How to Earn ASCAP Royalties for Your Music on YouTube

Digital has transformed the way we listen to music, and it’s more important than ever to have your music available on YouTube. Fortunately, ASCAP can pay royalties for many different types of YouTube performances. Let’s take a look at how ASCAP royalties work for YouTube performances, and the steps you should take to get paid.

YouTube's Content ID System

There are literally billions of videos on YouTube, with 300 hours of new videos uploaded every minute. Locating 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, not the underlying work. YouTube searches for fingerprinted music in videos uploaded by you or anyone else. It can also identify cover songs, even when the video doesn't include the original fingerprinted sound recording. YouTube’s algorithm detects melodies that are similar to the reference track in Content ID.

When a match is detected, a claim is automatically made on behalf of the copyright owners that YouTube knows about—typically record labels and music publishers, or their designated agents (including PROs like ASCAP).

+Find out more about how YouTube’s Content ID works

Getting Your Music into Content ID

Content ID is the basis of how ASCAP gets you paid for YouTube performances of your music, so it’s super-important to make sure that recordings of music that you wrote make their way into the system. There are two main ways to do that:

  • If you work with a record label, your label should be supplying your recordings directly to YouTube. The same goes for other artists’ recordings of your music — the label or master owner can supply the files to YouTube.
  • If you don’t work with a label, an approved distributor can also submit music to YouTube for Content ID.

To-do List

  1. Register your titles with ASCAP by logging into Member Access (
  2. Upload videos that feature your music to YouTube
  3. Make sure your label or distributor sends recordings of your music to YouTube to ingest into their Content ID system
  4. If your music is featured in films & TV shows, make sure ASCAP has the proper cue sheets on file
  5. Share and promote your videos to increase your revenue

Once your audio files are ingested by Content ID, YouTube uses them as reference tracks to identify performances of your music across the platform.

From YouTube Data to ASCAP Royalties

YouTube sends us regular data about the videos that feature music identified by Content ID. According to the terms of our multi-year agreement with YouTube, ASCAP then compares YouTube’s data with registrations in our system, and sends any matches back to YouTube as “claims” on behalf of our writer and publisher members.


Based on those claims, YouTube will send us license fees. ASCAP then distributes them as royalties to our members according to our standard distribution schedule.

Music in A/V Programs

For music in A/V content available on YouTube’s video-on-demand services, ASCAP gets a data file from YouTube that indicates the program titles, rental price point and number of transactions that took place. We will compare that data with cue sheets we have on file, and when we match it to a program with ASCAP music in it, we’ll distribute royalties per our normal payment rules.

For films, TV series and other A/V content not included in YouTube’s video-on-demand services, YouTube is unable to provide us with specific performance information. Instead, we use previously matched broadcast and cable TV performance data from the performance period prior to the distribution in question as a proxy.

A Note About Territories

Keep in mind, the data we get from YouTube only reflects performances that take place inside the US and US territories. That means that your domestic ASCAP statements may not reflect the total number of viewers that have seen videos containing your music. That said, most PROs around the world have similar types of deals with YouTube. So if your videos receive views outside the US, you may see additional YouTube performances reflected in your ASCAP international statements, as well.

By taking the steps above, you’re setting yourself up to maximize the ASCAP performance royalties you’re earning from YouTube views. Happy creating!

+Read more about Copyright and rights management on YouTube