Before the internet, connecting with new fans meant playing show after show, working your way from underground DIY venues to clubs, theaters and beyond. Maybe you had the resources for a fan club and do meet-and-greets, but getting your music out into the world was a grind.
With YouTube, it’s easier than ever to share the full spectrum of your creative process. You can showcase the evolution of new songs, premiere music videos you made in collaboration with visual artists, and even stream shows live from your rehearsal space or bedroom.
But simply existing on YouTube isn’t enough to get your music heard by more than your family, friends and a handful of bots. To really get the word out about your art, you need to learn about YouTube music promotion.
The Purpose of YouTube Music Promotion
While you can monetize your YouTube channel (which can evolve into serious revenue—more on that later), the main benefit of YouTube music promotion is growing your overall fanbase and converting passive listeners into paying customers. Hopefully, those folks will send you tips, buy physical merchandise, download your music from iTunes and come out to your live shows.
Getting someone to convert from a passive fan or listener into someone who’s supporting you on Patreon doesn’t happen overnight. In this article, we’ll give you some actionable tactics that can help you get in front of new fans—and keep them listening.
Is YouTube Music Promotion Free?
Yes and no. Outside of the equipment you need to make YouTube content, it doesn't cost anything to get started with YouTube music promotion. Eventually, you might want to look into some paid services, like Google Ads, to get the word out about your channel.
As your channel grows, or if you have some extra money to invest, there are also companies you can hire to help you promote your music on YouTube. For example, you might find a publicist who specializes in getting your music on huge YouTube channels like WatchMojo.
YouTube Revenue Opportunities
Even if revenue from YouTube isn’t the primary goal of YouTube music promotion, it’s a pretty nice bonus. After you hit 1,000 subscribers and accumulate 4,000 watch hours in a year, you become eligible for paid ad revenue on your videos.
At that point, you can also collect what’s called Super Chats from fans during live streams and video premieres. Super chats are essentially tips from viewers in real time, and you can only get them when your video has a live chat running, like during a live stream. So, if you want to get that sweet Super Chat money, you should make sure to incorporate regular live streams or video premiers into your posting schedule.
Once you hit 10,000 subscribers, you’ll be eligible for even more YouTube revenue opportunities, most notably merch sales directly through YouTube and YouTube subscriber programs.
19 Tips for Promoting Your Music on YouTube
Now that we’ve gotten a few big questions out of the way, here are some tips and tricks that will help you promote your music to new fans!
Optimize Your Profile
First things first: you need to make sure that your profile and landing page look legit. That means customizing your profile picture, adding a banner and creating some playlists and featured sections showcasing content you want to highlight.
For example, you can set a video to be your official channel trailer or featured video for returning subscribers, which is the first video people will see when they visit your YouTube channel.
To optimize your channel page, go to YouTube Studio and click “Customization” in the left-hand navigation. You’ll see tabs for layout, branding and basic info.
A screenshot of the YouTube Studio Customization tab showing the different ways to highlight various videos on your YouTube profile.
Under layout, you’ll be able to adjust your video spotlight as well as featured sections. You can have up to two featured videos—a channel trailer and a featured video for returning subscribers. You can also have ten featured sections, including:
- Recent uploads
- Popular uploads
- Short videos
- Videos that are currently live
- Past live streams
- Upcoming live streams
- Playlists (single, created, or multiple playlists)
- Channels you subscribe to
- Channels you want to feature
The branding tab is where you can upload a profile picture, banner image and optional video watermark. Video watermarks can be displayed at the beginning or end of your videos, or throughout the entire video. Viewers can hover over and click on watermarks to subscribe to your page, so it’s highly recommended that you add a watermark to your videos.
Basic info is where you can adjust your channel name, add a channel description (which you can translate into dozens of different languages), customize your channel URL, add relevant links to your profile (such as your spotify URL or official website) and contact information.
Claim Your Official Artist Channel
Once you create your channel for your music and have at least three releases to YouTube via an official distributor like DistroKid or Tunecore, you can claim your official artist channel. The easiest way to do this through your official distributor, so check with the platform you use to release your music.
Digital distributor DistroKid enables musicians to easily claim their official artist channel.
Claiming your official artist channel allows you to organize your discography and music videos, promote specific videos and interact with your fans.
Film a Channel Trailer
Earlier, we mentioned that you can pin a featured video, also called a channel trailer, to your channel’s home page. A channel trailer is the first video non-subscribers see when they visit your page, so it’s a great opportunity to introduce yourself and your music.
Use your channel trailer to give future subscribers an idea of what they’ll see when they subscribe to your channel. Let them know how to support your music, tell them if you have a regular live-stream schedule and promote your upcoming releases or shows.
Playlists can be featured on your home page, but they also show up in search results on YouTube. Batch similar or related uploads into relevant playlists, like “Official Music Videos,” “Live Shows” and “Behind-the-Scenes.”
For example, the Seattle-based band Sundae Crush has playlists for their music videos and a content series where they explore different guitar effects pedals.
Seattle-based band Sundae Crush built playlists for their official music videos as well as a “Pedal to the Metal” series they did.
You don’t have to limit your playlists to content that you uploaded yourself. You can make playlists featuring videos of fans sharing what your music means to them, video podcasts that you appeared on, reviews of your music and more.
Ask Fans to Subscribe and Enable Notifications
It may seem overly promotional to request your viewers subscribe to your channel, but the gentle reminder can drive fans to hit the subscribe button and ring the bell icon for notifications.
It might feel awkward to verbally remind viewers to subscribe during every video, but try to incorporate the request whenever you can. For example, if you’re live-streaming a show, ask viewers to make sure they’ve subscribed. After all, they’re clearly interested in your content, so it won’t hurt to ask.
Make a Video for Every Song
We normally just think about releasing music videos for singles, but making a video for every song you release is a great practice that can boost video views. Even though the heyday of MTV is behind us, plenty of music lovers like having something interesting to watch when listening to music.
A screenshot from YouTube showing the official and unofficial videos for their 2019 album Young Enough.
Your videos for songs that you haven’t picked as singles don’t have to be incredibly involved or expensive endeavors. For example, the indie band Charly Bliss created a playlist for their 2019 release Young Enough, which featured all of their videos for the record. To fill the gaps between official single videos, which were professionally filmed and produced, the band created “filler” videos for the other songs featuring behind-the-scenes footage of the band.
Live Stream the Creative Process
If you’re comfortable with the idea of letting others in on your creative process, behind-the-scenes footage of you working on new music is a relatively easy way to live-stream to your YouTube channel. All you have to do is turn on your Yeti and webcam and narrate your creative process while you’re writing or recording.
Live Stream Performances
Speaking of live-streaming, broadcasting live sets can attract viewers and might even result in some revenue via Super Chats or by directing viewers to donate to your Venmo or other cash app. Solo sets are easier than bringing a whole band in to live stream and allows you to make setlist changes on the fly. You can even take requests from fans who send you funds through Super Chats or other channels.
Fan Requests for Covers
You don’t have to limit fan requests to your live streams (or even your own songs). Though you ultimately can’t monetize videos featuring cover songs the same way you can with your own songs, they can drive a lot of value to your channel.
Covers might help make you more discoverable to people who otherwise may not find your music. If someone is looking for different versions of the song you’ve covered, you’ll pop up in their search—and you might make a new fan.
Try putting out open cover requests to fans or offer to cover songs from financial supporters, such as those on Patreon. Since you likely can’t monetize the videos featuring covers, offering to cover songs to those who offer you financial support can help you make up the difference in revenue that you might have made from ads in your cover video.
Promote Your YouTube Channel on Social Media
Some of your fans spend hours a day on YouTube, using it as their favorite social network and content site. Others may need a gentle push to check out your YouTube content. Whenever you release a new video, want to drive views to an older video or have an upcoming live stream, promote it on your other social media accounts so that your fans won’t miss out.
Collaborate with Other Musicians on YouTube
Even when you can’t collaborate in-person with other musicians, you can work together to create stellar content for your YouTube pages remotely.
Here are a few collaboration ideas to get the creative juices flowing:
- Use Streamlabs or a similar tool to do live chats with other musicians, like a weekly tea date or Music Crush Monday.
- Ask other musicians to record their own stems (individual recording tracks, e.g., just the acoustic guitar or bass part) for a song collaboration and have them film themselves playing their tracks so you can put together a performance video featuring each musician.
- Host a virtual open mic night or writer’s round where you rotate between different songwriters. A tool like Streamlabs could work, or writers could submit previously-recorded performances that you stitch together for a premiere.
Create "Lesson" Content that Dives Into Your Creative Process
As a musician or songwriter, you’ve probably spent years developing your skills. Maybe you’re a skillful guitarist, have a helpful vocal warm-up exercise or a unique approach to songwriting. Your YouTube channel is a great place to share those skills.
Here are a few ideas for video topics to try:
- Demonstrations of how to play your songs on your instrument of choice.
- A TED Talk-style lecture on your creative process.
- Walk-throughs in Ableton showing your approach to creating beats and mixing your music.
- A discussion on your experience in the music industry, such as how to choose which online music distribution site to use.
Be Thoughtful About Video Titles and Descriptions
A good title does more than drive immediate clicks; it can also help you rank for relevant keywords. Pick video titles that are descriptive and eye-catching. For example, if you have a song called “Goodbye Summer” you might want to add descriptors like “Official Music Video” or “Live Acoustic Performance” to help differentiate your different videos.
For more tips and tricks about video descriptions, read our article about 8 things you need to include in your YouTube video descriptions.
Design Attention-Grabbing Thumbnails
Even before people see your video titles, they see your thumbnails. Finding the perfect video thumbnail style can involve some trial and error, but try to focus on thumbnails that include you. If you don’t have a lot of graphic design experience, there are free tools like Canva that have dozens of free and paid templates which you can personalize to fit your style.
Video premieres on YouTube work a lot like TV premieres—everyone can watch for the first time together. YouTube’s premieres have a live chat feature, which means you can interact directly with your biggest fans, who can leave questions, comments and even Super Chats for you.
Video premieres also send notifications to all subscribers who signed up to get a push notification when you release a new video.
Post Consistent Content
A lot of YouTube musicians spend time experimenting with different days and times when it comes to finding the perfect moment to put up a new video. But, especially if you’re doing video premieres or regular live streams, you may find that simply being consistent with your timing is more valuable than trying to game the algorithm.
It’s the same way standard TV slots work for new episodes of your favorite show. We all know that Saturday Night Live airs at 11:30pm Eastern time on Saturday nights. While it’s not an ideal time slot for everyone who wants to watch it live, fans always know when it’s on and look forward to it.
Whether you live stream every Thursday night at 7pm your time or premiere new videos at noon on Tuesdays, as long as you’re consistent, your fans will learn to look forward to your content.
Pitch to Music Promo Channels
YouTube has no shortage of channels that exist for the sole purpose of promoting new music. Whether you’re making sick trap beats or spilling your heart out over an acoustic guitar, there are YouTube promo channels that can get your music in front of new fans.
Each channel has its own submission process, so be sure to tailor your pitches specifically to everyone you reach out to.
Advertise Your Music
If you have a little extra money and want to amplify your channel, you can run paid YouTube ads through Google Ads Manager. Create short clips of your videos that you think are especially enticing and use them as ads. Though Google Ads manager takes some getting used to, its targeting potential is enormous. You can even choose which types of channels or specific channels you want your ads to be featured on. For example, metal bands could buy ads on metal-themed guitar demo channels.
Hire a Promotion Agency
What do successful musicians have in common? They have great teams helping them out. If you find your career gaining steam, you might also find that you don’t have as much time to do the day-to-day promotion. Hiring a reputable promotion agency specific to YouTube can help you take your music career to the next level and will free up your time to do what you do best—make music.
Ready to elevate your YouTube game? It’s easy to put together high-quality live streams and more with the right tools.