YouTube: The Pros and Cons

by Martha Rowsell


YouTube is constantly provoking new discussions in the music industry. It has become a powerful force, developing from a simple platform for anyone in the world to upload their home videos into a virtual curative space that can bring artists and innovators international fame and income in some cases!

We’ve youtubeprosconsalready looked at what you can do as a musician to optimise your YouTube channel and monetise your content using YouTube’s Content ID system. However, as with most tech businesses, the game is always changing. YouTube’s new streaming contract recently sparked controversy because of the company’s reluctance to negotiate individually and fairly with Indie Labels. On the other hand, YouTube is still one of the most beloved and valuable marketing resources for indie musicians as well as established acts. What are the pros and cons of YouTube’s development for artists today?


The Cons


  1. YouTube might not be able to protect your music’s copyrights. The band Ultra recently sued Michelle Phan for using their music on her extremely successful and ad-funded channel. Ultra claims that they told Michelle she did not have the necessary licence, but that she ignored them. Although YouTube has a Content ID system in place to detect unauthorised use of copyrighted music, the service is largely only available for larger labels and distributors. Furthermore, royalties paid out to collection societies are apparently considerably lower than Spotify’s royalty payments for example, as the Guardian reports in their article on Psy’s viral hit Gangnam Style. The German collection society GEMA has been trying to negotiate terms of use with YouTube for years, asking for royalty rates that YouTube claimed were too high. Although this seems like a pro for musicians because GEMA is trying to protect artists’ income, it also means that many fans in Germany cannot watch their favourite music on YouTube, which doesn’t do anyone any favours.
  1. YouTube’s new Streaming Service might make it difficult for independent artists to thrive on the platform. Paul Resnikoff shared the entire contract on Digital Music News. YouTube’s movement towards becoming another streaming service could go either way – it could benefit artists if people start paying regular subscriptions. However, it could also rid the platform of the unique quality it has been developing since before streaming services even existed.
  1. Billboard Magazine recently reported that Universal Music Group is “Looking to YouTube for the Next Pop Stars” via their new label called Awesomeness Music. Although this proves that artists who become famous on YouTube are being recognised by a major label, it is another step in the direction of big industry figures dominating the platform, and potentially making it harder for smaller players to monetise and promote via YouTube as effectively.


In spite of these controversial issues, YouTube is still an extremely valuable platform for musicians. Check out some of the on-going positive elements below:


The Pros


  1. YouTube already offers partnerships for users who upload their own content, both visual and audio. This means that musicians can already monetise their content. Independent artists can also use the Content ID system to monetise fan uploads which use their music. This is a source of revenue and promotion, as it means that artists don’t have to be constantly making and uploading videos, but can also benefit from fans posting and sharing music to their own channels.
  1. Exposure to new fans. Stars like Justin Bieber were discovered on YouTube long before UMG (Universal Music Group) decided to officially recognise the platform to help launch careers. This is still the case. If you use some innovation and creativity and post an interesting video, you can make some headway. As Steve Rennie advises in his talk ‘Dream It, Do It’, you don’t have to be held back by the traditional ‘gatekeepers’ when it comes to YouTube! Virality is a powerful tool. Even if you don’t actually earn much money from YouTube, the exposure it can offer is limitless in its potential to lead you towards other sources of income with your music.
  1. Direct marketing to existing fans. YouTube is an extremely large online community, which most of your existing fans will use. They will also expect you to use it, and you should not miss out on this opportunity. It is an easy way to communicate with fans, as the platform is extremely accessible in terms of its actual technological functionality. It is easy to embed YouTube videos into your own website or blog too! You don’t have to make expensive and time-consuming videos either. Small homemade clips or pre-made templates are simple ways to keep your YouTube presence alive.


The modern music industry is changing rapidly, and so are all the platforms associated with releasing or sharing your music. YouTube may not always be as important as it is now, but at the moment it is definitely a promotional and social force that cannot be ignored.