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October 19, 2021

YouTube Monetization and Copyright

Can you remember what life was like before YouTube? If yes or if not, we’re ahead of the game: a little blander and, for sure, with a lot fewer opportunities for content producers. Since 2005, the video platform has increasingly shown its influence in the digital environment and forever changed the way music is consumed.

Youtube as a music platform

According to surveys, 1.2 Billion people consume music online every month. It turns out that YouTube alone has the same proportion as radio stations in the country, being accessed by the population over 12 from classes A, B, and C. And music is the main content consumed.

Today, it has become unlikely for an artist to release a clip anywhere other than YouTube. There are hours and hours of work by great singers and bands, in the most varied possible versions. And the most interesting thing about all of this is that it doesn’t just work for great artists, already consolidated. According to Google itself, 57% of music consumers on YouTube use the platform to discover new music and/or artists. In practice, this means that the site also serves as a kickoff for those who do not yet have so much visibility. And best of all, you can still earn money from your videos.

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But not everything is that simple.

Here are the explanations of how YouTube monetization works, which, for various reasons, is always changing. 

When the YouTube Partner Program (a program that allows content producers to earn money for their videos) was created, the prerequisites to be accepted were:

  • Produce original content;
  • Post videos on a regular basis;
  • Have content that complies with YouTube Community rules;
  • Be located in one of the countries on the Partner Program list.

These were good times for anyone doing all of this, as the requirements were few and relatively simple. Once accepted, your channel could start serving ads through AdSense, Google’s ad platform. From there, you would start to profit, depending on the number of ad clicks or advertising time watched. You can also buy YouTube comments, Views, and Subscribers now.

The problem is that advertisers had no control over which videos they were “associating” with their product: this was done through a YouTube system, based on an algorithm. That is, many ads ended up being placed on videos with offensive and objectionable content. Not cool for big brands, right?

To try to work around the situation, YouTube made some changes to the Partner Program, still in 2017, and one more rule was established: the content producer should have, in addition to the existing rules, more than 10 thousand views on its channel. According to the platform team, producers who have this brand of views can be considered more “trustworthy”.

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However, the new measure was not all that effective and, in late 2017, YouTube again ran into problems and, once again, decided to change the rules.

Human Moderation

From now on, all channels that request participation in the YouTube Partner Program will be analyzed not only by the number of views but also by the type of content and user engagement, as the site has hired 10,000 “moderators” to analyze the videos manually.

To profit from their videos, content producers must have at least 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 hours of content watched in the past 12 months. Channels that were already in the monetization program and do not meet the new prerequisites will be removed by the end of February. 

Okay, I understand how monetization works. But how does this affect my work as a composer?

Suppose you wrote a big hit, which is doing a lot of success in the voice of a famous singer. This singer records a video singing his song and posts it on YouTube. Will you automatically receive your copyright? NOT.

For the composer to receive the copyright, he will have to charge some of the artist’s needs. Are they:

1- The artist’s channel must-have monetization enabled. This is because YouTube claims that, in order to pay royalties, it is necessary to be serving ads on that channel/video. In this way, composers will be able to receive around 9% of the advertising revenue generated by that video;

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2- For YouTube to identify that in that particular video there is a certain song, it is necessary that the artist, BEFORE uploading the video on the platform, link the ISRC of the song to the video, through a digital aggregator. If the artist links the ISRC sometime after having uploaded the video to YouTube, the composer does not receive the first views, as the platform does not pay retroactive fees.

As you can see, the composer depends on the artist’s commitment to these two requirements.

You, the composer, need to be sure of the artist’s IRSC registration. Ask him to send you the registration so you can check if it is as agreed. Therefore, we suggest that an agreement be made, through a contract, so that everyone wins. And remember, too, to notify your society so that it can oversee the ISRC.

Also, YouTube does not pay related rights. In other words, interpreters, accompanying musicians, and phonographic producers are not included, only authors and publishers. 

Credits on unofficial videos

In May 2018, YouTube announced something new: the “Show More” section in each video was expanded. From now on, we can know who the artist is, the name of the song, and its licensing. This means that not only official music videos of bands and artists will have their credits on display, but also other unofficial videos that use music for other purposes, such as tracks and background sounds, will have the songs credited and credited to the authors automatically.

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What can we conclude with all this?

Has YouTube tightened the belts of content producers? Yes, and this only tends to increase more and more, as inspections have become tighter and we know that the platform really needs to filter out what is respectful and what is abusive.

For musicians and composers, the platform is still a sensitive territory and the subject of great debates about copyright, but in the world. A global IFPI report showed that while 212 million users of streaming services like Spotify and Deezer generate $3.9 billion in revenue, the 900 million people who consume music on YouTube generate $553 million. This is called the “value gap”: the difference in the amount YouTube pays composers per stream compared to other platforms.

Data released by Information is Beautiful for July 2017 shows that while Google’s video site pays $0.0006 per stream, Spotify and Apple Music pay $0.0038 and 0.0064, respectively.

Therefore, it is very likely that even more changes will take place in the coming years.


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