Top Tips For Using YouTube To Make Money & Build A Fanbase

image from www.google.com[Updated] Alex Curtis of the Creators' Freedom Project recently wrote about the business aspects of Nicki Bluhm and The Gramblers' viral video cover of Hall & Oates I Can't Go For That.  Michele Augis added additional details from her dual role as Topspin employee and Nicki Bluhm team member. The resulting post is full of great information for musicians who want to "turn a YouTube hit into Dollars and Fans" and the lessons learned are useful for anyone posting music videos on YouTube – covers or originals.

I was previously introduced to the Nicki Bluhm and The Gramblers video by a friend via Facebook. It's one of a whole series the band has recorded while driving in their van. Since I'd already written about the use of cover songs on YouTube by Pomplamoose, Karmin and 2CELLOS and Walk Off The Earth, I felt I'd pretty much covered what I had to say. So I'm happy to see folks digging in and sharing insider info on this topic.

Nicki Bluhm and The Gramblers Cover I Can't Go For That

The initial post about Nicki Bluhm and The Gramblers was written by Alex Curtis of the Creators' Freedom Project which is focused on ways to "understand the needs of artists, highlight and experiment with replicate-able models that help independent artists make a living from their creativity." Michele Augis excerpted the majority of the post for her expanded version from which I gathered the following top tips.

1) Be prepared for success. Have a call to action with your video whether that's visiting your website or trading an email for a free download.  Be sure to prepare your site for new visitors.

2) Assume that 1% of the people who view your video will respond to that call to action. You may have a higher or lower response but understanding the 1% rule will help keep your expectations in line with the reality observed by others.

3) Keep your older videos available. They become part of your back catalog that can continue to generate revenue and marketing response.

4) Join the YouTube Partner Program and become familiar with all the options available to Creators and such resources as the Creators Playbook. Things keep changing and you now simply opt-in your channel.

5) Be sure to use trackable links from a free service such as bitly so you have stats to monitor responses.

6) Unless you want to focus your career on cover songs, don't forget to feature your original music in relationship to the cover song via links and calls to action.

Apparently Nicki Bluhm and The Gramblers have been able to build on all this attention and consider the use of cover songs on YouTube a big success beyond ad revenues and mailing list additions. But even if you're not doing cover songs, the above tips are almost all worth considering to maximize your use of YouTube.

Check the post on Topspin for further context and a variety of relevant graphics.


Hypebot Features Writer Clyde Smith blogs about business at Flux Research: Business & Revenue Models and about dance at All World Dance: News. To suggest topics for Hypebot, contact: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.

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  1. Thanks so much to Clyde and Hypebot for the great summary of our post. To clarify, my name is Michele Augis and I am on the Marketing team at Topspin, as well as handling Digital Marketing for Nicki Bluhm over the recent months. And another huge thanks for Alex’s inspiring data-drill-down.
    This is a real win for independent artists everywhere, from my perspective. To the artists: KEEP MAKING GREAT ART! To the artists’ teams: stay committed and positive. Anything really is possible these days. Cheers!
    P.S. Yes, it is indeed Gramblers vs. Gamblers : )

  2. Consider me bugged.
    Sorry! I like to think it was auto-correct that turned Gramblers into Gamblers, but it doesn’t seem to be auto-correcting now, so it was probably my mistake!
    Thanks Clyde for reposting! And thanks to Nicki and the Gramblers for the great Van Sessions, and allowing those covers to let us into your original music.

  3. I only mentioned you to take the heat off me! I was working off Michele’s post so I can only blame myself!
    Actually, it was the auto-correct mechanism in our brains that got us.
    Take a name that is unfamiliar and idiosyncratic but looks closely like an incredibly familiar word and that’s going to happen.
    Check out this search:
    It’s happened many times before and will happen many times in the future.

  4. You’ll see some of my comments accompanying the article.
    I continue to have a problem with the lack of information about YouTube’s policies on song copyrights and ad money payouts whenever an article pops up recommending doing cover songs as a career strategy.
    It’s not that I don’t think doing cover songs works. I know that it does. But performers haven’t been specifically told under what circumstances their videos might trigger warnings/takedown notices.
    And I think this is intentional. It’s good business for YouTube to encourage performers to upload cover song videos, but YouTube can’t overstep its legal bounds. It has put in place ContentID so that copyright holders can tell YouTube in advance whether to issue notices or leave up the videos and add ads. So in its way, YouTube is streamlining music licensing and I think everyone benefits.
    In my comments, I was told that YouTube now has a deal with music publishers so there is less concern in doing cover songs. That hasn’t ever been said by YouTube to musicians, but upon checking, I see that publishers can enter into an agreement with YouTube to collect ad money, so I suppose the assumption is to be that most song publishers have okayed the use of their songs this way and performers no longer need to worry about obtaining synch licenses for YouTube videos. However, there’s never been, to my knowledge, any actual statement from YouTube about this.
    An additional concern to me is that the partnership agreement is still unclear. It is my interpretation that if you do a cover song, whatever ad money generated by the video will be split between YouTube and the songwriter/publisher rather than the performer who uploaded the video. If there is other information clarifying this, I’d love to see it.

  5. Yes, you are not the first, nor will you be the last… you are both out of the hot seat. Thanks for making the fix(es)!

  6. When Google bought youtube they had a huge escrow for all the copyright lawsuits that might happen. I’m pretty sure that never amounted to much if anything at all. However if you are going to cover a song and post it to youtube there are ways to do that properly check out http://rightsflow.com/ and limelight for tons of information on licensing. Another player in micro licensing information, another site to check out would be rumblefish.com who helps artists collect royalties on youtube. There’s one more I’m not thinking of now but it’s a hot topic these days!

  7. When I go to RightsFlow, it takes me to Limelight, which provides mechanical licenses, which you have always been able to do via Harry Fox.
    I’m not sure RightsFlow/Limelight provides a synch license. What I am always trying to pin down is whether a performer doing a cover song needs one for a YouTube video. I’m pretty sure virtually no performer doing a cover song on YouTube has bothered to obtain one, but I’d like to be able to share whether or not they will run into any problems if they don’t have one.
    Very few have, but occasionally in the past a performer has gotten a notice from YouTube that they can’t do that song. That’s a worry in that notices like that count against the number of warnings they can get before their YouTube account is disabled and they lose all their videos and subscribers.
    If people are going to recommend to performers that one way to boost their careers is to perform cover songs on YouTube, I think it is good to let them know if they run any risk of YouTube ultimately disabling their accounts. It has happened.

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