YouTube is a platform artist aren’t really treating as a social media site but with over 2 billion logged in monthly users, YouTube is an effective way for artists to keep their existing audience engaged and make them more loyal, reach a new audience and also managing to monetise.
With over 300 hours of video being uploaded to YouTube every minute, it’s not easy to break through the noise but with YouTube’s audience growing yearly, any artist has the ability to grow a highly engaged audience, who can be pushed across to other platforms, leading to growth in social media numbers, streams, ticket sold and merchandise sales.
The world of YouTube may seem impossible for many in the music industry because YouTube is often seen as a place purely for music videos, lyric videos and potentially a behind the scenes of a music video shoot but there’s so many more content opportunities that artists are missing out on. YouTube is a social media platform, so should be treated accordingly.
In this blog post I’m not only going to discuss the content artists can be putting out but the simple tips and tricks which will ensure the content actually reaches the target audience and keeps them engaged. I’m covering everything from what to title a YouTube video to get a high click through rate to which thumbnails work best.
Although a lot of research went into this blog post, the majority of information has been a product of Burstimo studying YouTube as a platform for a year now. If you don’t know who we are, we’re a music marketing agency and decided to create a YouTube channel a little over a year ago. From creating video after video, we soon realised there was a clear formula to getting views and increasing our subscriber base. By our 110th video, we were pushed heavily by YouTube’s algorithm, with one video hitting a quarter of a million views and securing over 20k subscribers in just a week. Now, we’re sat at over 46k subscribers and more than 1.5million views.
THE BEST CONTENT STRATEGY FOR AN ARTIST:
No YouTube channel works without a clear theme. Any artist must find what their theme is and this needs to be representative of their brand, style, music and most importantly, target audience.
There are plenty of videos that can be created which will guarantee millions of views but if that’s reaching the wrong audience, it’s pointless. The videos should be what the artist’s target audience would want to engage with, whilst also being authentic to the artist.
The easiest way to know what content strategy is fitting, is to work around the artist’s key messages and values and then create the content surrounding this. For example, musician Blanks has created a channel purely based on the creative process of making music. He has 3 video styles that populate his channel – Story Sessions where he gets his Instagram followers to write a song with him via voting on story polls, One Hour Song Challenge where he gets a popular track and then recreates it in an hour and then Style Swap where again he takes a popular song but changes the style entirely. With over 1 million subscribers, Blanks has created an extremely dedicated audience surrounding his talent.
This content style won’t be for everyone so what else can be done? Often, artists want to vlog or do tour diaries, which is certainly a content strategy that can be looked at if the artist has a loyal fan base already as they care enough to want to know the BTS. However, for artists who don’t yet have an engaged audience, the growth will be extremely slow. People aren’t invested in the story, so won’t invest their time in watching the artist’s journey, especially when they can watch a vlog from a YouTuber they know and love already.
If the vlog route is something an artist wishes to follow then value needs to be sprinkled throughout the video, so the audience are receiving something in return. For example, if an artist is vlogging their daily life as a musician and some of the day is spent in their home studio, they could touch on what equipment is most useful for home studios and then title it ‘THE BEST EQUIPMENT TO HAVE IN A HOME STUDIO’. This not only adds value to the audience but is likely to have a high CTR (click through rate) as it’s a lot more interesting than ‘MY DAY IN THE STUDIO’, which isn’t engaging for a new audience.
Besides the behind the scenes content, artists can easily educate as they’ve all got a talent, whether that’s guitar, singing or producing. Educational channels do extremely well as YouTube is the second most popular search engine, just behind Google, so just like Google, people search to get answers to their questions. If an artist provides those answers, then they prove they have the skills whilst also reaching a new audience.
Covers are another route an artist can go down but it’s extremely difficult to monetise on a covers channel as the owners of the music will take the majority of earnings. If money isn’t an issue at this stage, then covers are a strong route to go down as it shows talent, whilst bringing in a new audience. The amount of artist who get signed or blow up purely from covers is fantastic, Justin Bieber and Conor Maynard being great examples.
Once the theme is secured, it must be stuck to. YouTube’s algorithm isn’t going to be able to push the content out to an audience if that audience is constantly changing, as the topics change in every video. If you look at some of the biggest YouTubers in the world, they have one clear theme. You have Matt D’Avella covering self-help, Peter McKinnon focusing on photography, David Dobrik doing funny skits and they have stuck to this from day one.
Also remember no one is good to begin with! If you don’t believe me, go to your favourite YouTube channel right now and click videos, then sort by and date added oldest. It’s fascinating to see how far people come on when they have the practice but also support! It’s strange to think you get confidence in creating content when the number of people following you is going up. Nothing has changed, it’s just a number.
This is all well and good for me to say but I bet some of you are an artist that has already tried YouTube content or at least know an artist that just got frustrated at the lack of views. Well it’s not just the video itself that impacts its reach, there’s the structure of the video, the title, the thumbnail, the description and the tagging which all need to be thought about.
STRUCTURING A VIDEO TO GET A HIGH WATCH TIME:
The structure of a video does actually need to be considered as you want the videos to have a high watch time. This not only helps with the algorithm but if people are watching a high percentage of the video, they’re going to be extremely engaged with the artists and then soon a super fan of the music.
The best way to have a high watch time is to really plan the video in advance. Scripting or even story boarding a video will ensure the audience are engaged as there will be no awkward silences, value added throughout and the pace is quick. Having fast editing also works to keep the audience engaged as every content creator is competing for the watch time. As you sit on YouTube, there’s recommended videos on the screen waiting for you to click and if the artist’s content isn’t fast paced or engaging enough, the viewer will click off, harming the watch time.
The first 15 seconds are everything, so adding open loops can keep the viewer for that little bit longer needed to really get into the video. An open loop is a preview of something which is happening later, so taking a clip from the most exciting part of the video can keep someone hooked.
Getting into the hang of YouTube as a platform can be difficult but we suggest that once the artist is comfortable, that they really push to make longer videos. Always look to get it over the 10min mark as yes it helps with the money side of things, which I discuss later, but it helps with the watch time massively. Imagine you had two videos, one is 6 mins and one is 12mins and the audience watches 50% of each. For the 6 min one that’s only 3 minutes but for the 12 min it’s 6 minutes. Additionally, YouTube favours longer videos as it keeps people on the platform longer and they make more money if the creator is monetising.
Alongside the watch time, YouTube looks at the Audience Engagement Signal, which happens whenever a user interacts with a YouTube video. These signals include likes, comments, shares, and subscribers. YouTube uses Audience Engagement Signals as part of their search and discovery algorithm, so it’s highly important the artist is pushing for these but how? Simply provide a call to action.
To get more comments, providing an incentive helps massively. For example, the artist could end the video with “the person that comments their favourite part of the vlog will get a shout out in my next video”. They can also ask the audience’s opinion, whether that’s on the video or something happening in the video. Pinning a comment to the top which will push people to engage is extremely effective as pinning the creator’s comment can work if it’s a question or pinning a viewer’s comment which is likely to start conversation, all means more engagement. The comments should be moderated always as if there’s too much spam, it’s more likely to force the viewer to either stop watching the video, as it’ll appear as if it’s spam, or stop them actually commenting themselves.
A similar strategy can be taken for getting likes too, by offering an incentive or simply asking the viewer. An impactful way to get viewers to hit the like button is to set a goal. For example, an artist could state “if I get 100k likes on this video, I’ll tease my next track in the next video”.
Scotty Sire is a music-based YouTuber who is a great example of offering incentives to secure likes, subscribers and comments. At the end of each of his videos he’ll do a freestyle rap about a subscriber who commented and liked his last video, which pushes others to get involved.
TITLING A VIDEO TO GET A HIGH CLICK THROUGH RATE:
70% of what people watch on YouTube is determined by its recommendation algorithm, so if a video is pushed out onto someone’s home page and the thumbnail or title doesn’t intrigue them, then the algorithm will no longer push the video out as it’ll have a low CTR.
The title needs to include keywords that people are actually searching for. To know what people are searching, you can simply use YouTube autocomplete, which is when you begin to search something, and it shows the rest based purely on most searched phrases. Besides this, you can use a platform such as Keywordtool.io which provides hundreds of results based on one keyword.
What’s great about KeywordTool is you can see how many people are searching these keywords and then you can watch videos covering these topics and just do them better! If someone has done a video and gets 20k views, then the artist can do an even better one and at least get 20k views, potentially more.
With a YouTube title, you want it to be intriguing but also honest. You may have heard of the term ‘clickbait’ before. This basically means designing a title or thumbnail to attract attention and entice users to click, which David Dobrik does well. He’ll pick one moment from his vlog which he’ll often exaggerate for the title and thumbnail. This will push people to watch whilst not being too exaggerated where it’s not true at all. Exaggerate anything too much will mean your video isn’t fitting to the title, so the viewer will click off, ruining the watch time.
Once the title is written, it can be run through a headline analyser. There are many online that provide information on everything in a title from grammar to readability, keywords to sentiment.
CREATING A THUMBNAIL TO GET A HIGH CLICK THROUGH RATE:
Alongside the title, the thumbnail is also highly important. Similarly, to the title, you want people to click it as they’re intrigued but for it to not be too far from the truth, so they click off immediately, ruining your watch time.
Besides what’s actually happening in the thumbnail, colour is also highly important. You want the thumbnail to stand out, so bright colours and a border can help as it adds depth to the image.
The text on the thumbnail shouldn’t just be repeating the title as it’s unnecessary. Avoid using too much text as it can be slightly overwhelming, aim for 2-4 words if possible, remembering that on the bottom right is the timestamp, so you don’t want any text covered by that.
You don’t need to be a Photoshop wiz for this! There’s a fantastic platform called Canva, where you can create thumbnails and many other free online thumbnail markers.
HOW TO WRITE A WELL-OPTIMISED DESCRIPTION:
Before you can upload anything, you need to write the video description. This is a piece of metadata that helps YouTube understand the content of a video and if well-optimised can lead to higher rankings in YouTube search and boost the video in suggested videos.
The aim should be to reach or go beyond 150 words but really focus on first 2-3 sentences. YouTube’s algorithm puts more weight on keywords that show up in the first 2-3 sentences of the description, so make sure to include the main keyword early on in the description field.
The description also shows when a user is searching for something and the video appears. The first few lines will be shown to the consumer, so optimise the description for a better CTR also. Start with why it benefits the viewer, rather than being the artist’s social media links or a call to action.
TAGGING A VIDEO TO SHOW UP IN SEARCH RESULTS:
The final piece of the puzzle is tagging a video. YouTube tags are words and phrases used to give YouTube context about a video. Tags are considered an important ranking factor in YouTube’s search algorithm and when it comes to video SEO, YouTube pays close attention to the first few tags, especially the very first tag, so make sure that it’s the exact, word-for-word keyword that you want the video to rank for.
The best tag length for SEO is 2-3 words. It’s important to use broad tags too as it helps give YouTube important context about the video but don’t go overboard with tags as adding dozens of tags is a mistake that lots of new YouTubers make. It turns out this can do more harm than good, so stick to 5-8 tags that accurately describe the video’s topic.
If you’re still struggling, TagsYouTube is a free tool that generates a list of related tags for you to use on YouTube videos.
If the artist is patient and sticks to their chosen content strategy, they will get the audience and that means bringing in a solid income and pushing viewers to engage with them as an artist much more
Initially, the artist must double down on what works before experimenting but once there’s an audience who are dedicated, playing around with content ideas and experimenting can begin. Tech YouTuber Sara Dietschy has an interesting growth method she calls ‘One for Me and One for You’. Being a content creator for many years, she’s found the passion does die so to ensure she still enjoys the creation process but doesn’t lose her following, she creates one video for herself, which she thoroughly enjoys and then one for her audience, which she knows will get the views and is what her subscribers are there for.
Although not for everyone, this content strategy can be extremely effective as it means you don’t get burn out and enjoy the content creation, but you don’t lose your audience along the way.
Once the artist has reached 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 hours watch time within the last 12 months, they can begin to monetise. The easiest way to make money is with advertising revenue, so money is earnt from display, overlay and video ads. Each feature has its own set of requirements on top of subscriber and view count requirements but once secured, it generates money overnight!
YouTube is a platform the music industry isn’t giving enough attention to right now and the fact it acts as another source of income, is fantastic. It’s not just a discovery tool, it generates money too.
Besides AdSense, YouTube creates other sources of income as the dedicated subscribers can be pushed to other platforms such as Spotify, which will lead to streaming venue, they’re more likely to invest in merchandise and tickets and brand deals are also on the cards.
NOT PERSUADED YET?
If you’re not persuaded that YouTube is a phenomenal platform for any artist, no matter what their fan base, their music or their brand, then definitely DM us on Instagram at @burstimo.
I truly believe that one YouTube subscriber is worth 100+ Instagram followers as you have their full attention, unlike any other social media platform. On Instagram the consumer can keep scrolling, on TikTok they swipe away and on Facebook the artist’s content isn’t reaching 98% of their audience but with YouTube, if you can get them to click a video, that content is filling their screen and has all of their attention.
The organic reach on the likes of Instagram and Facebook is dropping rapidly but YouTube’s model isn’t changing any time soon and with an algorithm that favours high quality content, artists have a better opportunity than ever.