How much do I get paid on YouTube as an artist?

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YouTube, the video platform owned by Google, represents a third of monthly internet activity and reunites 2,6 billion monthly active users. That said, YouTube is the second most-engaged website on the Internet, meaning it’s a great place to promote your work as an independent artist and monetize your social media activity. In this article, Bridger tells you how to make money on YouTube, how much you get paid, and what this social media is about, with an overview of its music streaming service YouTube music.

How did YouTube start?

YouTube was created in 2005 by three former PayPal employees, Steven Chen, Chad Hurley and Jawed Karim. At first, they viewed it as a dating app where people could post 30-second-long videos to introduce themselves and find a date. However, they were fast to open the platform to any type of video content and the platform officially launched in December of that year. By then, it was already getting 8 million views every day. 

In October 2006, Google bought YouTube and implemented a business model, based on advertisement revenues through GoogleAds, and on paid subscriptions through YouTube Premium. Shortly after, the platform offered video creators to join the AdSense program where they could be put in touch with brands to grow their revenues generated by advertisements. 

At the end of 2009, the platform partnered with an American peer, Vevo, which accelerated the amount of music-related videos hosted by YouTube. Thanks to this partnership, Lady Gaga's Bad Romance music video was the first to reach 200 million views in May 2010. 

Today, YouTube is the second most-engaged website on the Internet with 2,6 billion monthly active users. 

YouTube is a video platform that was created in 2005 by three American tech professionals. It’s owned by Google since 2006 and regroups diverse offers, among which are a sponsorship program for content creators, called Adsense, and a paid subscription offer for viewers, YouTube Premium. Today, YouTube is the second most-engaged website on the Internet with 2,6 billion monthly active users. 

What about YouTube Music?

YouTube Music is a music streaming service that has existed since 2015 and progressively replaced Google’s original music platform, Google Play Music. It’s a paid subscription service ($9,99/month) that works like any other DSP (e.g. Apple Music, Tidal, or Spotify) and enables users to stream music without ads, audio-only streaming, and downloading for offline playback. 

As an independent artist, you can distribute your tracks on YouTube Music through your digital distributor (e.g. DistroKid, TuneCore, SoundOn, etc.). This will enable you to reach their audience and get royalties according to the number of streams your tracks will get, depending on the contract that ties you to your distributor. The master royalties will be paid directly by your digital distributor. However, don’t forget to join a collection society like Bridger to get copyright royalties for these same tracks.

YouTube Music is the music streaming service owned by YouTube. As an indie artist, you have to subscribe to a digital distributor such as DistroKid or TuneCore to get your tracks in there. This move could increase your revenues as you would get paid royalties, depending on the number of streams you will get.

How much money can I make on YouTube Music?

We won’t go into too much detail about YouTube Music’s business model as you don’t have much leverage to increase your revenues there. What matters most is how you promote your music on social media to redirect your fans towards the DSPs that host your work. Moreover, streaming is generally not the main source of revenue for most indie artists.

However, it’s estimated that artists get $0,008 per stream meaning they need 125 000 streams to make $1000. 

You also get royalties when your music is used by another creator, both on YouTube and YouTube Music. To get that money, you need to request a YouTube Content ID when you upload your tracks on your digital distributor account. Once the ID is added, all the videos hosted by both platforms will be scanned until they find where your work was used, to automatically pay you. The process can take up to six months because there are that many videos on YT.

Music streaming platforms generally are not an indie artist’s main money maker. Sadly, this is especially true about YouTube Music, where artists make $0,008 per stream. The platform also has the technology to scan every video and spot which ones use your music to get your royalties. You can benefit from this by requesting a YouTube Content ID from your digital distributor.

How much money can I make on YouTube?

Because there are so many people using YouTube every day, it’s a great place to show who you are and what your music is about, perhaps especially if you are a niche artist: all interest-based communities are on the platform. Moreover, once you have 1000 subscribers and 4000 hours of viewing, you can access YouTube programs to easily monetize your account, thanks to these three main ways.

Create a YouTube Merch Shelf

This feature is accessible to YouTubers with over 1000 subscribers, that are part of the YouTube Partner Program (see below), and that is not marked as made for kids. It links your already existing online store to your YouTube videos. 

This way, you can sell official branded merch thanks to a dedicated banner that will appear underneath some of your videos. The rules of why and where it appears are, however, not 100% clear.

To create a YouTube Merch Shelf, sign into YouTube Studio, click on “Monetization” > “Merchandise” > add the link to your store.

Get into the YouTube Partner Program

This service is accessible once you’ve reached 1000 subscribers and over 4000 hours of viewing in a year. Once you’re in, Google takes care of placing ads on your videos that seem relevant to your content, collecting your ad-related revenues, and paying you.  

After reaching enough followers and viewing hours, all you need to do is activate your YouTube Partner Program membership by going to your “Account Settings” > “Monetization” > “Channel Settings” > “Enable My Account” > Create a Google AdSense account (that’s your YouTube piggy bank) > Set your monetization preferences.  

To get an idea of how much money you can make with your YouTube Partner Program subscription, go back to your dashboard and click on Analytics” > “Revenue” > “Monthly Estimated Revenue Chart”. 

We couldn’t find official numbers that say how much you get paid per ad viewed, in part because rates vary from one advertiser to another. However, the media Influencer Marketing Hub estimated in January 2023 that channel owners usually get between $0,10 to $0,30 per view, with an average at $0,18 per view (as the payment depends on how long the viewer watches the ad). As you are paid per ad views and not video views, this means that while you can cumulate $18 per 1 000 ad views, you will roughly get $3-5 per 1 000 video views.

  • Brand sponsorship

If you are an indie artist, you will probably have to go to brands and pitch them your work to get sponsorships. For that to work, the key is to target brands that are coherent with your artistic visions and/or your personality. Mainly, you need to have an engaged audience meaning it doesn’t matter if you have 1000 subscribers only as long as your audience frequently interacts with your content.

There are three types of YouTube sponsorships:

  • Product Sponsorship where you get stuff for free in exchange for placing it or reviewing it in your videos;
  • Affiliate Sponsorship where you are given a tracked link that you have to share on your videos so that you get revenues each time someone clicks on it;
  • Paid Sponsorship works like Product Sponsorship, except you get paid. 

If you are already part of the YouTube Partner Program and live in the United States, Canada, or the United Kingdom, you can activate such sponsorships by joining YouTube Brand Connect, which works like a creator-brand networking platform.

You can make money on YouTube by linking your channel to your merch store, joining the YouTube Partnership Program that enables ads to run on your videos, and landing a brand sponsorship that will collaborate with you through one of YouTube’s Sponsorship Programs.

What do I need to remember?

YouTube is a video platform that is the second most-engaged website, it has a music streaming service called YouTube Music where you can add your music through your digital distributor and make $0,008 per stream. You can also get royalties when other people use your tracks in their YT or YT music content by requesting a YouTube Content ID from your digital distributor. 

However, the most effective way to make money is YouTube. There, you can link your channel to your merch store, join the YouTube Partnership Program to run ads on your videos, and collaborate with a brand through one of YouTube’s Sponsorship Programs.

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