The vast majority of musicians I've met don't really get the web. Especially when it comes to figuring out how to promote music videos online and creating a real video/YouTube strategy.
Why most musicians don't get the web
Too often they rely on an old 1990s mindset and they just don't understand how to use our new digital world to their advantage.
This creates a lot of frustration when they face stark competition online from what they'd call "amateurs" (or very niche people who don't produce anything original or interesting music-wise) - i.e. people who don't really know music or whose overall skills are ridiculously bad compared to real musicians.
A lot of "proper" musicians thus give up after a while. However some, hopefully more and more, start to see what they've been doing wrong all this time.
Music promotion just ain't the same anymore. Especially online.
It's time to abandon that 1980s-1990s mentality of thinking of any channel like it's MTV. You don't produce just a couple of music videos per year and hope for the best.
You need to realise that your YouTube channel, just like your website, has the potential to become a breathing, living thing. A community. A place where you can interact and talk to your fans.
At its very essence, it means keeping your YouTube channel alive. Giving people a reason to come back, to talk to you, to share your stuff. And even if you're only worried about the money and the time investment, the only way you're going to make money on YouTube as a musician is by spending time on it.
How do you promote music videos then? (You don't)
And this is the best part: once you've started building a real following, you won't need to promote your music videos anymore.
People will come looking for you and share your stuff for you. But you need to give first. Give (a lot) and then receive in return.
But how much you give and how often is crucial. Build a real video strategy for the next few months, create a schedule and stick to it.
YouTube economics (and web economics really)
Monetising anything on the web is all numbers really. It only works if you get tens or hundreds of thousands of views. Whether we're talking about a page view for news websites, views on YouTube or listens on Spotify - it's all the same.
The key to making a living off YouTube, Spotify or Instagram lies in the high numbers.
But to get tens or hundreds of thousands of views regularly - for each video or sountrack you produce - you need to build a real online following. And with the numbers, you will see an increase in ad revenue (if you're not selling anything yet) and sales later on.
The tip of the iceberg - videos with more than 1 million views - represent only 0.33% of the whole iceberg. 50% of all videos on YouTube have less than 500 views. 73% of all videos on YouTube have less than 2,500 views. (graphic from Monetizepros.com)
Why I love to hate live sessions (not really, but a little bit)
While they're one type of legitimate content that can definitely be part of your strategy, in my opinion, live sessions sometimes embody everything that large online crowds don't really care about. They're a great tool for established musicians to offer to their followers. Or a great way to show a crazy good performance.
Like this guy... Note that he's not in a studio, he chose a great location that has spirit - it's a performance, not a live session:
The web and specifically the concept of virality is all about authenticity... and therefore taking risks.
The reason why a talented hobo with 3 buckets or a $50 guitar will clock in more views than your polished live session is that his video is real. Authentic.
He's putting himself out there. He's taking huge risks quality-wise. No fancy microphone (heresy!), no super smooth lighting or camera movements. But he's in the moment and you're immediately thrown into that moment too, simply because the video isn't overly produced.
Or this guy:
Again, this isn't to say you shouldn't ever use any of these. But live sessions are the safest place you could be as a musician. Too safe. Not always very interesting, not much happening, all too perfect. And too often not innovative at all. If you're going to use them, use them well, create something extraordinary.
The latest trends in viral video production try to mix quality with spontaneity and authenticity. Masking the polished aspects of filmmaking, better incorporating live sounds and natural camera movements. Still I would recommend mixing many different production styles and creating a consistent look for each one.
Most musicians obsess with perfect sound. Aim for authenticity instead.
You should instead work on a broad music video strategy that includes a great "content mix": different types of videos of different formats and lengths.
Keep in mind that your main goal is to build a relationship with your viewers. That means showing them a personality (whether it's yours or a persona's) that they can learn to discover and like over time. And you won't be able to do that with 2 music videos per year.
What is a video strategy?
These days, pretty much everyone from businesses, charities and musicians want to improve their following online. Yet, very few are ready to put in the resources needed to make it and to understand what's required of them.
Charities publish a couple of videos hoping they'll go viral. Bands put out a couple of music videos with the same expectations. Things are changing very quickly though in the world of music as we're witnessing the birth of successful bands that made it without any traditional support from, say, radios, labels, big blogs and magazines.
RONY has recently changed his approach to YouTube, quite radically, to become a "content producer". He now alternates between live covers and music video covers - all while releasing his original music too.
While live covers can be fun and you can get quite innovative, the music video covers allow for even more creativity. Another improvement would be to add a video style that allows him to speak directly to his fans (e.g. vlogs). That would be the next step, and one that allows him to talk about new topics to attract a wider audience, such as his musical influences, favourite instruments (maybe reviews), his favourite new albums, etc.
A proper YouTube video strategy is all about turning your channel into a whole TV channel with different "shows"
Defining your YouTube video strategy
Your video production strategy needs to contain all the different video types you'll have in your content mix and how often you're going to be producing each type.
I've been telling and teaching bands for ages on how to become more professional and this is an essential aspect. But keep in mind that most of all you need to enjoy the process. You're going to be producing videos this very regularly so don't become a slave to your own video strategy. Find the video types that work for you. Learn from others then adapt to your style and make it your own.
How musicians can use YouTube to reach more people
So what's the best way for bands to use YouTube and how often should you post new videos?
At the very least I would say post twice every month. You need to realise that having a YouTube channel is pretty much an opportunity to become your own TV channel (or at least a TV programme when you begin). It comes on every Sunday and Thursday at 6pm (just a suggestion).
Regularity is key. People will only come back to your channel if they know when you'll next post something. And as they come back, again and again, that's when you start building a relationship with them.
Ask them personally to subscribe at the end (but don't overdo it or spam them with messages either!), talk to them, not at them. Build a conversation where you allow enough space to talk.
YouTube SEO: optimising your music videos
There's plenty written online about how to optimise your music videosfor YouTube. In short, you'll find the same tips and advice on SEO which include:
But most of the time these people don't have a successful channel themselves. They won't (and can't) tell you how to optimise these aspects.
They don't know that you can spend ages tweaking and researching the best title. And that these small changes can make a huge difference.
They don't tell you much about keyword research, which too many confuse with the type you do for search engines like Google. Youtube is a whole different beast.
So how do you optimise then?
- Create themes organised around playlists
- Understand what your own videos are about, deep, deep down. Get rid of dull titles, go for something a bit original and bold (but don't oversell)
- Meaningful and useful descriptions: use them to add value to your videos (downloads, important links, lyrics)
- Meaningful titles: what is your song's genre, what type/style is the video, is anyone or anywhere famous featured in it. All these matter and will help more people come across your video
If you have any questions about the above, contact me to discuss how I can help.
What videos to create
This is the tricky bit for musicians. Finding enough video types and stories to tell to maintain that crazy pace.
So what videos should you publish as a band? Here are some ideas for different videos styles and formats:
- Original songs (without official music video is okay, just post the audio track with its artwork)
- Reviewing instruments and gear (amps, pedals, etc)
- Documenting your tours
- Telling the story behind a song or video
- Vlogs - a hugely underestimated way to grow (by musicians)
Which video formats to invest in
Vlogging about music
I really don't like the word vlog (much less using it as a verb), but hey it is becoming the standard word so let's get used to it. Vlogs can be a great opportunity to talk about broader topics music wise and to open a huge door into your life to let people know you better.
You're going beyond just music to become a whole brand. And you can seriously expand the number of keywords which you can target to grow your channel.
Video covers of famous and up-and-coming songs
Covers are an obvious one and some musicians are getting very creative with them - which I absolutely love. This is what the internet is about!
Find a theme, a twist or generally a concept that you can applyto a whole range of future videos. That will make for an amazing playlist on your YouTube channel. You don't believe me? Consider these ideas from other artists:
- Playlists dedicated to 70s/80s/90s covers
- Acoustic covers of electro songs
- Metal covers of mellow pop songs
- A Capella covers
- Covers with funny or unusual instruments (children's toys, animal samples, etc)
- "Carpool karaoke" covers
- Google Translate covers
In terms of choosing which songs to cover, I've got 2 recommendatios for you: "oldies but goodies" and song that have just been released. Oldies but goodies will have a sustainable audience still looking to hear the song in its many variations. But the competition tends to be fierce.
New songs won't always generate as much interest (unless you pick a big artist) and it will often be short lived. Well you don't really know how well the song will fare in the long run.
That being said, covers of new songs by big artists often have just as fierce competition because so many people are using the video cover strategy. Hence why I'd recommend finding your own unique style or concept. Something attention-grabbing for your video title.
Finally playlists are a long term investment which can really pay off but require a lot of attention. Though comparatively not as much as producing new videos every week. Good to use on YouTube, Spotify or Soundcloud.
Other video formats worth your investment
- Reviews: of your favourite gear, software, album, music genre
Nail your genre
In my experience using core keywords such as your music style or genre in your key spots (video title, description etc), does provide a boost in the long run.
Stick to a set of keyphrases that define what you do and the different types of videos you produce.
Love the web. Add value to it. If a lot of your work is going to be web based, then learn about how it works. Learn some basic SEO and video skills (you won't always have a talented filmmaker by your side, sometimes you'll have to fill in those shoes yourself).
There's already too much spam and crap content, don't go down the mediocre route. It's not worth it. Keep creating and keep learning in order to improve what you do.
At the end of the day, successful YouTube videos can be about two things: education or entertainment.
Keep that in mind and build 3-4 types of videos around those principles, those will be the playlist you can start with.