The Internet has simultaneously killed CD sales and helped expose musicians to a much wider audience. The problem has been figuring out how to get those online fans to pay up. A couple weeks ago, musicians got a new tool to help monetize their online presence and potentially gain the financial freedom to work independently.
On March 16, YouTube announced the launch of its Musicians Wanted program, allowing musicians to apply for the opportunity to enter a revenue-sharing model with the video-hosting site. In other words, musicians could actually earn money from the videos they upload based on how many views they generate. Though the program is just weeks old, YouTube says it’s already gotten more than 1,000 applicants — and those who’ve been approved so far range from the lone-girl/guy-in-bedroom-with-guitar to viral-video gurus OK Go (who left their major label because it didn’t allow their hugely popular videos to be embedded on other sites).
Meanwhile, some local musicians who have already been part of the YouTube partnership program say it’s an untapped resource that more independent artists should take advantage of. San Mateo-based video/audio masher Mike Relm has been a YouTube partner since 2008. Video is already an integral part of what Relm does musically, but the YouTube partnership has encouraged him to take it even more seriously. “I’m definitely doing a lot more videos,” he said. “In 2007, I put up three a year. More people are listening to my stuff on YouTube than they are on my web site — why don’t I just sort of focus on this?”
Most of his videos are riffs on pop culture or current events — in which he cleverly mashes up and mixes his own music with the video. His latest uploads include a remix of the Cop Out and Iron Man II trailers — both of which have garnered tens of thousands of views. Contrary to what some may think, Relm says making videos haven’t taken him away from his music — in fact, he says he’s “making more music than I ever have in my life.”
While Relm wouldn’t disclose just how much he’s making from his videos (against YouTube policy), he said, “It definitely works. I’m not even like a super-duper popular artist. Bands definitely need to take advantage of this.”
Local singer-songwriter Goh Nakamura has also been a YouTube partner since 2008 ever since the site featured his video that garnered a million views. Though he says he’s not really making any money off the videos because he’s not “a good video blogger,” he said “it definitely has potential for benefits. … Hopefully I’ll get my act together soon.” Although he also acknowledged that “making consistent videos of quality is a full-time job in itself.”
To apply for Musicians Wanted, bands should submit an application here. While there are no hard-and-fast rules for qualification, YouTube’s music community marketing manager Michele Flannery says “you have to be someone who’s engaged” and “will continue to do so.” “What we’re trying to accomplish here is give applicants a voice on YouTube and to empower them and to make money for them,” added Cliff Samaniego, YouTube’s strategic partner development manager. “It’s based on ad rev share — we can’t get into the details — but the majority of the rev share goes to our partners.”
Besides the ability to make money, bands who are accepted as partners can also upload videos longer than ten minutes and personalize their pages with banner ads, links, merch info, tour dates, and more.
Relm acknowledges that videos and technology in general can seem overwhelming to a lot of musicians who’d rather spend their time writing music. But Relm says immersing yourself into the new world is a must considering that the old model of selling CDs and going on tour is pretty much gone. Sadly, he says most musicians lag when it comes to embracing new technology. For example, he suggests musicians use the more user-friendly and data-tracking capabilities in HootSuite instead of Twitter.com to Tweet. And to make more interesting, community-building videos such as tour diaries. “I’m surprised more musicians aren’t up on it,” he said. “It’s such a video-centric world that it’s kind of scary. A lot of musicians don’t have a lot of videos to your songs, but you should.”