Marketing Your Music on YouTube
At almost 15-years old, YouTube is one of the oldest – and most feature-filled – social media sites out there … even though many artists still don’t think of using it to promote their music in the same way they would use Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. So … why are so many artists still in the dark about all they can do on this platform?
One of the biggest mistakes we see musicians make on YouTube is focusing on amassing a huge number of video views instead of encouraging friendly fan interaction. (Actually, this mistake is second, after “spending thousands of dollars on a slick video and being surprised when it doesn’t go viral just because they put it up on their channel.”)
Reality check: More than 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute, with five billion videos watched on the platform every single day. As people’s attention continues to be pulled in every direction from “Dog and Cat Compilation #5,000,000” to the 11,000th “Despacito” remix, the quality of the engagement with your content is becoming far more important than the number of followers you have, not only on YouTube but on every other social platform.
Below are a collection of best practices for building a search-friendly, robust YouTube channel that will help you organically grow an audience of engaged fans.
First, here are some basic YouTube habits and a few “bells and whistles” to spruce up your channel that you can do for free … right now:
Encourage subscribers and favorites by helping them help you. Ask people (nicely and in a way that reflects your specific personality) to subscribe your channel and also “favorite” the videos they like. Also, make sure your directives in posts about your channel on Facebook and other platforms are clear and include the actual word “subscribe.” With free image-and-file-hosting sites like GIPHY that help you make eye-catching animated graphics with minimal design skills, showing people where and how to push the many “follow,” “subscribe,” “favorite,” “love” and “like” buttons they see online, giving instructions in creative ways is even easier and will add a special touch.
Respond to comments. Fans of your work love it when you pay attention to them, no matter where you are in your career. It’s unnecessary to sit at your computer all day writing gushing love letters, but pick a few comments every now and then and leave some thoughtful responses. (Though if you can, resist feeding the trolls!)
Post quality videos regularly … including live video. Note that “quality” does not mean “expensive”/“imagined, directed and filmed by Scorsese.” Posting one new piece of content weekly that is thoughtfully rendered – even just a few minutes of you working out a new song or doing an impromptu live set somewhere with decent lighting and sound filmed with your or a friend’s steady phone camera – will keep subscribers interested and excited for more. Live videos are critical, as they convey your performance energy/give people an idea of exactly what to expect at a show … which for artists can eventually become a key source of revenue – arguably more important than those .007-cents rolling in from Spotify.
Friend other bands and artists. You can send out friend requests on YouTube? Yes, you can. Friend some bands and artists in your genre and style and share fans … and help you personally reach out to others who might want to collaborate on shows or co-writing. Start locally/with people you actually know, then branch out as you go/grow.
Make use of hashtags. Start using the hashtag feature on YouTube to both organize your videos within your channel and make your videos more searchable. Follow the same rules you would on Instagram or Twitter (except resist making up your own hashtags for comedy purposes).
Add cards to your top videos. YouTube somewhat quietly phased out its “annotations” feature and replaced it with cards/end screens in early 2019. Providing a “Call to Action” on YouTube (and any other channel!) is important as it encourages your fans to watch more videos, listen to more music, learn more about you and actively invest in your career. Add cards to your Top 10 (or Top 5, Top 2, if you’re just starting out) most-watched videos to give fans more easy opportunities to visit your website, Spotify channel, online store, Bandsintown page and other places where they can get to know you and love you … and buy music, products and tickets. More details here: https://creatoracademy.youtube.com/page/lesson/cards
And if you want to get a little fancy, here are some new-ish YouTube social features that many musicians are still not using …
YouTube Stories and YouTube Live. YouTube jumped on the “Stories” and “Live” bandwagons a little while ago, but many artists are still not using these features, even if they have access. (Note: Stories is still in beta, so it is still not available to all, but worth learning, as it soon will be.) Stories are a great way to keep people’s eyes on your channel, as they offer fans content with a limited viewing window. If you consistently post exclusive, engaging Stories on YouTube (and other channels as well!), you will encourage fans to check in with you often. Going “Live” with Q&A’s, tours of venues or rehearsal spaces or cities on your tour can also be an exciting addition to your online marketing strategy. These features are also a great way to offer casual, impromptu content that gives further insight into your personality. Check out more (and see if you are eligible), here: https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/7568166?hl=en
YouTube Community. YouTube’s “Community” section is available to all artists with 1,000 subscribers or more and is a rolling news feed (similar to the Facebook news feed) that allows you to post regular content to engage with your community and encourage comments and interaction between fans. You can post links to past videos on your channel, gifs, status message updates, photos, website links, links to tour dates and more. Adding it in to your posting routine – even if you are just copying content and messaging going up on your other channel – helps expand your reach and further connect all your efforts across platforms. Read more here: https://creatoracademy.youtube.com/page/lesson/community-tab
YouTube Premieres. YouTube premieres are another great way to keep audiences glued to your channel … and encourage them to share their love of your music. This feature lets you and your fans experience brand-new content together and create a buzzy “red carpet” atmosphere around your most polished or important content, such as official music videos, lyric videos or band EPKs. A shareable watch page counts down to the official premiere date and time in the days prior and allows fans to discuss their excitement with each other and you in real time. More details here: https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/9080341?hl=en
You don’t need to invent the next big gimmick for YouTube stardom in order to build a compelling channel that will convey personality and showcase your art. Use some or all of the above ideas to explore some new avenues and expand your reach … and as always, reach out to us for help if you need extra support managing YouTube or any aspect of your online marketing strategy.