YouTube is the most valuable asset that you have right now as an artist, in fact, it’s your gateway to 1 BILLION people, a majority of whom use it for music purposes, and it’s free, but most of you are completely ignoring it.
For the love of God, WHY?!?!
Answer: Because it’s foreign and you’re lazy.
You think it’s not foreign because you experience it just about every day, but that doesn’t mean you know a damn thing about how to harness the real power of YouTube.
Still, most of you would rather sit around and complain about not being able to find your audience or make a living with your music. You vent about this with your best artistically prideful voice and tell your friends what you’re willing and not willing to do as an artist to maintain your “integrity”.
Or at least to maintain the story of what integrity means to you that you keep telling yourself.
How can anyone of you deny the sheer numbers of artists famous or not, that broke on YouTube?
Make no mistake, when I say broke, I mean they now make a living creating music because they found their audience on YouTube.
In this article, I want to get into the most common conceptual mistake that just about all artists make when thinking about a YouTube strategy.
The secret is to remove your artist hat and put on a marketing hat.
I promise there is artistic satisfaction in a solid YouTube marketing strategy, but it’s not where you think it is.
Therefore, you can’t locate this strategy in the current story you’re telling yourself.
By the way, if your artistic “integrity” as you define it, is the very thing that is keeping you from expanding your audience, shouldn’t you rethink that?
Most artists want to put up videos of either their original material or cover songs that mean something to them from artists they “respect”. This is where y’all think the artistic satisfaction comes from.
You put up videos of your original material but no one in the marketplace is aware of you as an artist, so you get zero views from new possible fans; just views from friends and family.
How did this help you “spread your gospel”?
How did this help you reach new people with your talent?
You put up videos of you covering your favorite iconic songs but again, the only views you get are from people who already know you because nobody is searching for the original version of the crusty song you had to cover to keep your current “artist integrity” story intact.
Both approaches are flawed and quite self-centered.
Neither of these tactics work because they don’t create traffic in any real way.
There is no new business happening.
When approaching YouTube, one must think like a marketer.
You need to expose your talents to as many new people as humanly possible if you’re going to expand your audience.
Makes sense, right?
So then, where can you find the new people?
How can you drive traffic to your video?
Answer: Current cover songs.
Sometimes these newly released songs are beneficial to you because they drive traffic from well-known artist videos, and sometimes they’re beneficial because they’re not so well-known so there is little competition.
Provided the original video gets a ton of views, you’re going to get some too…unless you suck, but I digress.
Constantly check for the songs that have just dropped every Friday. Pick 2-4 songs to work up.
SPOILER ALERT: This is where the cathartic artistic satisfaction comes from, putting your stamp on another artist’s original song.
The more distant the original artist’s style is from yours the more compelling it will be.
Take artistic license and go as crazy as you want to be.
Imagine getting paid 1 million dollars to work up and put your artistic stamp on 10 songs that are completely out of your artistic lane.
I tell my artists, “You have to pick from the songs I offer you, but after that, I don’t care what you do with it; go nuts.”
Traffic will be generated to your version of that song because people will be searching for the original artists brand new video and stumble across yours.
If your version is compelling in the first 10-15 seconds, you’re going to start racking up completely organic views and lots of them.
Don’t worry about how many, just worry about being consistent. Some will do ok some will do amazing.
Know that it’s not about the quality of the video, it’s about a compelling performance. Some of your covers will fare better than others because of competition and when they were posted in relation to the drop date.
The key is to be as early as possible in the life cycle of the new single because there is little traffic at the beginning.
Also, sometimes, the smaller artists have less people trying to cover the song so again, less competition means more traffic to your video.
For example, go and check out Bailey James’ video channel. Her Taylor Swift covers are brilliant; she slays the vocal on these.
Most of Taylor’s original videos rack up somewhere between 600 million to over 1 billion views so there is no doubt about the traffic, but the trouble lies in the fact that every little girl and her mother are posting their version of the latest Taylor Swift single on YouTube.
Consequently, out of the 3 Taylor covers on Bailey’s channel, they only garnered between 4-5 thousand views each.
That’s probably more views than most of you have ever received, but, again, I digress.
On the other hand, she a did a cover of Little Big Town’s “Girl Crush” that has racked up over 120,000 views largely because of low competition related to the controversy surrounding the song even before it was released.
Little Big Town’s original version has over 62 million views which is astounding but paltry (less than 10% of traffic) compared to anything from Swift. The difference to our views was more than 10x.
What is the goal here?
The goal is to get you, the compelling artist, in front of new people every day.
This is called marketing.
Every day people are searching for their favorite artist’s NEW videos. They’re aware of these new videos because their favorite artist’s record labels are spending millions of dollars to ensure that you got the message.
This is real legitimate “digital foot traffic” that spills over into your channel.
After you begin to build an audience, you can pepper in an original video or two, but if you’re annotating your cover videos, the viewers will be able to download a full kick-ass recording of one of your originals for free on every view in exchange for their email address.
Why not get them the killer track, at the height of interest first, but save the original video for when you make a proper music video for YOUR ORIGINAL track?
Now you have a channel filled with covers, other content that your community finds relevant and personal to THEM, and a couple killer videos of original music which will stick out like a sore thumb on the channel.
The packaging makes sense aesthetically, yes?
The traffic is real. To date, while we have paid YouTube to promo Bailey’s original music videos, we have well over 350k views that are completely organic.
Understand that YouTube makes money via advertising.
So, they are constantly algorithmically scrubbing every video to search for the early stage popular videos. Once your video hits a certain amount of views within a certain time of posting you ring that first bell and they press a multiplier button that exposes your video to more people.
If the trend continues, another multiplier button is hit, and then another, and so on. They WANT you to go viral because it’s better for business.
A properly annotated cover video that offers free download and requests the viewer to subscribe at the end is money. Be advised that annotations don’t work on mobile devices so YouTube has just recently added an “End Card” feature which will incorporate the mobile devices.
As you build your subscribers up, more and more people are exposed to your new cover videos on the day you post, thus, increasing your chances of ringing that first bell.
Many artists like Noah Guthrie, Karmin, and Justin Bieber have broken on YouTube. Not all of them became big huge stars but ALL OF THEM make their living creating and performing music.
If they were completely indie like you, and not rich, like you, this is the system they used.
You just need to understand the method behind the madness and put the work in.
The rest will happen organically if you’re compelling.
It takes time.
Now about that story you’ve been telling yourself about how you’re going to get your audience, what was that again?
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