YouTube Advertising For Musicians 2021
September 17, 2021
[We've updated this guide on YouTube Advertising for musicians in 2021. Hope we've helped! Have fun!]
YouTube advertising for musicians can mean the difference between getting music for making music and getting money for making music. You might be an artistic purist who doesn’t care about the cash. Bless you! Still, you’d be able to make a lot more music if you didn’t need to have a job, too.
That’s something every indie artist has in common. We all want to make our art as much as we’d like. If there were a way for us to achieve that without committing heinous crimes or enduring the tortures of the damned, we’d do so, right?
That’s kinda where YouTube advertising for musicians comes in. It’s a big, complicated topic with all sorts of things to talk about, but all that information can be read. It can be understood. And it can be read and understood just below this image, here. Let’s go.
Why Bother with YouTube Advertising as a Musician?
Why should you advertise on YouTube, free or otherwise? Just a few (gigantic) reasons:
- YouTube has 2.2 billion users in 2021, up from a billion users in 2019. It was third of the entire Internet back then. It's about half the Internet now.
- It works in eighty different languages.
- It is the #2 most engaged site online.
- YouTube reaches more people between the ages of 18 and 34 than any TV network.
- 60% of Gen Z said they increased their YouTube usage last year.
- 74-80% of people in the USA use YouTube.
…and the kicker:
- Every video on YouTube's list of Most-Viewed Videos has been a music video since 2009.
And of course the #1 website on the Internet is Google, who owns YouTube. So if a musician were to decide to advertise their music and not use YouTube, what possible reason could there be? There’s no larger reach online than the combined forces of Google and YouTube, and it can be done for free.
So with that sensible but easy question out of the way, let’s focus on all the ways YouTube advertising for musicians is done and how to do it right.
YouTube Advertising for Musicians: Getting Started
Two main branches of YouTube advertising for musicians exist: organic advertising and paid advertising. To publicize your music organically, you pay nothing. To publicize it with paid advertising, well, you have to pay.
The best YouTube advertising incorporates both avenues, but of course not everyone can afford to pay. Many can afford to pay, but don’t have the time to work on their organic marketing.
Dedicated artists will do all the work they can to achieve results, of course, but there’s not so much work to do after you’re all set up. Making the videos takes the most time and effort.
With all the information you need in one convenient place (here) anyone can hack away at these small duties one by one. YouTube advertising for musicians is open to all of us. So let’s get started.
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Organic YouTube Advertising for Musicians: Make It Great and Grow Your Audience
Organic advertising for musicians costs nothing but time and attention. It’s called organic because your exposure grows without throwing money at it — so long as you tend to it regularly, just like plants in a garden. Hence, ‘organic.’
Most of that time and attention comes at the beginning when you’re setting everything up, so don’t feel overwhelmed. Once you’ve got a nice, professional-looking YouTube channel, and you know how to work with your viewers and SEO (more later), anyone can manage.
Which brings us to our first point:
Make Your YouTube Channel Look Professional
When professional stores open up, everything looks nice. Everything looks done. Everything looks deliberate. From the wallpaper, to the way clothes are folded, to the font of the print on price tags, everything looks done on purpose. It’s so important to look nice that stores won’t open until everything looks like somebody thought about it.
That’s how you want your YouTube channel to look, and that’s how you want your YouTube channel to be. We’re going to think a little about everything.
The main things you need to look professional include:
A well-designed banner
If you’re not good with image design, you should try to find a friend who is. You can also hire a designer via Fiverr or try to make one with a little help from Snappa. If you have the skill, know that banners should be 2560 pixels wide by 1440 pixels tall. The safe area for text and logos is 1546×423.
A good profile photo or logo
The photo represents you and is everywhere on your channel. Care about it. It’s easier to do well than the banner is, though, so most artists should have no trouble working it out. If you’d like help, though, sites exist for that, too.
Some sections for organizing the videos you’ll have
Think about the kinds of videos you’re going to have and add sections for them. Google (who owns YouTube) has detailed instructions here, but it’s not hard. For good YouTube advertising for musicians, try these suggestions in order of priority:
- Official Music Videos
- Official Remixes of Your Singles
- Lyric Music Videos
- Live Performances
- Acoustic Performances or Recordings
Behind the Scenes is suggested for all your audience engagement. It really stands for everything you’ll post that isn’t music.
Links to your social media and official website
Every indie musician needs an official website to sell music and merch, and to act as a hub for everything else online. It should go without saying in the 21st century that no kind of advertising really works without social media accounts. If you haven’t linked to your social sites at your official YouTube channel, you haven’t really connected it to anything.
I’ve Got a Professional YouTube Channel. Now What?
YouTube advertising for musicians done organically starts with a professional channel. It sure doesn’t end with one. The following tips will help your channel build a thriving community of viewers and listeners.
Use Quality Thumbnails
You get to choose the thumbnail for your videos. If all the suggested ones look silly, use something else. You can even make a custom one and upload that, if you prefer. Thumbnails should be 1280 pixels wide by 720 pixels tall, minimum width of 640. If you’re no good at that sort of thing, you can use Snappa. ‘Nuff said.
Be Consistent with Your Uploads
You don’t need to upload a new video twice a week or even once a week. You can do it every other week and be fine. The important thing, though, is consistency. Once you have a group of people watching and listening to your music videos (cool!), they’ll anticipate a new one every so often.
If you miss a deadline, they’ll notice and feel disappointment. Do you want to disappoint your fans? Of course not. So don’t. If you upload a quality video every other day, you insane person, make sure to u/l one every other day. Once a week? Every week. Once a month (probably not enough)? At least once every month. The point is, don’t lapse in the rhythm or the audience will lose the groove.
Post During the Right Hours
Your videos reach the most people during peak hours, just like prime-time television. Post at 3am and watch your numbers go down. You can’t blame fans and subscribers for not tuning in if they get alerts at crazy times. During the week, they like to watch videos after work. If you post between noon and 4pm, your video will have been indexed by Google and more people will see it. On weekends, upload between 9-11am so they can watch around lunchtime or in the afternoon.
Many Videos, One Song
As suggested by the sections you’ve created for your channel, you should get at least two and maybe four+ videos out of each of your songs. Release the videos in this order:
- Official song release
- 2-4 wks later, lyric video (official song with lyrics on the screen)
- Official music video
- Collaborations, acoustic versions, acapella versions, remixes, etc.
You want as much content on your channel as possible, so each of these gives you added punch for a single song. Not bad, right?
Oh, and by the way, you can totally produce three or four vids in a weekend using Octiive's new partnership with Rotor. It's super fun, super easy, makes great-looking videos, and at 25 bucks each, they're way affordable, too. We've even got a whole walkthrough on how to do it right here. So no excuses -- get started!
Use Lots of SEO
“What the heck is SEO? Sounds business-y.”
Well, it is, kinda. SEO is Search-Engine Optimization. It’s a ten-dollar word that really means making titles matching what your audience will search for. Those searches are ‘keywords’ or ‘search terms.’
Some keywords have lots of competition. If you try to get people to your site with the search term Michael Jackson, it won’t work because ‘Michael Jackson’ is already everywhere on YouTube. If you try to get people to your site with the keywords spraypaint lumberyard taxi salad, there’s no competition at all. But of course nobody’s ever going to search that.
What’s your audience into? Put those terms into YouTube searches. If nothing comes up, you’re golden. Title your videos that. Also use that in the description of the video. Make tags for it under the video, too. And if you’d like help finding good SEO terms, you can get it from KParser, TubeBuddy, or other free YouTube SEO aids online.
Oh, and you might’ve noticed that it’d really help if your actual song titles matched SEO terms. Yup. If your newest official video is titled “Love Song,” “Let’s Rock,” or “American Dream,” nobody can find it by the title. A gadillion of those are on YouTube already. Consider a name change, even if you don’t change the lyrics of your song. It’s legal. We won’t tell.
Pay Attention to Trends
Trends are just trends. Fads. Whatever’s cool this month. They’re nature’s SEO terms. Trends can make you famous overnight if you keep your eyes open.
Have you noticed a ton of people wearing tie-dyed skirts all of a sudden? Write a decent song and call it “Tie-Dyed Skirts.” Make it relevant to the trend, but it doesn’t need to literally be all about tie-dyed skirts. You’d be surprised how much creative room you can retain while taking advantage of a trend. Like, what if yo-yos were to come in style next week? You could make a song called “Yo-Yos Are Back in Style” and write it about anything from economics to fashionable goofy people. Then when people search for yo-yos, there’s a chance for your music video to pop up. That’s how you build an audience.
Build a Network with Other Musicians on YouTube
Find other musicians playing your style of music who take their YouTube channel seriously. Talk with them and make friends with them. Make comments on their channel and on their videos. Find them on their social media (which should be linked on their channel, right?) and hit them up there. Besides learning from other YouTubers in music, you’ll make yourself better known among people who hang out on YouTube. Some of them will follow you.
What you’re really aiming for, though, is to trade traffic with these YouTubers. If you can get them to agree to trade videos with you, you’ve struck gold. So long as you both have great music the other person’s audience will like, you can each make a video, trade it behind the scenes, and post it to the other person’s channel.
Advertise on all your social media that you’ve got a guest on your Official YouTube Channel. Your audience goes to see their channel, their audience comes to see yours. Both of you get a few new members at the time, and both of you will continue to get new members from one another in the future. Both of you win. Hooray!
Network with Similar YouTube Channels, Too
Just like networking with other musicians on YouTube, it’s a great idea to search out channels with an interest in your kind of music. They’re like Spotify curators. If you play reggae, find a channel playing roots, dancehall, or other kinds of reggae music. Reach out to whoever runs that channel. Build a relationship with them.
See if they’re open to posting a link to your channel somewhere. Put lots of comments in the threads of their videos. See if they’ll host one of your videos. Many will take a little money to upload one of your videos to their channel. If it’s a popular channel, that’s really good exposure. If they like your music, they may do it for free. Chances are there are channels out there who’d love to meet you and trade traffic. All you’ve got to do is find them.
Watch Your Analytics
Analytics are data you can analyze through a special section of YouTube. Just click your profile picture and go to Creator Studio. Select Analytics in the left menu. Then just choose the report you’d like to view.
Since YouTube is powered by Google Analytics, it can graph your data any way you prefer: pies, bars, charts, whatever. And what can it tell you about your audience? Oh, my — like, everything. With YouTube Analytics, you can:
- Understand watch time
- Keep an eye on your real-time report
- Identify your traffic sources
- Determine your audience demographics
- Pay attention to playback locations
- Analyse audience retention
- Track your subscriber rate
- Study social shares
- Still more (see Metrics, below)
So make sure you’re taking what you can from all these numbers. If you follow all the suggestions in this post, they should go up, and up, and… The sky’s the limit.
[Now, this next section is on paid YouTube advertisements and how to use them. Even if you decide to skip the next section, don’t miss the bottom chapter on Metrics and Audience Engagement. They’re relevant to your YouTube advertising whether you pay for ads or not.]
Paid YouTube Advertising for Musicians: Why You Might + How You Can
Before even considering paying for YouTube ads, is there any evidence it works? Um, yeah, some.
BrandWatch says viewers who saw a YouTube TrueView ad (more on that later) were 23 times more likely to visit or subscribe to a brand channel. According to Google’s public numbers, the number of YouTube channels earning $100,000+ annually grows more than 40% every year, and the number of channels earning $10,000+ per year grows more than 50% every year.
So, yeah, more people earn more money on YouTube all the time, which isn’t surprising. After all, BrandWatch also found that viewers exposed to TrueView ads who don’t even finish the ad are still 10 times more likely to visit or subscribe. And when brands use TrueView, views of their old content jumps by up to 500% after they post new videos, too.
With numbers like these, it’s hard to shrug off. But is giving it a shot affordable? What’s it all about? Let’s see.
Kinds of Paid YouTube Video Ads
YouTube video ads come in three flavors:
- TrueView ads
- Non-skippable ads
- Bumper ads
You’ve seen each one on YouTube before, so they’ll all be familiar. You just need to decide which might be best for you.
TrueView ads are those things you always see which say “Skip in 5… 4… 3…” You can use them to advertise your music with snippets of official videos, behind-the-scenes takes, live bits, direct communication from you, or really anything.
They’re affordable in the sense that there’s very little chance of you not getting what you pay for. In a magazine, newspaper, radio or TV spot, you only buy the guarantee that your ad gets printed or played. But TrueView ads only charge you if the ad has played for 30 seconds or longer, if it has completed, or if the viewer has clicked on it to go to your site. TrueView ads can be skipped after five seconds, so you’re never going to waste money on people who have zero interest in your music.
What’s more, Google uses search history to ensure that people who search for things relevant to your usual audience are most likely to see your ad. You’re literally combining the powers of the two most popular websites on the Internet to advertise your music.
TrueView ads can be in-stream banners which play during YouTube videos with a little clickable window for your site. They can also be a “Discovery” ad, which are those recommended videos you see on the YouTube home page or as related videos in your searches..
Non-skippable ads annoy everyone, so they’re already a doubtful way to go for independent musicians. But the killer is the cost. Non-skip ad spots must be bid for. That means you need to out-spend competition to even be able to choose non-skip.
And the bidding starts in “how much per thousand clicks” terms, which means you’re talking about a thousand cash units or more — just to start bidding. In other words, a thousand dollars in any currency is probably a losing bid. If you’ve got that kind of capital, non-skip might be the way to go. But chances are most indie musicians will opt for the TrueView ads.
Bumper ads are also non-skippable, you also need to bid on them, and you need to bid on a thousand-clicks basis for them, too. They’re less obnoxious than the other non-skippables because they’re only six seconds long and show up at the tail end of videos. Nevertheless, since we’re talking thousands again ($!), yeah, most indie artists will go for the TrueView ads.
How to Set Up a YouTube Ad
Making the video is largely up to you. YouTube does have policies like no nudity, hate, bullying, harassment, gore, explicit violence and such, but outside that you can upload pretty much anything for your ad video.
Upload that, and then it’s time to make your campaign! Exciting!
To Set Up Your YouTube Ad:
- Main toolbar > Campaigns
- Click +Campaign > New Campaign
- Campaign type: Video
- Pick a campaign goal and subtype
- Give your campaign a name
- Set your budget (how much you’re going to spend)
- Input the places you’d like your ad to show and not show
- Input the language of your audience
- Name your ad group (that’s SEO keywords! See above)
- Name your bid amount
- Name your target audience
Who’s My Audience?
Use your YouTube Analytics to find out everything you need to know about your audience.
Then you just need to plug in your information, which includes:
Age, income, gender identity, etc. You can do even better if you hook up the detailed demos, though, like education, single/married, owner/renter, kids/no kids. The more you whittle these down, the more specifically your ad can speak to your audience. As you can see, it makes sense to especially target certain audience members, then certain others. You have to make more ads (and pay for more ads) but they’re more effective.
These have fancy names, but they’re pretty obvious. Affinity audiences are people who like certain things, like fast cars or superheroes. Custom affinities are more specialized, like Ferrari and Batman. Life events is targeting by things people do, like graduate, have kids, get married, or whatever. In-market audiences looks for people searching for things close to your music. And finally, Custom intent audiences means going after people who have been searching a lot for something like your music and are just about ready to buy some.
This is mostly for independent musicians with a pretty busy YouTube channel already. With this option you can target people if they’ve watched videos on your channel or even just certain ones.
You can place your ad on specific apps, sites, channels, or videos. If you do this, though, make sure you watch the performance of these ads in your Google Ads Analytics so you can axe the ones which don’t do very well.
You’re picking the topics of your ads so they get placed in relevant spots.
See the above SEO section. This is important!
This is important if you want to narrow down your audience by how they watch. Only want mobile phone people? YouTube can do that. Just desktop users? No problem.
It’s Go Time!
You’ve uploaded your ad and you’ve described your audience. Now it’s time to show it to them.
- Choose the video you’ve uploaded for your campaign
- Pick In-Stream or Discovery for your TrueView ad
- Save > Continue
And that’s it! You’re rolling.
If you want a bumper ad, it’s the same thing — just choose bumper instead of In-Stream/Discovery.
But there are also non-video ads on YouTube. Let’s look at those.
YouTube Advertising for Musicians with Paid Non-Videos
Aside from video ads, YouTube also lets you choose from overlay ads, display ads and sponsored cards. You can use these options to make your video ads more interactive, too.
These are those super-common banners you see at the bottom of YouTube videos. They have “call to action” print on them to get your audience clicking to your website, album or merch.
These ads pop up over a viewer’s suggestions list. You can manage them in Google Ads and hook them up with Display Network for added reach.
Cards, Sponsored Cards
You can set these up to say “Get my album here!” and have them pop up while people are seeing your video. They don’t expand to full size unless viewers click on them, so you know everyone who sees them is interested. Much less annoying than some of the other options.
Add Cards to Your Videos Like This:
- Your YouTube channel > Creator Studio
- Video Manager, select a video
- Edit > Cards > Add Card
- Select Video or Playlist if you’re making an ad for a video or playlist on your channel. Select Link to send your viewers to your official music website.
- Choose where/when people see it during your video.
And that’s it! If you need specs for making your video ads and such, they’re all over the Internet and change from time to time, but as of time of writing, you can find them here.
Metrics for Checking Ad and Video Performance
These are your analytics. You can see them inside YouTube Analytics in your YouTube Studio. Just log in there and click analytics beneath your channel.
This will bring you to your dashboard. It’ll show you the total view time for your channel, top videos and latest views. Pick any one video and you’ll learn a lot more, including:
- Playback Locations
- Traffic Sources
- Device Type
- Audience Retention (who leaves the video after how long)
- Likes and Dislikes
- Playlist (how many add you to a playlist)
- Number of Shares
- and Cards (if you’re using them as explained above)
Even if you follow all of the advice in this long post, you’re still not doing what you should for good YouTube advertising for musicians if you don’t keep track of all these things in your Analytics. If you’re a real music marketing master, you’ll also go outside YouTube itself and hook up your YouTube channel to Google Analytics.
“Wait, but isn’t YouTube Google?”
Yeah, but not everything Google Analytics does is specific to YouTube. You can get added functionality and information by linking them. Follow KlipFolio’s instructions here to do so, and you’ll get the ability to:
- See which channels drive traffic to your own
- Tell how many times people visit your channel
- Figure out how long they take to return
- Tie subscriptions to sources YouTube doesn’t track
With all this information at your disposal, you can pinpoint your target audience down to exactly the sort of listener you want to reach. You can make a music video specifically for that person and make it a YouTube ad, or simply post it knowing it’s reaching your target. Either way it’s more effective.
If you don’t use all this data when you think about your next music video, it’s got to be because you just don’t have time. Because clearly it’s a good idea to do so.
Audience Engagement and YouTube for Artists
Audience engagement is more than just hanging out in your channel and replying to comments. You should do that, of course, but make sure you’re aware of YouTube for Artists and Official Artist Channels. If you look up YouTube for Artists, Google will usher you towards their new Artist Channels platform, so we’ll just talk about that.
Your Official Artist Channel is a hub for everything you have on YouTube across all your channels. It automagically places your music catalog on new shelves: music videos, songs, albums and whatnot. All your songs will go into an Album section. Your Official Music Videos go into a playlist. You can’t edit these playlists because YouTube wants all the music to look the same across the whole site. It’s like the local library being in alphabetical order on every shelf.
You can put a section you’d like to promote above all the locked stuff you can’t control, though. That’s like your showcase. There’s a dedicated promo shelf and a featured video slot.
If your fans search for you in YouTube, it’ll send them to your Official Artist Channel via a watch card on the right side of the screen. (See above for a description of watch cards).
YouTube expects you to engage your fans specifically through this channel. If you do so, it’ll help you reap the benefits by plugging in your metrics (which you’re watching, right?) and by protecting your artistic property via verification.
How get? From YouTube, itself:
How to get an Official Artist Channel
To be eligible for an Official Artist Channel, make sure you already have a YouTube channel that you own and operate and have at least 3 official music videos on YouTube delivered from a music distribution partner.
This is all still new as of Q3 2019, so expect it to morph plenty after people dig into it.
YouTube Advertising for Musicians Is for Every Indie Artist
Whether you want to buy ads or market your music for free, there’s some YouTube advertising for musicians regardless. It’s true, there’s a lot to learn, but if you’ve read everything to this point, there’s kinda not much more to it.
Every aspiring musician needs to market themselves. That’s because being a great musician isn’t enough. For better or worse, too many other artists promote themselves with advertising for that to be possible. The next Justin Bieber might be out there somewhere, but unless they’re on their advertising, nobody’s likely to hear them.
But that’s OK. There are free options, paid options, easy options and complex options — something for everybody. So find what’s perfect for you, indie artist, and let YouTube advertising do its job. It does it well.