How to Make Money with Your Music on YouTube

Jim Koch, ASCAP Member Services  •  June 22, 2015

Digital has transformed the way we listen to music. These days it's more important than ever to have your music available on YouTube. Ever wondered whether ASCAP pays royalties for YouTube performances? The good news is YES, we do. Even better: ASCAP royalties are just one of two income streams available when your music is played on YouTube. Let's take a closer look at these two revenue streams and the steps you should take to get paid.

YouTube's Content ID System

There are literally billions of videos on YouTube, with more uploaded every second. Locating your performances can be like finding a few needles in a massive digital haystack. To make the search a little easier, YouTube uses a detection system called Content ID.

Content ID makes digital "fingerprints" of sound recordings-and to be clear, that's the actual recording of your music, not the underlying work. YouTube searches for your fingerprinted music in videos uploaded by you or anyone else. When a match is detected, they send notices to all of the copyright owners they know about--typically record labels and music publishers, or their designated agents. The copyright owners then have a choice:

  • Allow YouTube to place ads on the video in exchange for part of the ad revenue
  • Let YouTube display the video without ads
  • Instruct YouTube to remove the video

The YouTube Partner Program

One easy, effective way for you to take advantage of Content ID and collect ad revenue is to work with a YouTube Partner service such as AdRev, Exploration, ONErpm or Songtrust. A YouTube Partner service takes the sound recordings that you give them and submits them to YouTube for Content ID. They will then place claims on videos that use your music, and send you usage statistics as well as your share of the ad revenue.

To-do List

  1. Register your titles with ASCAP by logging into Member Access (members.ascap.com)
  2. Upload videos that feature your music to YouTube
  3. Sign up with a YouTube Partner service to get your music onto YouTube's radar and monetize videos that use your work
  4. Promote your videos to increase your potential earnings from both ad revenue and ASCAP

Your partner service can also identify covers of your music, even when the video doesn't include a fingerprinted sound recording. They'll do keyword searches to find new versions of your music, and report them to YouTube on your behalf.

Most YouTube Partner services offer free registration. In exchange for their services, most take a portion of the ad revenue, typically between 15% and 30%. There are no requirements other than that you own the rights to the music and have a clean history with YouTube.

ASCAP Performance Royalties

Once you've joined a YouTube Partner service, you're in a good position to earn ad revenue from YouTube video plays. You've also taken an essential step toward earning performance royalties from ASCAP.

Here's how it works. Once YouTube has received claims on videos that use ASCAP music, they send us quarterly performance data about those videos. We then automatically process this data with our sophisticated matching systems, and pay the entitled writers and publishers.

For music that doesn't match automatically, ASCAP will manually match and pay royalties for works that have earned over one ASCAP credit in YouTube performances [click here to find out how we calculate credits]. We also manually match and pay royalties on a sample of the remaining songs that weren't auto-matched.

Two important notes: First, the data we get from YouTube only includes views from within the US. That means the number of views on your play counter may be higher than the data ASCAP receives, since your counter may include performances from around the world. Second, as of now, YouTube Content ID doesn't automatically detect or give you a way to claim uses of your music that last less than 30 seconds. However, you or your partner service can still find such uses and submit claims manually.

By taking the steps above, you can earn money from two sources: ad revenue from your YouTube Partner service and performance royalties from ASCAP. Not bad!