A Musician’s Guide To Starting A Successful YouTube Channel

Youtube For Musicians

Why YouTube?

YouTube has over two billion active users every month. Out of this staggering number, more than 30 million people watch YouTube every single day. What do these numbers mean to independent musicians struggling to find an audience? It means instant exposure to a massive global audience.

By creating a musician YouTube channel, you’ll be able to put your songs and creations out there for legions of music fans to notice and discover. What used to be a struggle is now an opportunity to connect with the right audience, and collaborate with other musicians. This kind of exposure expands your circle, and opens up new opportunities for your music career to take off.

It doesn’t matter what instruments you play or what music genre you sing. Your audience will find you. Even virtually unknown musicians can find their tribe.

YouTube levels the playing field, and allows musicians to promote their music and get mainstream treatment. If you are a musician who wants to be successful on YouTube, the first step is to get started.

Identify Your Music Career Goals

Before you create your YouTube channel, you must first have a blueprint for success. This means setting up goals and outlining actionable steps to make them happen. You have to plan with a definite end in mind.

Ask yourself the following questions:

What do I want to accomplish?


  • I want to increase my fan base.
  • I want to earn a passive income from my YouTube Channel.
  • I want music producers to discover me and offer me a contract.
  • I want to have more gigs.
  • I want to appear on TV, specifically on Ellen.

Which particular steps should I take to attain my goals?


  • I will post a high-quality video once a day.
  • I will do covers and write original songs.
  • I will collaborate with other musicians.
  • I will monetize my YouTube channel.

What resources are necessary to reach my goals?


  • Financing the dream. (How much money should I have to get started?)
  • Gear and Equipment. (Do I have the right equipment to create quality videos?)
  • People. (Do I need a videographer? A video editor? A writer?)

How much time would I give myself to accomplish my goals?


  • Post 365 videos in 365 days
  • Earn AdSense money in 12 months.
  • 10,000 subscribers in six months

How do I know if I’m achieving my goals?

  • Subscriber count, number of likes, number of views
  • Income targets
  • Number of sponsorship deals

By having a musician business plan, you not only have a roadmap to guide you through some of the difficult processes and growing pains, but it also helps you to stay on track amid the distractions and social media noise.

Content Creation

Creating video content is not as easy as it seems. What people see on YouTube are finished products. They have gone through a painstaking process of conceptualizing, storyboarding, recording, and editing. (Of course, this does not apply to YouTubers who just record whatever they fancy and upload it on YouTube unedited and unfiltered.)

The reality is that content creation can be daunting and overwhelming. A well-polished music video requires video editing skills and expensive equipment. How in the world can a musician on a shoestring budget afford to produce content? These simple tips can help jumpstart your YouTube channel.

Start small with gear and equipment.

You’re not required to have an expensive multiple camera setup to create your videos. All you need is a camera and your talent. If you can’t afford DSLR, use your smartphone camera. If a Blue Yeti microphone is out of the question, then get a Blue Snowball instead.

For every expensive gear and equipment that you want, find a more affordable alternative. Don’t obsess about the equipment you need. Just use what you have. You can always upgrade when the budget permits.

You can start a simple home recording setup with the following:

  • Camera
  • Microphone with a pop filter or omnidirectional room microphone
  • Video editing software or app (iMovie, Kinemaster, Movavi)

The thing with videos is that the real star of the show is the artist or the musician. What matters most is your music and your creations. Gear and equipment upgrades can wait.

Mix things up.

Your content doesn’t always have to show you playing instruments or singing cover songs. Even though they get the most views, it’s also important to try something new and create content that will engage viewers, and prompt people to subscribe to your channel.

  • Give your viewers a sneak peek into your life as a musician by adding behind the scenes clips
  • Create lyric videos of your original songs so people can sing along to them
  • React to videos of other musicians
  • Collaborate with other artists on a project
  • Review and recommend products that help you elevate your music game
  • Do a live Q&A with your fans
  • Live stream a recording process
  • Vlog about a music festival or event

If you vary your content, chances are people will keep coming back to your channel because there’s the thrill of anticipation. This is how notification squads are formed.

Post content regularly.

Follow a video posting schedule. You don’t have to post videos every single day. What’s important is that you are regularly posting. YouTube’s search algorithm will work in your favor if you upload more videos.

Sometimes, when one video goes viral and gets a million views, creators start to feel the pressure to create another viral video. They obsess about conceptualizing and end up with nothing. As a result, there’s a big gap between the viral video and the next video.

If you upload one video every two or three days, you’ll get more traction and YouTube might even suggest your video to users. Create a schedule and stick to it.

Keep It Real.

No matter how good you are or how amazing your videos are, the fact remains you can’t please everyone. So don’t try to change your style or the way you do things just because some people are hard to please.

Just do what you do best, improve on what needs to be improved, and keep sharing your content for people to find.

Set Up Your YouTube Musician Channel

Every musician channel starts the same way—you sign up for a YouTube account, customize the look of your channel, upload videos and wait for viewers to come.

There is a strong urge to do things fast because you’re thinking that the more videos you upload, the more viewers you’ll get. This is not always the case. Keep in mind that YouTube is essentially a search engine for videos and it uses an algorithm to decide which videos deserve to be on top of the search results. So when setting up your channel, you must also factor in optimization best practices.

Ultimately, the focus should be on your music and skills as a musician, but you also have to remember that every element of a YouTube channel contributes to your success. Even the smallest details that many YouTubers ignore can give your channel a traffic boost.

  • Channel Name. This is typically your name or your band’s name, but it can also be your brand or your specialization. For example, if you play the drums, you can use something clever to highlight your skills and the instrument. Whatever name you choose, it has to represent you as a musician.
  • Channel Art. This is the banner displayed on top of your channel. Choose images that embody your craft as a musician. The recommended size for channel art is 2560 x 1440 px. Make sure that you follow this, so that your channel art would look great across different devices—desktop, smartphone, tablet, or TV display.

You can also add social media links to your banner. You must take advantage of this feature because it is a way for viewers to contact you. It is also a way to generate traffic to your social media accounts. You can add up to five overlay links so it pretty much covers the main social media sites.

  • Channel Icon. This is the image that represents you and your channel. It appears on the left-hand side of your channel art. Make sure that the icon and the channel art look good together.
  • About. Your music will speak volumes about your body of work, but you must also include a description of what you’re all about. You can include information about your music, projects, gigs, and where people can reach you. This is also the section where you can add up to five links for social media, website, or blog.
  • Channel Keywords. Add keywords that describe what your channel is all about. You can include the genre, instruments, brand, and other keywords that would best describe your music.

Without keywords, YouTube will not be able to determine what your channel is about, and would not be able to suggest it to your target audience or put it in a category where people could find you.

To do this, go to YouTube Studio Beta, then click on Creative Studio Classic. On the left sidebar, click on Channel then Advanced. You’ll be directed to your account information. Fill in the Channel Keywords box with the applicable keywords.

  • Branding Watermark: Subscribe Icon. YouTube makes it easier for people to subscribe to your channel by enabling you to put a subscribe icon within your video. The required size is 150×150 px, and less than 1MB. The small icon appears on the lower left of every video. It prompts viewers to subscribe to your channel at any point during the entire video.

These are things that you need to do just one time and you can forget about them, but you can always modify them if you see the need to.

Optimize Your Videos To Get More Views And Subscribers

So your music video is ready for its worldwide premiere, but before you hit the “publish” button, make sure that your video is optimized for search results so that you can get more views and more subscribers.

Video Title. Keep your title short and to the point. Include a specific benefit from watching your video. You can add keywords but it is not mandatory. YouTube algorithm will find your video even without keywords on the title.

Avoid clickbaity title like the plague. Viewers don’t appreciate being tricked into watching a video that doesn’t match what the title promises.

Description. The description is the most underutilized feature for the simple reason that people don’t come to YouTube to read. But many people fail to understand that YouTube factors your video description into its search ranking algorithm.

It may sound a bit technical, but follow these guidelines:

  • Description should be at least 150 words (maximum of 5000 words)
  • The first two sentences should summarize what the video is about. They appear on the search results.
  • Include a Call-to-Action (e.g. like the video, subscribe to the channel, follow on social media)
  • Add website links and affiliate links

Tags. Tags are words or phrases that YouTube uses to determine what your video is about so it could determine its ranking relative to other videos. It has a 500-word limit so choose the words wisely. Use as many relevant tags as you possibly can. Start with a general tag and work two levels down.

Thumbnail Picture. Aside from the title, the first thing that people see on the YouTube results page are the thumbnails. YouTube will create three thumbnails for you, but they don’t always look great.

YouTube enables the uploading of custom thumbnails for verified accounts. You can create thumbnails that pop out by adding text that will pique the interest of users. You can easily create them using Canva.com or Snappa.com.

Playlists. Group similar videos together in a sequence to make it easy for your viewers to binge-watch your videos. Instead of watching just one video, they could easily watch 3 or 5 videos in a row because you made it easy for them to do so. They don’t have to jump around your channel to find similar videos or the next part of a series of videos.

End Screens. YouTube has a built-in “End Screens” feature wherein you can add a couple of video thumbnail links at the end of the current video being watched. This way, viewers would be prompted to watch your other videos instead of heading elsewhere. It makes it extremely easy for your viewers to stay on your channel.

Monetize Your Channel

YouTube is not only a great platform to be heard and be seen by a worldwide audience, but it’s also an online space to earn some money. The most popular way to monetize your channel is through ads, but you’d be surprised to know that many musicians (big or small) on YouTube are earning more through other means.

YouTube Partner Program

YouTube allows you to earn money from your video content through the YouTube Partner Program. It’s not YouTube who pays you the money, but its parent company Google through its AdSense program.

The way it works is that AdSense displays ads on your videos and you get 68% of the revenue from those ads. The catch is that viewers have to watch 30 seconds of the video ad to count for payment.

How much do you get paid on average? It depends on how much an advertiser pays for an ad. The actual rate that advertisers pay for an ad can be anywhere from $0.10 to $0.30 per ad view. The rate averages out at $0.18 per view or $18 per 1000 ad views,

Depending on how many ads you allow on your videos, you can earn between $3 and $5 per 1000 views. This is very encouraging if you have a lot of subscribers, but when your channel is brand new, don’t expect to rake in the money anytime soon because you must first meet some minimum requirements.

How to get into the program?

To become eligible to get some Google money, your channel must have 1,000 subscribers and must have accumulated 4,000 watch hours in a span of 12 months. This may seem unreachable when you’re just starting, but if you publish great videos regularly, you can grow your new channel from zero subscribers to a few thousands in less than a year.

YouTube is strict when it comes to the content that potential partners publish. Basically, YouTube wants family-friendly content or at least advertiser-friendly. This means your content must be appropriate for the general viewing public.

Major brands don’t want to be associated with channels that have videos that touch on controversial topics. Obviously, videos that promote hate and extremist views have no place on YouTube.

So if your videos are on the edgy side and have the potential to stir the proverbial pot, don’t expect to get monetized. You are allowed to let your creativity shine and no one is curtailing your freedom to speak your mind through your music, but YouTube draws the line when it comes to inappropriate content.

So, if you’re coming from a business standpoint and you want to earn money from your videos, you must plan your content and make sure to adhere to YouTube’s content guidelines and policies. The best content strategy for musicians is to focus on making great music.

Affiliate marketing

You can earn money by promoting other people’s products on your YouTube channel. Many lifestyle and gadget vloggers do this by reviewing products and providing affiliate links on the video’s description box. When viewers click on the link and it results in a purchase, you can get a commission.

The same strategies apply for musicians, but you can do it with more flair. You can opt for product reviews, but what works better is to actually feature the products on your videos.

You’ll pique your viewers’ interest because they’d wonder what camera and microphone you use or what brand of guitar (or drum kit or keyboard, etc.) you prefer.

What’s great about this strategy is that you don’t need tons of subscribers. Even if you are not a YouTube partner, you can do this. In fact, the earning potential is way better than just relying on ads.

If you’re just starting out, you can apply for the Amazon Associates Program so you can promote products from Amazon and get commissions from valid sales.

Relatedly, if you have a large following on social media, specifically, the big four—YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook—you can apply for the Amazon Influencers program. You can have your very own Amazon storefront with a custom URL.

Selling merchandise

YouTube allows eligible creators to sell their merchandise through Merch Shelf. Your merchandise will be displayed directly below your YouTube videos. You must be a YouTube Partner and have more than 10,000 subscribers.

The platform currently supports only a handful of merch retailers like Teespring, Fanjoy, Crowdmade, DFTBA, Represent, and Rooster Teeth. If you sell your branded merchandise through these retailers, you can enable the merch shelf on your channel.

This is something you can do in the future when you have amassed a big subscriber base.


Patreon is a membership platform where you can get paid for creating content. It’s a way to get paid for doing what you are already doing. Think of it as having fans as your patrons supporting your craft. In return, you can give them exclusive perks and content for helping you fund your musical pursuits.

The more you diversify the revenue that comes in to your channel, the more secure your income would be. If something bad happens to your ads or (God forbid) YouTube demonetizes your channel for inadvertently violating a rule, then it’s the endgame for your YouTube channel. But because you have plans B, C, D, etc., you can keep doing what you love and still earn from other income streams.


Musicians can harness the power of YouTube to get discovered by millions of people around the world. It’s a great platform for up-and-coming musicians to promote their music and their skills.

Setting up a YouTube channel is easy, but turning it into a successful channel takes time, hard work and some optimization tweaks. By following YouTube best practices, you can fast-track your way to success.


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