Should Your Album Be on YouTube?

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After months (or years) of unearthing your emotions, crafting new melodies, and devoting all of your spare time to recording, you’ve finally finished your very first album. After all the time and energy you poured into your debut, you’re ready to showcase it on the internet at last… only, you’re not sure whether that’s such a good idea. Should you upload your album to YouTube for the exposure, or are there financial reasons to avoid sharing your music on the internet? Our online music promotion company weighs some pros and cons of putting your album on YouTube as an independent musician, whether you’re a solo artist or part of a band.

Pros and Cons of Uploading Original Music to YouTube

We’ll be frank with you: “Should I put my music on YouTube?” is not a simple yes or no question.  While there’s a strong case to be made for uploading your album – which we’ll dig into in just a few moments – the answer depends heavily on factors that are going to differ from artist to artist. To some musicians, uploading an album on YouTube is a senseless giveaway. To others, it’s a one-way ticket to fame and success. And for bands, there’s another layer of complexity, because putting a new album on YouTube is often taken as a group decision – after consultations with representation, record label personnel, or artist development agents.

Because of these variables, musicians are going to arrive at different conclusions about the risks versus benefits involved.  However, even though what’s right for one band might be wrong for another (and vice versa), there two core questions that all artists should consider carefully:

How large is your audience?

To begin with, consider how established you are. If you’re a brand new artist who’s just trying to get your name out there and build a brand, it might be a good idea to put your album not only on YouTube, but also on the other digital platforms that are available to you, such as Vimeo and Dailymotion. If you’re still relatively unheard-of, this tactic will allow you to start building an audience – in many cases, without spending a dime.
If you’re an established artist who already has an audience, you might be better off limiting your uploads to previews, teasers, or singles. This method gives you the best of both worlds by, ideally, enticing the fan into buying the physical or digital version of your album after he or she has heard a sample.

Another idea for more established artists is to contact YouTube directly about becoming a partner. However, if you’re brand new to the industry, your time might be better spent elsewhere, as this merit is awarded only to artists who have proven track records – and a certain level of representation – which is a major hurdle to newcomers.

Is your band active on social media?

If you’re primarily a digital artist who has a strong social network presence and a sizable following on the internet, having your album on YouTube makes logical sense.
On the flipside, if you haven’t been using the internet to promote your music — which is a bad idea to begin with — uploading your album on YouTube might seem like an odd place to start. If you’re relatively unknown on the internet, it might be wise to build up a following and some brand recognition before you add a video to YouTube. That way, your video will make more of a splash when you do upload it.

On a related note, you should also be thinking about your audience.  No matter what business you’re in, it’s always a good idea to have plenty of information about who it is you’re selling to.  For pop or hip-hop artists with a mainly younger following, putting your album on YouTube is generally a safe move that can help you reach even more fans.  However, if your audience consists mostly of middle-aged adults or retirees, CD or iTunes sales are generally a safer harbor for your music.  As you may know, older people are less likely to explore the internet looking for music they like.

With all this in mind, let’s look at some of the…

Reasons to Avoid Putting Your Music on YouTube

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First, let’s start with the potential risks and drawbacks of sharing your music on YouTube. (Spoiler alert: for most artists who are still in the “up-and-coming” or “unknown” category, the benefits tend to outweigh the risks by a wide margin.)

  • There’s some potential for piracy. Anything you upload to YouTube can potentially be converted to an .mp3, downloaded, and added to somebody’s phone or iPod. However, if you’re still at a stage of your career where you’re struggling to gain exposure, you’re extremely unlikely to sustain a significant financial loss. If you make quality music, fans will want to own it, and they’ll be willing to pay – not only for albums, but also merch and tickets to shows.
  • Earnings from YouTube are probably lower than you’d expect. Living off of YouTube views is a pretty sweet fantasy, but for most people, it’s exactly that: a fantasy. Consider this quote from a 2015 Business Insider article on how much YouTube stars really make: “Ads are only run on a minority of videos shown. Roughly, a video creator will earn $2,000 for every million views. ‘And then YouTube takes 45 percent,’ the Times notes. (The IRS will take its cut of the remainder, too.)”

Pros of Sharing Your Album on YouTube

Uploading your music to YouTube is never completely without risk, regardless of whether you’re an up-and-coming artist or a well-known figure who’s already racked up millions of views. However, at the same time, there can also be significant benefits to sharing original music on YouTube. Here are a few of the ways adding your music to YouTube may help give your career a boost.

  • You’ll gain exposure. With over a billion users, billions of daily views, local versions in almost 90 countries, and compatibility with nearly 80 different languages, YouTube is one of the most popular websites not only in the U.S., but the world. And, not only is YouTube a hugely popular site in general – it also happens to be one of the world’s most popular sites specifically for streaming music, making it an indispensable yet low-cost (or free) resource for musicians. Plus, you can use your YouTube account to link to your band’s website, the iTunes Store, or your music store on Bandcamp – anywhere you sell physical or digital material.
  • YouTube is a major music search engine. Obviously, Google is the world’s biggest search engine – but when it comes to music-related searches, YouTube isn’t far behind. Just think of your own YouTube habits for a second. Instead of clicking on YouTube links that come up in Google searches, you’ll probably visit YouTube directly, then search for content using the YouTube search bar, right? So do millions of other people – and by avoiding YouTube, you’re also removing your opportunity to be discovered by them.
  • You can build a bigger fan base. YouTube lets users subscribe to up to 75 channels per day, with a maximum of 2,000 channels. Subscribers are a huge part of being successful on YouTube because they are likely to spend more time browsing your channel and watching your videos than casual viewers who accidentally stumbled across your account. For musicians, that equates to a greater likelihood of someone visiting your website and buying your music. Subscribers also receive notifications from YouTube when you upload videos.

And fans aren’t the only people who might see you on YouTube, either – you never know when a talent scout is watching. Justin Bieber, Carly Rae Jepsen, and The Weeknd are just a few famous examples of stars who got their start on YouTube.

Deciding on the right move for your music career can be difficult, especially when you’re new to the industry. It’s a good idea to consult with an experienced music promoter from Planetary Group for advice about effective online publicity and promotion – but in the meantime, you might also be interested in reading some of our articles about:

Need Help Promoting Your Album on YouTube? Contact Our Music Promoters in L.A.

At Planetary Group, our team of music promoters has more than 20 years of experience representing rock musicians, hip hop artists, electronic musicians, and eclectic artists. Our expansive client portfolio includes names like David Bowie, Beastie Boys, and Nine Inch Nails, so you can feel confident that your career will be in skilled hands. Depending on your goals as an artist and what stage of your music career you’ve reached, we can help you book gigs, land interviews, get heard on the radio, pursue a record deal, and more.

At Planetary Group, we’ve built our careers on building musicians’ careers. Let us use our knowledge and experience to help you guide you through the tough promo decisions ahead. We offer a wide range of promotion services for independent artists, including online publicity, radio promotion, and event promotion.

We work with artists throughout the United States, including New York City, San Francisco, Boston, Memphis, Atlanta, Nashville, Miami, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Houston, Austin, and more. We also offer international music promotion services. Just give us a call at (323) 952-5050 to get started.