YouTube is the biggest music discovery platform there is. That alone is reason enough to have a YouTube channel for your musical project. The competition for the attention of the visitors is intense, however. Not only are you competing with other musical content, but with all other content. It is vital for your content to be found by the people in your genre and for you to find your fans. In addition it is essential to maximise the watch time of your videos. The sheer number of views is no longer what is most important. Then there’s the bigger layer of session watch time. This is the watch time of all your videos combined. One should strive to maximise this as well.
Below are listed some tips on how to be found by, and keep your audience in the extreme abundance of content uploaded, which is estimated to be about 300 hours per minute. The tips are first described for any YouTube channel and then specified for musicians. For musicians, there is an inevitable distinction between main and supplementary channel content. The main content will always be the music video. The supplementary content is everything else, like tutorials, Q&A’s, studio tours etc… This post is based on the YouTube Creator Academy and their YouTube video series.
1. Make your videos shareable
It really helps to make your videos shareable. This means they should be either topical, valuable, relatable or a combination of these. Topical means the video has to do with, for example, a news item, a hot political issue or a bigger trend, like a meme. Valuable in this context means, for example, the video contains useful information, or is simply very entertaining. Relatable means the content is suited for and to the audience. The concept or idea of the video is easily understood by the viewers or the video is made in such a way that the content is presented accessibly. A great way to get a feel for shareability is to investigate the last 10 videos you shared. Why did you share precisely those videos?
Now for musicians who use lyrics, being topical could be incorporated in your music video by referring to a current news item or hot political topic in your lyrics. For those who make instrumental music, you could refer to current news items and/or politics in the imagery in your music video. Or you could edit your video in such a way that it fits current editing trends.
An idea for electronic musicians for a valuable video, is to make tutorials for D.A.W.’s and/or their new updates, new plugins or midi-controllers. For non-electronic musicians, showing how to play your song on the instrument you master is a great way to connect with your fan base.
To make your videos relatable, make sure you explain everything well. In the case of a D.A.W., for example, every different function of every knob has to be explained in detail. In case of playing your song on your instrument, explain the chords you are using, for example, and even finger positions.
2. Be consistent
It is important to communicate to your audience how often, and when you plan to upload videos. Don’t leave them in the dark after they’ve shown some interest. Present a release schedule in a video or describe it clearly in your channel introduction. In addition, you can announce new content in a short announcement video. Be sure to stick to it later. Also be consistent in terms of style. Make clear thumbnails that fit the artistic style of the channel.
For musicians, a rule of thumb for a release-schedule for the main content is one music video per six weeks. This rule of thumb is based on estimations made by music industry professionals. For supplementary content, an other pattern can be chosen, as long as it is regular. Shooting a supplementary video a week is great to grow your channel quickly. This requires a lot of effort, however. More on this below. But it could mean one video a week is too much initially.
As for channel art for musicians: your thumbnail should be your artist logo. The rest of the art should fit your musical project.
3. Be sustainable
Consistency and sustainability are closely related. The core question is: can you keep doing what you did? If you have enough resources for one high tech video per six months, it’s probably too expensive or difficult to make. You need to think about your budget, your availability in terms of time and whether you need other people to help you, i.e., a video team. I think it’s useful to find a middle way between videos of extremely high standard that, with your current resources, can be uploaded only once a year and just opening your laptop and beginning to talk.
For musicians, the idea of sustainability is slightly easier to fill in. Music videos are your main content. About every six weeks, one should be released. What can you do and create in those six weeks, in addition to finishing the song? There is a lot of time between releases so production values can be higher than for, say, daily videos. For your supplementary content, lower production values are advisable. They come closer to the other end of opening your laptop and beginning to talk.
4. Be discoverable
People search YouTube for trending topics, like a recent grand political debate, a big news story, an important sports event or a big pop culture occasion. To increase discoverability, it is advisable to create a video that is somehow related to such a trending topic, like we described above. It is a way to ride the wave of the popularity of those topics and steer a bit of attention your way.
In addition to trending topics, there are the so called ‘evergreen topics’. These are topics people consistently search for, like tutorials, well established brands and important cultural- and pop-culture references. If you create a video surrounding an evergreen topic, chances are you will be found easier.
Then, there are a few generalities that you should strive to always optimise. The titles of the videos should describe the content well. Avoid clickbait, it will chase fans and potential fans away for a short spike in views. Add tags to the video that are related to the content. Finally, write a fitting description. The description can be on the longer side, since YouTube’s search engine seems to favour longer descriptions. If you use lyrics, add the lyrics to the description. You can experiment with all three, since they can all be edited after uploading. See what video title, tag and description yields the most views and watch time. Finally, share the links of your YouTube-videos on all other platforms you are participating in to catch viewers from outside of YouTube.
Now for musicians, evergreen topics are, for example, tutorials on how to play an instrument, explaining bits of music theory or how to use a new software synthesizer. Also, especially for musicians, it is vital to create a playlist for your uploaded songs. You can create a kind of album listening experience this way. It not only increases session watch time but playlists are more likely to show up in the suggested videos of a fan or potential fan too. As a musician, you can link yourself to a trending topic by remixing a popular song.
5. Be accessible
Accessibility on YouTube means that your video can be understood by as many people as possible. This ranges from explaining technical content well for laymen, to making sure a part of a series takes into account new viewers. Viewers might have stumbled upon any part of the series shared anywhere and if they cannot see the bigger picture or the larger history, they probably feel alienated. The solution is linking back to previous parts of the series or introducing the new part with a summary of what happened before.
For musicians, the tutorials you could make as supplementary content should be suitable for beginners. Imagine knowing nothing of music theory, your instrument or your D.A.W. and produce content based on that. Even if your audience knows a lot about the subject already, repetition of difficult concepts helps because their understanding of it probably sank into the back of their minds over time. Once you have explained some basics, it is possible to go a little bit more in depth. In any case, keep your audience in mind at all times. If you create a large series, introduce each part with a summary or link back to previous episodes.
For musical content, playlists are ideal to incorporate a loose listening experience into a bigger, album-like whole.
Collaboration on YouTube is one of the foremost ways to grow your channel. Collaboration with another YouTuber lets you tap into their fanbase and them into yours. If done right, a percentage of their fans will subscribe to you and vice versa. Before collaborating, you should make sure, however, your channel has the basics covered. That is, you should have a release schedule, channel art, thumbnails, some main and supplementary content and some subscribers. You don’t need much content or subscribers, but some content, art and activity is needed to show you are taking YouTube seriously. To choose who to collaborate with, you can begin with finding a channel that produces content similar to yours. Also, it is important to know the interests of your potential audience well. If one interest usually goes together with another interest in the people of your niche, then it makes sense to collaborate with a channel that produces content related to that other interest you do not directly produce content about.
For musicians, collaborations are especially important. One of the reasons Dutch EDM is among the best worldwide, is that the biggest names actively help, guide, collaborate with and promote young up and coming artists. It’s almost like they have eliminated the word competition from their vocabulary and together they are creating and maintaining a healthy culture, open to beginners.
So, for musicians, some ideas would be to make a song together with another artist in your niche. The collaboration-process yields a lot of supplementary content to be shared as well, next to the eventual music video. For example; a summary of a brainstorming session, screenshots of the audio programs you work with, scribbling files of what would later become the main composition. Another, similar idea is to make a remix or cover of a song in your niche.
To find other, perhaps non-music channels to collaborate with, it is essential to know your fans and potential fans well. Even before starting YouTube, you should know what niche your music targets. A niche is often found by combining your musical interest with at least one non-musical interest that is somehow connected to your project. Fan research often reveals a loose association of other interests your fans commonly have. Both of these, that is, defining your niche and knowing your potential fan’s interests, can point into the direction of supplementary content and other, non-musical channels to collaborate with.
YouTube is a video platform, a musical streaming site and a social media platform at once. It’s expected by most viewers that a channel creator is communicating with them. You could do this via the comments, either by responding to them directly or addressing a few in a subsequent video. Videos that address viewers directly are a great source of supplementary content. Another powerful way of engaging your viewers is by asking them what content they would like to see next.
For musicians, it is specifically important to engage your fans. Address them directly in your supplementary content. Ask them what part of music theory they would like to have explained to them, or what part of software. Respond to their comments. Alternatively, ask fans to send in some samples they made and that you may use in your next musical project. In the same vein, you could ask for a fan made chord scheme or melody you will stick to while creating your next song. Fans are thrilled to get a bit of attention.
We hope this article has given you, as a musician, some inspiration and advice for your YouTube-channel. Now its time to apply the above, so head over to your YouTube-channel!
Pascal Moerland is WeSpins community manager and electronic musician.