YouTube can be a very lucrative platform for creators, artists, and songwriters, but can be confusing to navigate at times. Videos containing music on YouTube can generate royalties for the video component, sound recordings, and compositions through ad revenue, based on claims made by the rightsholders who control the content in those videos. Monetized YouTube videos generate both mechanical and performance royalties for songwriters, and any video that contains a song -- even a video of a cover or live performance -- can be monetized by publishers.
At Songtrust, we want to empower our clients to know where their royalties are coming from, and how to collect them so below are six things you may have had wrong about collecting royalties from YouTube.
You can only make money from videos you upload yourself
As a songwriter, you are entitled to monetize and collect royalties from any use of your songs. Publishers can claim any video on YouTube on any channel that contains music controlled by them and their writers, whether the video contains an official recording, a live performance, a cover version, etc, whether or not you uploaded the video yourself. Once your publisher has a claim on a video, they can choose to monetize that video and collect royalties (when that video is eligible for monetization; more on that later).
Your label/distributor monetizes your compositions on YouTube
Songs earn royalties in two ways: from the master recording (actual audio file) and the composition (underlying music and lyrics). Most record labels/distributors only control master recordings, therefore, they are only collecting royalties generated by the master recording on YouTube. As a songwriter, you are also owed the royalties generated by the composition, and you may not be getting those from YouTube through your label or distributor. You’ll need a publishing option, like Songtrust as your music publishing administrator, to monetize your composition and collect those royalties on your behalf.
Videos without advertisements generate royalties
Videos on YouTube do not generate royalties until an ad has been served on them. Royalties on YouTube are essentially a portion of ad revenue. Ads are only served on videos by a copyright owner (a label, publisher, etc.) placing a claim on a video and telling YouTube to monetize that video. If you see a video on YouTube.com that does not have an advertisement before/during/after/along the side of it, that video is not generating any royalties for the rightsholders of the content. However, royalties are generated for YouTube videos viewed through their paid content services such as YouTube Red and YouTube Music.
There is a set royalty rate per view
Royalty rates on YouTube are dependent on many factors and are notoriously confusing. Rates depend on what type of ad is served on the video, the territory in which the view took place, the time of year, the YouTube platform (paid or not), and many more factors. Because of this, it’s very difficult to estimate how much a video will earn in ad revenue.
“Claiming” a video gives that channel a copyright strike
A YouTube channel receives a copyright strike when a rightsholder formally notifies YouTube that the uploader does not have permission to post the content in a video, and issues a legal request to takedown the video from that channel. YouTube takes copyright strikes very seriously; after three strikes, all videos on a channel are removed and the channel is subject to termination. When a rightsholder places a claim on a video in order to monetize it, it does not give the uploader’s channel a copyright strike or put the channel in any sort of bad standing with YouTube.
Any video on YouTube can be monetized
As of February 2018, YouTube added thresholds for video monetization. This includes that videos must be on a channel that has at least 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 hours of watch time over the past 12 months in order to be eligible to have ads placed on your videos, therefore, be monetized.
As an independent creator, YouTube is a great tool to utilize to create and share content to promote your music, and generate royalties as well! It’s important to understand what your rights are, how you can monetize videos using your music and collect the royalties generated, and what types of royalties you are due.
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We created this guide to answer a simple question: How do songwriters support themselves?
The answer is not as simple as we’d like, but our goal is to make it as clear, transparent and understandable as we possibly can.
Songtrust is more than just a rights management platform and publishing administrator - we’re a team of experts in the music community who strive to educate, support, and provide thought leadership to creators, representatives, and businesses across the music industry.
Our hope is that you’ll finish this guide with an better understanding of the business behind songwriting and have actionable resources to help you be successful.