worth the time and energy of doing it. Christmastime? Think of Straight No Chaser. Got famous on Youtube.

  • YouTube does currently allow you to monetize the videos in your own channel, but you cannot monetize yours songs across YouTube by yourself. For that, you do need a middleman — as YouTube is not interested at this time in working with individuals to monetize content across channels.

    One thing that's worth noting, as a member of CD Baby's YouTube monetization, we'll upload all the songs you've opted in for sync-licensing to our Indie [Music] Network on YouTube (along with album artwork). Through that network you'll earn more money per ad than you do through your own direct monetization, or through other videos in the YouTube universe that use your music.


  • Pingback: It's Not Just About YOUR YouTube Channel: Why It's Important to Monetize Your Songs Too « DIY Musician Blog DIY Musician Blog()

  • Arnulf Zeilner

    I started Youtube in December to reach the German market (as i live in Austria wich is really small). More than 50% of my clicks are from Germany now and some people also supported the crowdfunding for my first solo CD. I think youtube is great!

  • D. Rose in the paint

    Not true at all!!!!!! I did an EP last summer…I put the album on Youtube, and made a commercial for the album. I uploaded the album on Bandcamp for FREE with an option to pay. I made money consistently from Bandcamp via the traffic from the youtube commercial and album i uploaded, so much I was in the top 10 sellers list for 2 months. I left Bandcamp links on my youtube page's description box. You have a higher chance of making money if you create an album and not just single songs…..because people want WHOLE projects for ownership in their Ipods….I guess its a collector mindframe.

  • D. Rose in the paint

    Not true I released an EP last summer…I put the album on
    Y-o-u-tube, and made a commercial for the album. I uploaded the album on
    B-a-nd camp for FREE with an option to pay. I made money consistently from
    B-a-nd camp via the traffic from the youtube commercial and album i
    uploaded, so much I was in the top 10 sellers list for 2 months. I left
    B-a-nd camp links on my youtube page's description box. You have a higher
    chance of making money if you create an album and not just single
    songs…..because people want WHOLE projects for ownership in their
    Ipods….I guess its a collector mindframe.

  • Will

    I think you are overselling youtube actually. This article would have been much more relevant a few years ago. As someone who's had a degree of decent exposure on youtube through making remixes (3 million video hits overall) I can say that a few years ago, anyone could become well known on youtube. After 2010 tho, my new videos stopped getting views, it was a gradual process. The only way to get something popular now is to do something relevent. Say… a youtube video about game of thrones when Season 4 is a week away from release. Its VERY hard to get anything remotely successful on youtube and you have to be smart about it if you want to stand a chance. Yes Youtube is probably all these things you say it is, but think about how much music is on youtube these days. For every successful music video, there are 1000 videos with like… 50 views or something, because youtube is no longer about the individual. Its about corporations, VEVO, Record Labels, "offical youtube" channels of already famous musicians. Youtube has become a tool that the higher ups use to control what people listen to now.

  • Torq Deband

    Just how long before 200k are we talking about? And how much per 1000 plays? One, .half a cent?It doesn't really rate, if you've got a million hits, its not your earnings on youtube you will be happy about. {Promotion yes}

    • Ad-share payments are not based on total plays OR individual plays, they're based on clicks (for the ads). If you're in CD Baby's YouTube monetization program, YouTube will ID your content, serve up ads on any video in the YouTube universe that uses your music, and pay you whenever someone clicks on one of those ads. So someone could upload a silly cat video with your song in the background. Even if they've only got 3 views for that video, an ad will appear, and any time someone clicks on the ad — you get paid.


  • Hey Chuck,

    Yes. Our network will 1) pay more through higher ad rates and better percentage 2) leverage all the views and subscribers to your benefit 3) help other people find your music.


  • Clark Colborn

    Chris, can you explain your reply above in more detail? What exactly do you mean that I cannot monetize my songs across YT by myself? And what exactly are the differences in revenue per ad if I go through CD Baby rather than direct monetization? Thanks for elaborating.

    • Hi Clark,

      Yes — so, there's a difference between monetizing songs and monetizing videos. You can monetize your videos in your own YouTube channel by yourself. You just click a checkbox and sign an online form, and presto! YouTube will put ads on your own videos.

      BUT… they're not analyzing the audio content and going out to collect money from the usage of your music on other peoples' videos. And they don't offer that service to individuals. That is where CD Baby's YouTube Monetization program comes in. We work with YouTube so they will sonically "fingerprint" your songs, find them ANYWHERE on YouTube (even if its just 30 seconds playing in the background of a cat video), post ads on those videos, and pay you a share of any revenue generated.

      As for the difference in revenue — it's difficult to say, because YouTube ad rates change based on a bunch of factors and you could be paid different amounts on different days for two ads on the same video (its pretty much the same as Google Ads where advertisers bid), but there are a few considerations:

      1) CD Baby does keep a percentage of the ad revenue collected through our program. That means for videos in your own channel, you'd be making less than you normally would through directly monetizing them (which you're still free to do, of course; just dispute the "rights" claim for those videos in your channel.)

      2) The big advantage to our program is that all of a sudden you have access to ad revenue for ANY video on YouTube that uses your music, revenue you could not otherwise collect on your own.

      3) And there are instances where that means you'll earn far MORE than you would through an ad clicked on a video in your own channel. The primary example is CD Baby's Indie Music Network. We are managing a series of genre-specific YouTube channels where all your music will be featured (along with album artwork and artist/album/song title). We upload it for you, put an ad on those videos, and when someone clicks on an ad you'll earn way more than the usual ad-share % for a "normal" out-of-network video, because YouTube charges advertisers a lot more to advertise on YouTube networks.

      Hopefully that info helps. Please let me know if you have any other questions.


  • Sorry you're getting YouTube headaches. If you'd like to continue monetizing the videos in your channel directly, just dispute the rights claim.


  • Does your system allow it's members to review a video found to be using their music first before choosing to monetize or does it happen automatically?

  • Hey there,

    Yes indeed. I think we'll have 22 altogether. And always the possibility for more!


  • I'm going to have someone on our artist support team give you a call to get this resolved.


  • Hey Vlad, thanks so much for all your detailed responses in this comment. Sounds like y'all have had some great success on YouTube (partially out of necessity, I assume, due to lack of viable music retail solutions in your country). Would you have any interest in writing a guest post for this blog that talks about some of your experience, strategy, how you shifted as the YouTube tools changed, and… well, anything else that would be valuable for musicians to know when they begin promoting themselves on YouTube? We could link to your music and potentially feature the post in one of our emails. If you're interested, lemme know here and I'll send you my email address.


  • This is so true

  • Awesome. Thanks. I think it'll be very useful for CD Baby artists who are on YouTube. Just sent you an email with my contact.


  • Pingback: YouTube Music Success Story: A Capella Science « DIY Musician Blog DIY Musician Blog()

  • Kevin Winn

    Please take a min to check out the brand NEW video by BIG RUSH Ft. Dubbz titled Don't cry for me. This is some real hiphop coming out of New England. Check it out, like it, share it, leave some feedback.

    Thanks for the support!

  • Montreea

    For every 1 artist discovered on YouTube, there are thousands that won't get discovered. It's similar to plying the lottery. New technology is great but old fashioned hard work is key.

  • Callie

    This is true. You kind of need to have somewhat of an audience already to find success on youtube. There is no way to post great content on youtube and hope that it will find an audience. You could start by heavily marketing your youtube channel to your existing local audience. Just be sure that when they visit your channel, they have a way to connect with you. Give them a sense that their subscription, comments, and shares are doing something huge for your success, and give them a reason to come back for more. It can slowly build from there if you give them something to be excited about.
    Also, youtube is utterly USELESS to you if you don't post videos CONSISTENTLY. Like each week. If you put something amazing up and people come and subscribe, then there's nothing for a few months, they will forget about you very quickly.

  • Hi Callie,

    Appreciate you sharing the details about how you've used YouTube in your music career. It's great for other artists to hear this kind of stuff. Glad to hear you're keeping your audience active in supporting you.

    @ Chris Robley

  • peter

    YouTube is great but the key to a successful career is to get exposure on a wide array of platforms such as Soundcloud, Damnshane, spotify etc.

  • Youtube is the place to be, i mean everyone is watching youtube all day everyday.

  • HC Duran

    I agree with the cutting edge marketing concept of using the web to get exposure for the music. The point is not to rely on online views to receive online sales, but to get those views in order to get more OFFline sales, via the massive buzz generating potential of the medium. This viral aspect can replace the traditional role of the record labels in promoting artists. Music artist management (by third party firms) would still needed to handle the publishing and distribution issues, as well as the publicity once generated.


  • Naaz Charania

    I just love You Tube, and the e.mails they send me are terrific. Thanks Google and U Tube