Songwriting & Music Publishing

YouTube Basics for Songwriters, Producers: How to get paid and protect your work

Carl LeGrett, the Head of A&R and Music Publishing at Create Music Group, breaks down the basics on how to get paid on YouTube and protect your work at the same time.

By Carl LeGrett of Create Music Group

In my opinion, YouTube drives more music discovery than any other DSP like Spotify or Apple Music.

YouTube is also the place where music creators go for inspiration or to find the latest beats. That’s why as a producer/songwriter who’s just starting out it’s important to set yourself up for success on the platform. By doing a few simple things, you can increase the potential of making real money off YouTube and protecting your music and copyrights over the long term.

The Basics

Anyone can start making money on YouTube once they have 1,000 subscribers or hit $4,000 of watch time. To effectively monetize your content, you need to understand that music content on YouTube is made up of three kinds of assets:

  • Web Assets – this is music you simply upload to YouTube yourself. Web assets don’t necessarily have information about the copyright holder.
  • Recording Assets – this is music that you distribute to YouTube via an independent distributor like DistroKid or CD Baby. These assets have information about who owns the copyrights on the song or beat.
  • Music Video Assets – this is a music video that is distributed to YouTube via xxxxx. This asset also has information about the copyright holder.

Web Assets can be a blessing and a curse. They are the only way to monetize on YouTube without partnering with a third-party distributor or YouTube monetization company. However, the problem with Web Assets is that it gives others access to post your work and play it on their channels without paying you for it.

For that reason, in my mind, the biggest mistake that most producers make is not distributing their work. They upload a cool new beat that someone else can take and make into their own song. Because they didn’t officially distribute their material, it’s not identifiable through YouTube’s Content ID system. As a producer, you basically have little recourse to protect your material if you upload your track as a web asset.

However, everything changes once you officially distribute your content – and that can be a beat, a song, whatever. Now the music is recognized via Content ID, so if someone takes your track, you can decide to make a claim on their song. (You may not always want to do this, but more on that in a minute). Distributing your content via a third party company also ensures that you’ll get paid if your track goes viral on YouTube and other people use your track in their videos. User Generated Content is where the real money is.

Once you’ve distributed your track on YouTube, it’s easy to check if it’s being credited and monetized properly. Anybody can click the description on any Youtube video and go to the bottom and see who the track belongs to.

Dealing With Theft

What do you do if you see that someone else takes your beat and is using it in their own YouTube video? The Platform’s Content ID system is robust and will hopefully identify the track. As a producer, if a claim is made against your channel – you can login to your YouTube Studio account and submit a counter to the claim. Once the counter is submitted, all future revenue is held in an escrow account until the dispute is resolved.

But what if someone takes your beat and it blows up? It may behoove you to wait to claim it. If a track is on the rise on YouTube – and things move very, very quickly on the platform, filing a claim might stop it dead in its tracks. It may be a better strategy to watch that track climb the charts and rack up plays because if the track becomes a bonafide hit, as a copyright holder, you’ll have a lot more leverage to make a deal with what in all likelihood is now becoming a track on a major label.

It’s a tough world out there, especially for up-and-coming music creators. But if you do a few simple things, and most importantly consider distributing your content via a third party, you’ll set yourself up for success in the future.

Carl LeGrett runs music publishing for Create Music Group, one of the fastest growing music and media companies in the world.  He regularly collects more than $1 million a month on behalf of Create clients from YouTube alone. He’s collected on behalf of songwriters/producers behind such tracks as Polo G’s Billboard Hot 100 #1 “RAPSTAR,” French Montana’s 9x Platinum Single “Unforgettable,” and Rod Wave’s “Heart On Ice.”

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