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5 Things You Had Wrong about YouTube Royalties

What site has over 300 hours of video uploaded every minute and 7 billion hours watched every month?  Well if you have been living under a rock, get ready, because YouTube is here to stay. With over $4 billion in revenue in 2014 alone, you may be wondering “Where does all this money go?” and “How can my songs make money from it?” Well here are some common misconceptions on how songwriter royalties work with this service.

1) YouTube does not pay songwriters:

Actually, with each YouTube video that uses music, there are 4 different royalty types generated, 2 of which are for songwriters! See below list:

1) A royalty for the content owner

2) A royalty for the sound recording owner

3) A performance royalty for the public broadcast of your song – to you

4) A mechanical royalty for the interactive stream of your song – to you

2) The more views the more $:

The view count per video is actually just one of several different factors that contribute to the amount of $ calculated for advertising on a video. Additional factors include how much of the video is actually watched, how many comments per video, how many subscribers, what kind of content is in the video etc…

3) Artists get paid from live videos and all user generated content:

YouTube royalties are only payable to the artist when a video has the master recording of the song, so if a fan uploads a video of a live performance after seeing the concert, the artist would not be able to monetize on that video. You, the songwriter however, can monetize anytime your song is used regardless of the recording. In this way, composition owners may have a wider range of opportunities for monetization, compared to master recording owners who can only monetize from videos that contain one specific recording.

YouTube’s Content ID system matches audio from original recordings using the sound file and relevant information (Songtrust clients can find and submit ISRC’s and other metadata by going to our Songtrust Dashboard –> Spotify/iTunes lookup section) to identify videos that may be a potential match, this goes for cover videos, live performance videos, lyric videos, cat videos etc. giving you the opportunity to either monetize from them or take it down. You can also manually claim videos using your music through Songtrust’s YouTube monitor.

4) YouTube royalties get paid to you by your distributor or label:

Unlike mechanical royalties generated from physical sales and digital distribution, for the most part labels are not involved with you as a songwriter on YouTube. If you are affiliated with ASCAP or BMI, you are eligible to collect the performance royalties generated from your video. Additionally, when you signup with Songtrust, you will automatically be opted into our YouTube partnership and claiming technology, allowing you to collect your interactive streaming mechanical royalties, the other bucket of income generated from YouTube.

5) YouTube pays publishing royalties worldwide:

The money paid out by YouTube directly as well as the money from ASCAP and BMI is primarily US only. Foreign collection societies also track and collect royalties from the service, so in order to make sure you are eligible to collect publishing royalties worldwide you will need to affiliate and register your songs with these societies, Songtrust will take care of this for you.

Author: Alex Badanes

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25 thoughts on “5 Things You Had Wrong about YouTube Royalties

  1. I see only ASCAP and BMI mentioned in this article, but aren’t all PRO’s able to distribute performance royalties generated from our video? There is SESAC too… right? Or do they not
    do that?

    1. Hey Joan,

      Thats correct! Technically all PRO’s collect performance royalties from YouTube. SESAC is private and invitation only, so we tend to focus on ASCAP and BMI primarily here. Feel free to reach out to us at with any additional questions.


    2. Sesac is just the one noone really mentions. You got McDonalds and Burger King then you got JackntheBox. Sesac=Jacknthebox

      1. Doesn’t Seasac have the advantage of being new though…and is not burdened by all the restrictions that were placed on the old school pros back in the 1940’s or thereabouts?

  2. I’ve reached out before, just not getting a response. I work with artist/writers that are NOT BMI, ASCAP, or even PRS (not that PRS even matters with Songtrust at this time) due to the fact that they live outside the US/Canada. They do not have traditional publishing deals. As a manager and/or a performer with these individuals, how do I collect on their behalf?

    1. Currently, Songtrust only offers service to writers within the US, Canada, and the UK. Just to clarify, are you asking how to collect these royalties from the US, Canada and the UK or are you asking how you can collect on the behalf of others in general?

  3. I was wondering, how do u upload a song on youtube, who qualifies to get royalties, do south africans qualify and how do u claim them?

    1. Hello!

      Songtrust services allow the writer and or publisher to opt in to YouTube monetization and collect performance / mechanical royalties. Yes, South African writers can participate in YouTube monetization, however, make note that we only collect YouTube royalties directly in the United States. We claim videos using the content management system provided to us via our partnership with YouTube and we also use our own technology to help find any additional videos to claim.

      You can read more about YouTube monetization on our FAQ site at


      1. Well I don’t need to go there because you explained it so well. Where’d you learn about this stuff????

  4. Hello,

    I`m from Korea and I released my song as a songwriter and artist in Korea.
    I`m not a member of any PRO in the US but if my song played on Youtube in the US then can you collect my royalties generated in the US?
    And as an artist what other royalties also generated in the US?

    1. Hi Jaeyong. We collect performance and mechanical royalties from user-generated content on YouTube in the US, as well as performance and mechanical royalties worldwide. Feel free to send us an email at with any further questions.

  5. hi i was just wondering, can someone receive royalties off a video if its not through a website like songtrust or tunecore? when i write a song i just hit record and put it on youtube. in the event it reaches enough views will i be eligible to receive royalties. can someone email me at concerning this issue?

    1. Hi Ryan,

      In order to receive royalties from YouTube views you need to either be a YouTube Partner, or work with a multi-channel network to claim user-generated content that uses your music. Songtrust has a YouTube Monitor where you can claim and monetize this type of content. Feel free to shoot us an email at if you have other questions.

  6. Hello,

    I have an important question. Does YouTube also pay royalties for videos that have no ads? What about music that is being monetized illegally? I blog a lot about suggesting to my readers to mostly use Spotify, Rhapsody, etc, because I have not found any proof that YouTube are paying royalties for any of the old school artists without ads, Or even videos with incorrect artists on the actual YouTube video. Does anybody know the answer to my question. I’d like to steer my readers in the right direction. Thanks…

    1. Hi Yogi. YouTube does not currently pay royalties for videos that are not being monetized by advertisements. YouTube monetization is done through their Content ID system, which allows content owners to claim user-generated content that uses material to which they own the rights. So even if a video’s description has the wrong artist/songwriter information, it’s likely that the correct content owner is monetizing it anyway. Feel free to email us at with any further questions.

  7. Hi, if we are a company who want to make our own videos relevant to our business, but use music over the top of these videos, where do we stand with royalties or a licence please? Thanks in advance

    1. Hi there. In order to use music in a video, you must obtain permission and a synchronization license from both the composition and master owners (typically a publishing company and a record label). A good resource to find songwriter/publisher information is to search the song at

  8. If an artist gets 40,000 plus views on a cover of another artist’s song on YouTube, who gets the royalties? Does the artist who recorded the other artist’s song get anything, even though they own the recording?

    1. Hi there. When you upload a video of a cover song, the songwriters of the song, first and foremost, have the right to receive royalties. You may see a claim on your video from the publisher(s) of the song, or those publishers may have your video taken down. You, as the uploader and cover artist, may have the opportunity to monetize the video as well. Whether you can monetize and how much you will receive depends on the nature of your partnership with YouTube or the partnership a 3rd party/distributor that you may be working with has with YouTube.

  9. […] article originally appeared on the Songtrust Blog on April 2015. Originally written by Alex Badanes in consultation with Chinua Green, this repost […]

  10. Hi I’m a south african artist which distribution we can get payd when our music is geting views on youtube

    1. Hi there. Songtrust can monetize user-generated content on YouTube that uses your compositions. There are other services that can monetize your sound recordings on YouTube such as CDBaby.

  11. Thank you julia I oredy sign with capasso…sheggie qt from south africa

  12. When songtrust finds a youtube video playing a client’s music, how do they go about collecting on it? I found a few videos when researching Audium which also claims to be a similar service, where multiple people were given copyright strikes because they were using music Audium wanted to claim royalties from. Do the youtube creators know when Songtrust is collecting money off videos posted? I really want to submit my music to indie music youtube channels but do not want them to get copyright strikes for playing my music that I already gave them permission to play.

    1. Songtrust (and services like Audiam) monetize YouTube videos by claiming them with advertisements. When you claim a user’s video, that user can no longer monetize the video themselves. However, this does not give their channel a copyright strike. If you’re using Songtrust for YouTube monetization, you can let us know about any videos where you’ve given the uploader permission to monetize the video themselves and we’ll release the claim.

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