How to Make More Money from YouTube: host a video contest where fans use YOUR songs

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With CD Baby’s sync licensing program, you earn money whenever your music is used on YouTube. So, one of the obvious ways to boost your YouTube income is to get people to make more videos using your music!

Consider hosting a series of contests where fans upload videos with your music as the soundtrack, including:

1) Fan-made music video contest-

Enlist your fans to make a music video or slideshow FOR you. Let them pick their favorite song, give them creative license to interpret the song their way, tell them to post it to YouTube, and then choose your favorites.  Give out prizes– like free CDs, free house-shows, custom-written songs, etc. Create a YouTube playlist for all these entries.

2) Personal/family videos contest-

Encourage your fans to use your music as the soundtrack to their family videos and slideshows, their weird pet tricks caught on tape, or whatever else they want to post to YouTube.  You can award similar prizes for your favorites, or feature them on your website and social media profiles.

3) Upload your songs to YouTube-

Now’s the time, especially since CD Baby is making it easy to get paid for those plays! Create a simple video for ALL your songs; and by simple, I mean VERY simple,… like, just a static still photo. Basically, this is for the benefit of everyone who uses YouTube as their listening platform. If someone’s going to be streaming your music, better it be from YOUR YouTube channel that you control.

Any other ideas for encouraging people to use your music on YouTube? Let us know in the comments section below.

-Chris R. at CD Baby

Make money from your music on YouTube!

Promote Your Music on Youtube

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  • Linda

    Great idea. There is already one up a fan made about a year ago using one of my tunes. Hope rumblefish finds it soon : )

  • Nathan Shirley

    So if we opted in to this when it was first offered, how long until we should see our videos getting tagged? Is there a way to tag them as rumblefish content ourselves?

    • No way to tag themselves. You'll have to wait until YouTube can do its magic content IDing. Which takes roughly 1-4 weeks.

      • So, if we opted-in back on 1/10/2012 we should see them tagging our music/videos any day now? Or is something wrong if nothing has happened yet?

  • Tansel

    If you looking good royalty-free stock music website check this site . is one of the serious website on the net which you can sell your works.

  • Awesome. Did you do a contest? Or just encourage them to use your music?

  • It actually varies depending on many criteria: who the advertiser is and probably how much YouTube charged them for it, etc. So it's always going to differ. However, it's similar to on-demand streaming payouts, different every time, but generally between a fraction of a cent and a few pennies per.

  • They ID the content in that person's video and know it's your song. They pay CD Baby/Rumblefish a share of ad revenue. We pay you from there.

    • Kdochas

      Thanks a million for that response.

      So, do we have to sign up for something here to let Youtube have access to our music for video use like that?

  • There won't be any direct monetized linkage between YouTube and iTunes. As for ad revenue, it is NOT retroactive, so we'll only be able to collect on usage moving forward from the point you sign up that song with us.

  • Good question. I'd say do whatever sounds sane to you, though people generally might need a couple weeks or more to produce a quality video. Maybe a month?

  • If you signed up for our sync program, you will be able to collect a share of ad revenue for that music's usage in their video.

  • Nice! I'd love to pick your brain about amassing that many subscribers. (Maybe for a future article here?) If you're interested, and if you have the time, please email me at and share some of your tips/wisdom for how you built your youTube channel and community. Would love to feature you in an article with some good tips.

  • Not in front. The ads are of the pop-up variety.

  • We sent them a huge catalog of music almost overnight, so they're still catching up on the processing (some of which has to be done by hand to make sure they're tagging your tunes with the appropriate genre/mood/tempo/etc. descriptions for their search function so people can find the best music for their projects. I'd say give it a couple more weeks. Sorry for the delay.

  • Someone could purchase an official non-commercial micro-sync license for your music from Friendly Music, or they could just use an MP3 they've downloaded from a retailer, or uploaded from the CD.

  • Well, in order for YouTube to be able to do the content IDing for your music's usage across all videos on YouTube, you would sign up for CD Baby's sync licensing program. If you've done that, the YouTube content ID part of the process should be happening shortly.

  • Suzanne

    When will I see my artist and track links on YouTube/ It has been weeks since I opted in for the synch license…

    • What artist and track links are you referring to?

  • Slowmoj

    Thanks cd baby you guys are awesome and always on top of youre game.I already have several of my songs on youtube from my cd baby site,

    Thanks again slowmoj

  • Onelifehitboyz

    How do you get sync liscense? How much does it cost?

    Please email me the information to my email
    I'm really intrested.

  • Philip Wesley

    I did that and now I have tons of videos all posted by fans with lots of hits 🙂
    Philip Wesley
    solo piano

  • Hello,

    Is there a way to know how much each play is worth?

    Thank you

  • Kdochas

    how does youtube know how or where to pay you for your song being used in a fans video?

  • Eric

    I did this. Worked out well – I had two songs and two vids made – one which won a few festivals for animation. If I had been touring and really been aggressive at the same time, I think it would have paid off a bit more. Here’s a link to both:

  • Japarilli

    If I add a song to a video/picture on youtube that i haven’t release with CD Baby yet but I will
    1. are those views going to count later when I release the song with CD BABY?
    2. Is youtube going to recognize the song once CD BABY releases the song on itunes and all that

  • Boone

    Funny, I thought about doing this a couple weeks ago when you guys sent out the article about rumblefish and the sync licensing. What kind of timeline are people using for these contests? If we can’t be sure when our songs will be tagged in videos, how are people deciding how long to make their campaigns?

  • Fiend

    hmm…We have more than 230 000 views of our song from 1st album. It’s only a cover art and music and it’s uploaded not by us.

  • Noisestorm

    I’ve been using Youtube since the early days of my music, and WOW has it grown. CD Baby have been awesome in terms of it’s iTunes services when I started out. Here is my channel if you are interested, just hit 66,000 subscribers 🙂

  • smokeydan

    Does the mean there’ll be an ad in front of my videos?

  • How do the people access my music track if I post this contest on Youtube? They have to have the MP3 to use to make the video.

  • Voipguru

    So – the YouTube video posters don’t get hit with licensing fees though, correct? I’d hate to wrangle in freinds and family only to have them have to shell out cash to pay me… least this way! Haha.

    It’s all paid by adverts? Nice! and thanks!

  • Question? When I google my artist name I find a lot of random sites that are hosting my videos from youtube. What’s the deal with that? I’ve wondered for some time now is this legal ? or should I be getting paid ?

  • Princio

    I’ve opted-in my music to be included in the CD Baby sync licensing option All Media, how long does the delivering process usually take? I did it almoust one month ago. Thanks

  • Mike

    How much would be interesting enough for someone to spend the time? $250? $500? $1000+

  • Chris R. did Denny ever give you back your money?

  • I like this, will get back to you on how it works out!

  • Danisrael1971

    In order to get paid, do the versions of the songs we put on YouTube have to be the original album versions, or we will get paid if we put up a live version of a song that we have on an album?

  • Matteo

    if i have already a video of one of my old song on youtube, that was not published by CDBABY, is is still possible to opt in for the sync licensing? what if the song on youtube was edited at the beginning and at the end to match the video shots?

  • Mike

    How much money are we talking about here for getting played on YouTube? I mean, I’d be happy to cut someone in for making a video for my single, but are we talking pennies, dollars….

  • Voltaire

    I started an official channel for my music on youtube specifically because there were already hundreds of people uploading my songs illegally there. I figured, as you pointed out, that it would be better if people were listening to the songs on MY page instead. However, Youtube has already removed a bunch of my songs from monetization claiming that I don’t own the rights (TO MY OWN SONGS THAT I SELF RELEASED!). I’m absolutely interested in learning how I can monetize all of the hundreds or thousands of videos on Youtube already using my music.

  • Yep. All adverts. You don't have to wrangle anyone into paying you later on.

  • What are the sites? URLs?

  • Normally, about 2-3 weeks. But since the program just started and we made a massive delivery of music to Rumblefish pretty much overnight, it's a little delayed. Sorry for the delay. Should be up soon.

  • Money? Denny? I think I need a reminder.

  • Are you talking about the prize? Depends on your fans, of course. I was thinking the prize would be more like a free house-concert, or your whole autographed discography, or something personal, as opposed to promising folks money. After all, you never know how many folks will make videos for you or the quality of the results.

    • Playanton

      If you have a popular channel or very good music, often-times something very personal is best as a prize. I’ve run a few contests and given away things like autographed CDs and postcards, free music downloads, and even mentions in my videos and slots in my ‘related channel’ box.

  • It is for the version of the song you're distributing through CD Baby, so… you'd have to be selling that live version too in order for YouTube's content ID process to work its magic.

  • Hey Eric, one suggestion is to highlight the contest info on you site more. Right now it seems a bit buried in small text at the end of the page. Make it pop! As far as reaching the right people,… do you use TweetDeck or HootSuite? You could monitor Twitter conversations for anything having to do with indie filmmakers/contests/quick DIY film projects, etc. and then communicate with them directly.

    • Eric Nedelman

      I am not having luck with Twitter as you suggested, but my post in this blog did generate 6 hits to our site before it was flagged for review. There is no form or email address to contact the moderator to ask for the comment to be put back. However, if you put it back, I will post from where I got 20 hits and two potential entrants to our contest.

  • YouTube should still recognize the tune as long as you've got significant portions intact. And yes, if you sign that track up with CD Baby, we'll be able to collect ad revenue for it.

  • Well, it varies per click, depending on many factors negotiated between YouTube and the advertiser for that ad placement, but generally between a fraction of a penny and a few cents per click. Not much on its own, but for people seeing a lot of YouTube traffic, it adds up quick.

  • So, did you sign up for CD Baby's sync licensing program? If so, those copyright claims are probably coming from Rumblefish (on our behalf). Do you see Rumblefish's name on those claims? There is a way to release their claim on JUST the videos you've uploaded in your account. If this sounds like the situation, write to and we'll help out.

  • Nope. It is all done through sonic fingerprinting technology in YouTube's content ID process. You don't need to enter in any ISRCs.

  • Sorry. We don't upload YouTube videos. We allow YouTube to ID your content and then collect the share of ad revenue on your behalf.

    • Playanton

      How does this work? I have over a million views on my music on youtube and I have advertising on the videos, but I haven't received any money from CDBaby or ASCAP for the plays.

      • CD Baby does not collect performance royalties. As far as ASCAP goes, they are paid a blanket fee from YouTube for all performance royalties— ASCAP distributes that money,… but usually only to the folks who are very much on the YouTube radar. So you'd have to contact them regarding YouTube performance royalties. As far as CD Baby, we can collect a share of ad revenue for the usage of your music on YouTube, but only for ad clicks moving forward,… NOT retroactively.

  • Sure. But I'd probably recommend a shorter duration for the contest, just to keep things sane for you. Plus, the contestants will want to know who the winner is in shorter time than a year.

  • how youtube find when my track are being used in video from others and also in video i post?
    Do i need to put somehwere my ISRC code for tracking my songs in my video or how?

  • kuro

    It is a good thing and a bad thing in my opinion. It is so easy to download youtube videos and rip off the audio using all kinds of programs out there. Less and less people will actually ever buy albums or MP3 downloads. They can even contact the uploader and ask if he or she has your songs for share, please send me xxxxx song , here is my email

  • Playanton

    This does happen but there are ways around it and if you're making money for your plays from people who aren't planning on buying the songs anyway…

  • Playanton

    Upon reading more of your replies, I'm wondering if I'll start getting content claims from Rumblefish and how to make sure it doesn't affect my ad revenue with youtube (which is already in place)?

    • Yes. If you've already uploaded videos that contain music that have been opted-in for CD Baby sync licensing program, then you eventually see a copyright notice in your YouTube account saying that Rumblefish has claimed administration rights for this video. If you want to continue your direct partner relationship for these videos, simply fill out this form:

      Once you've filled out this form, Rumblefish will relinquish their claim to your videos, but still be authorized to collect ad revenue for any videos that OTHER people upload using your music.

  • Mona Leigh This is one way I use my music on youtube…

  • DJ Seko

    I did a contest as described two years ago with my Gospel Line Dance “Electrified By Jesus”. I only had one submission, but it did increase the views on Youtube. I hosted a sample mix of the MP3 on soundcloud which allowed (at that time) unlimited amount of downloads of the track. I also accessed one of the online contest companies to promote it. These companies specialize in freely promoting contests on their site which did garner the interest of about 50 people who responded to my contest. I then created a FREE website to host all of the information for the contest and the song: . By the way, Realplayer easily downloads Youtube (Flash) videos and has a converter by which someone could download your video and then make a MP3 of the file. There are also numerous websites which will snatch the audio from YouTube and Vimeo videos and provide FREE MP3s to people who visit the site. I suggest that the version of your music that you place into your videos have some interference such as a candid statement from the artist, or a behind the scenes look at the making of the song or video so that the audio on your video isn’t the full complete song. In this way it acts as a sampler, commercial, and deeper look into the artist which could nudge the customer to purchase the song rather than ripping it (off) from YouTube.

    DJ Seko

  • Eric Nedelman

    Thanks for the suggestions. I will get right on this and let you know how it improves.

  • Hey Anne, I know you offer a bunch of different services: performances, recordings, instruction, arranging, books, etc. I was thinking it'd be great to get a free harp lesson over Skype,… but then you'd really be limiting your video-makers to those with actual access to a harp. But maybe the winner can choose their preferred prize from a few options: 1) free lesson over Skype, 2) compose or arrange a song specifically for the winner, 3) free books plus albums,… something like that?

  • Denawayman

    I wrote a song for the Troops and Wendy (of darkblueworld) made a video slide show of the Troops! It's had over 50 thousand hits on your youtube! Dena Wayman

  • I really agree with the part about uploading simple videos of your own music… The way I saw it was that if/when the music is more popular, some fan somewhere is going to rip the tracks off a CD and upload it anyways, so I may as well do it myself and have the views/hits on my own youtube channel. It’s also just the easiest way to share my music with people when they ask… A youtube link is simpler than a website with streaming mp3s, downloads, or whatever.

  • MArinafiorentini

    Hello there! yes I like the idea very much! I try to upload to utube my music from the CD I have on cdbaby, but something went wrong with my software: It is possible If I authorize you to use one of my track to upload it to Utube?
    Marina Fiorerntini

  • Javi

    This is very interesting. I am in the process of working on my solo album after being in a band for so long. Is this promo be good throughout the year? Thanks, javs

  • Anne

    This is a fabulous idea to get fans to make videos using my music, but I need to think of an equally fabulous prize to motivate people to do this. What do you suggest? I’m a soloist…CDs won’t work, couldn’t afford the travel for a free house concert, I am not a song writer–I’m an arranger of traditional music. What kind of prize can you suggest that won’t put me in the hole financially?

  • Curious George

    Hi Chris!

    Does the YouTube Sync licensing program through CDBaby only work for videos with audio files in it? For example, if I create a video talking about a song, or an event, or a review of some sort, is there a way to capture ad revenue from this type of video? If music is required in order to ID the video, would a brief audio clip (as in a few seconds of audio) at the beginning of the video be enough to ID the video and collect ad revenue from it?

    • We can only collect ad revenue for videos with audio content that can be ID'd in YouTube's content ID process (using their "sonic fingerprinting" technology). I wouldn't recommend changing your approach to the videos you're making just to capture some ad-revenue, BUT… there is a way you can monetize those videos yourself by working directly with YouTube. That seems like a good solution if your videos don't have music playing in them. The advantage to CD Baby's program (for videos with songs) is that we can collect ad revenue for any video on YouTube that uses that song (not just the ones uploaded to your account). But, again, if you don't have music in some of them, you can collect ad revenue directly.

  • If you own the master recordings to a classical piece written before 1923, or a unique arrangement of a composition in the public domain (which are not considered cover songs), YouTube WILL content ID your recordings (if they're included in the CD Baby Sync Licensing Program) and we can collect ad revenue for you. The process of sonic fingerprinting ensures that YouTube pays the money to the right party– Rumblefish, and you! If you are working with YouTube directly through their partner program and keep seeing copyright claims that are not generated from Rumblefish, I'd recommend writing to YouTube.

    • kuro

      The problem is Youtube does not reply or fix problems in a short time, due to large volumes of questions and problems. If youtube could make the name of the party who is claiming the copyrights public, it would help.

  • kuro

    I want to point out a fact that if you do classical music or arrange a public domain song, the youtube system cannot figure it out and the revenue may go to a wrong person. I am a Youtube partner and some third party (not rumblefish) claimed copyrights of my recordings a few times and I had to dispute. If it was someone else uploading your classical track to be used to their videos, there is no way you could find out who is claiming the copyright. How does rumblefish make sure the revenue does not go to a wrong party?

  • Michael Hensen

    OK. I really liked this idea a lot!!! So much that I went out of my way and created a full section of my website to this effort. I have even done quite a bit of Facebook promotion by advertising it on major video product makers FB Pages like Sony, RCA, AVID, Panasonic, Canon, and more. I’d welcome CD baby to gladly use my sample to demonstrate to CD Baby users on how they might go about doing this.

    If you’d like to check it out, visit my website and the Video Contest page for more details. I also decided to up the stakes and offer a $1,000 Promotional Media Kit as the Grand Prize for the winning video director.

    You can check it out here:

  • On UTube Video Managing page, there is an option to “monetize”. Do we need to do this or is this a conflict of interest with Google?

  • Nice! Thanks for sharing.

  • Hey Jenn, I'm not sure what you mean. Why would it be a conflict of interest with Google?

  • We have a song on youtube with a lot of hits, by our standards, and the same song is on sale with CDbaby. The only thing is, the youtube version is an edit, missing a couple harmonies and the final chorus is shorter. Will this stop us from being able to use that video? Thanks.


  • I created another channel on youtube and made a video of rihanna and chris brown pictures with my song playing. It’s been two weeks so far and there are 11,000 plays. In the comments, people are asking “who sings this song , and where can I find it ?” my song is on itunes thru cdbaby, but the “buy on itunes” thingy doesn’t come up. Help cdbaby !!! Anyhow that’s how I did it. Here is the link:

  • Jack

    Talented musicians could just enter online contests like Make a Star ( and stand a chance to win some money.

  • CN

    Nice song.
    I am very interested in how to get that "buy on itunes" thingy on our songs too.
    Mean while, why not post a link to your sales page for the song?


      That’s a good Idea CN. I forgot the password to the page oh well.

  • Claude Needham

    If our fan has a monetized channel, will they retain any potion of the advertising revenue. It is great that we will get revenue cause our music is on the video. But it would be even more awesome if the fan also retained some portion of income. Do you have any idea of any revenue is left for the video poster?

    • There are rumors that YouTube may soon allow folks to split revenue share. But not now. It'd either go to you or the the uploader.

  • Hex One

    If one of our fans takes a song from our cd and posts it on their channel (with our permission of course) is there a way we can make money from that? wouldn’t it be the same as holding a contest and making money off of fan made videos with our music in the background etc?

  • Yes. You will get paid royalties for that. Anytime you music is uploaded to YouTube and shared–you will get paid royalties–provided the album is opted in to our program

  • Drew

    Can I partner with youtube’s adSense and CD baby’s sync licensing on one video?

  • No. There is only so much ad revenue to split up, so you have to choose which method you want. Direct AdSense is a better share for you– but the downside is that you're only collecting money for YOUR channel's videos, and you'd be losing out on potential revenue for your songs usages by other people out there in the YouTube world.

  • Matteo

    anyone know how much is the revenues for e.g. 1.000 views on a single youtube video linked to a rumblefish license of a song?

  • The ad revenue is only generated when an ad is clicked, so you can't go off of views. But the payment amount per click changes based on total ad revenue by month (and some other factors)– so it's on par with streaming revenues you'd see from Spotify, etc.

  • Corey Koehler

    Is there a way to opt out of the Sync licensing particularly on YouTube? I understand that this synch service helps when other people use my music but now I am limited on how I can monetize my videos on my own channel. I think I would be getting a better deal on my own channel working directly with YouTube without a middle man (CDBaby/RumbleFish).

    • You can stay IN the sync program, but refute Rumblefish's claim to the videos in your channel. That way you can still make money from those same songs if someone else uses your music. To do so, go to :

      If you want to cancel altogether, you can do so in your members account.

      • Corey Koehler

        Thanks Christopher. Good to know. I will try the "refute" route.

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