YouTube is the most popular video platform for singers. Using YouTube as a singer to upload videos of your talent makes sense as an artist; it’s free to use and can visually show what you can do.
Knowing the basics of using YouTube is one thing, but knowing how to utilise it for your artist project is essential if you want to be in with a good chance of becoming successful.
YouTube is one of the most interactive ways of promoting yourself through social media. We have plenty of tips that will help you with ways to bring more organic traffic to your channel and to gain a wider fan base.
Singers on YouTube – Some general top tips
Firstly it’s important that singers on YouTube have their channel set as a ‘musician’. It’s a vital setting for your channel as it allows singers on YouTube to add upcoming dates and performance information.
Being able to promote your events through your YouTube channel is free so go for it; it only takes one random person to show up to your gig to widen your audience.
YouTube is open to anyone with or without an account so the next tip for singers on YouTube is to add links to your website and other social media websites.
If people have spent time looking for our video and watching your video, what’s to stop them stalking you a little bit more? Adding those links to your channel allows viewers to find out more about you.
Customise your YouTube channel
For example, you could use a background photo. It’s another way of marketing yourself through your channel. So if you’ve had a photo shoot and you want to show those photos off, here’s your chance! The background photo can be seen throughout a visit to the channel so the photo has to be high quality and relevant to you as a musician.
Keep themes and display pictures the same across all of your social media
As always keep images and themes the same, or keep them linked as closely as possible to keep uniformity.
This comes down to an artist’s image, but you don’t want a potential fan to question whether that is you they saw the night before so making sure image is the same across the board.
Engage with your audience
Singers on YouTube should engage with their audience! Try to respond to every comment written on your channel or your video links.
Everyone likes people with manners, so putting a simple ‘thank you’ in response to their comment can be a way of improving reputation on your channel. Plus who knows, replying to all the comments, might make a few more people add a comment to see if they get a reply too!
YouTube Add tags for singers
Singers on YouTube often struggle to be able to find their videos on YouTube, therefore, adding tags to your video is vital. Adding tags link directly to the search function, so not using them would be a complete waste of your time.
If you’re writing uploading a rock cover of ‘That’s What Makes You Beautiful’, tag everything that can relate to that, the more tags, the easier you are to find.
You could add ‘rock’, ‘cover’, and ‘one direction’ and so on to the aforementioned example. These tags are priceless for a musician on YouTube so make sure you make the most of them.
Adding annotations to your videos
These are the little boxes of text that come up when watching a YouTube clip. Although they seem to be irritating, for your channel that can be beneficial, especially as you can hyperlink them to redirect them to subscribe to your channel or even visit your website.
Annotations can be put on your video for set periods of time, so they shouldn’t put people off viewing your videos.
Upload videos to other YouTube channels
Singers on YouTube can upload videos to other YouTube channels. This sounds strange, but when you think about it logically you can potentially upload your new videos onto a pre-established channel that already has a built–up fan base.
As long as the channel accepts your video, there is already a fan base waiting to see your video.
Tips on how YouTube can help you as a singer
Don’t think your videos are going to be seen by millions, as it always takes a lot of time and hard work to build up views, so you have a little (well a lot of) work to do before that happens. However, start to get it right and your performance can be shared across a wide audience and in some cases get you signed.
You’re unlikely to make it as a singer if you sound like every other singer; you have to have something unique about your voice that makes people want to hear more. So if you’re going to upload a cover, make sure you’ve made it your own.
Try not to imitate other singers voices; you have your own voice – make sure people know about it. As always make it engaging and interesting, something to stand out otherwise people will just move on.
You might even want to try writing your own songs – if you’re looking to start writing your own original music, this article is definitely worth a read:
How to use YouTube as a musician
Have a custom URL
When you have enough subscribers, you might be eligible for a custom YouTube URL. If you change your URL, it can give you a more professional appearance and help you brand yourself.
Build up your subscribers
Promoting your video is essential and, as always, building up a fan base is critical if you want to be scouted on YouTube.
There are few people in the industry that are going to find you if other YouTubers can’t. By building up your subscribers you’ll have a basis of viewers as each video you’ll upload will show up on their account.
Upload good quality videos
Take time to get it right. It’s great if you can invest in a camera with the ability to record a good quality professionally produced video, however, just getting the lighting, background, and settings all spot on is far more important.
Don’t upload anything to YouTube unless you’re 100% finished with it and you’d be happy for people to see that video in a few years’ time.
Uploading unfinished videos is unprofessional, makes fans lose interest and you’re not giving them everything you’re capable of. People will judge your worst performances so best for quality rather than quantity.
How to get a YouTube artist channel
YouTube for artists signup – the requirements
How to get YouTube official artist channel: Having a YouTube for artists channel is great if you want to look professional on YouTube. Here are the ways you can go about getting one:
- Have an owned and operated channel – avoid using “Music” in your artist name, unless this is otherwise incorporated under your artist persona.
- Topic channel “Auto-generated channel under your Artist Name.“
- 3 official music videos on YouTube delivered from a music distribution partner, similar to Spotify and iTunes. We recommend 15+.
Once you’ve done this, you can email the YouTube Music team at [email protected] an email that’s connected to your artist channel is usually preferred when getting in touch with YouTube for Artist.
More on how to get an official artist channel on YouTube here:
Putting original music on YouTube
This is absolutely fine to do and even monetise as long as you hold the copyright to whatever music you are uploading to YouTube. Read more on how to make money as a musician.
You can monetise your videos by putting ads on them (through YouTube partnership) which can provide some good pocket money when you’re starting out.
How much do YouTube singers make?
YouTube pays out around $1-3 per 1,000 views, but this figure entirely depends on how many ads are on the video, and the country that the view comes from.
If you’re putting lots of adverts throughout your video, you’re more likely to get more money, but if you put too many, your fans will get annoyed.
Striking the right balance between getting a reasonable amount of ad revenue and not annoying your fans is tricky – at the start, it’s not uncommon to have no ads so that you can keep your fans engaged without seeming too commercial.
Who was the first artist on YouTube?
One of the very first artists on YouTube, who is still going strong today, is Soulja Boy:
Most famous for his song “Crank That,” Soulja Boy is now signed to Freqz World records.
Top YouTube artists Channels
Singing YouTube channels: As of June 2019, here are the top 10 most subscribed artists on all of YouTube (excluding conglomerate channels such as T-Series):
- Justin Bieber (45 million subscribers)
- Ed Sheeran (39 million subscribers)
- Eminem (37 million subscribers)
- Ariana Grande (35 million subscribers)
- Marshmello (35 million subscribers)
- Taylor Swift (33 million subscribers)
- Katy Perry (33 million subscribers)
- Rihanna (32 million subscribers)
- One Direction (29 million subscribers)
- Maroon 5 (26 million subscribers)
Putting original music on YouTube
YouTube employs a system called Content ID matching that allows copyright owners to identify and to manage how their content is used on YouTube. Every video uploaded to YouTube is scanned against the Content ID database to detect if it contains any copyrighted music or video.
Copyright owners, get to decide what to do with videos that contain their work, not YouTube.
If you use copyrighted music registered in the Content ID system, the copyright owner may decide to:
- Mute your video (video is still available but no audio)
- Block your video (worst case – this most likely will penalise your channel)
- Monetise on your video by running ads (you won’t be able to monetise)
- Track the viewership statistics of your video
In most cases, Content ID is only available to the big music publishers such as Sony.
A number of YouTube certified companies, however, such as AdRev, Audiam, and few more, offer technical solutions for smaller independent music producers. This means that independent artists can also protect their works with YouTube’s Content ID system.
- Can I use copyrighted music on YouTube?
Yes, you can legally use copyrighted music in YouTube videos, but you need to understand how YouTube’s copyright system works as explained above.
- How do I legally post cover songs on YouTube?
It’s okay to post a cover of anything. You won’t get arrested or anything like that for posting your version of a song online! If possible, however, still get a third party content claim.
If you get one of these, YouTube suggests that you do one of the following:
- Acknowledge it. If you don’t mind the ads, you don’t have to do anything.
- Remove or swap the music.
- Share revenue. If you’re a partner you can share revenues for song covers.
- Dispute the claim if you believe you have the right to use the music.
What singers got famous from YouTube?
Lots of artists that are now signed to major record labels started out posting music on YouTube. Where did they start? What was their breakthrough song? Where are they now?
We’ve found 13 major artists that got started on the platform.
#1 Justin Bieber
One of the most notorious YouTube success stories to date is Justin Bieber.
He was an instant hit from the day that he was found. Starting at a very young age, Justin would post his videos of him singing at talent shows and throughout his home, covering artists such as Chris Brown, Justin Timberlake, Ne-Yo, and more. In Bieber’s case, he was discovered by hip-hop star Usher.
Usher took him under his wing and taught him everything that he knew from singing to dancing, and everything in between.
Now he has become an absolute force to be reckoned with in the music industry. Justin Bieber can thank Usher and the internet for being one of the musicians who became famous through YouTube.
Here is Justin’s video that Usher found:
#2 Carly Rae Jepsen
A few months after Carly released her song “Call Me Maybe” in September 2011, Justin Bieber found it, made a lip syncing video, and tweeted it out to his fans. The video featured Justin, Selena Gomez, and many other famous young celebrities at the time.
Aside from the song going insanely viral, Scooter Braun (Justin’s manager) couldn’t resist the strong recommendation from Justin and signed Carly right away. Solid proof that all it takes is one amazing video to help launch a career.
Carly is now signed to Schoolboy/Interscope Records. Here is the video that launched Carly’s career:
#3 Tori Kelly
Tori Kelly originally looked to gain her fame on television but she was famously rejected by American Idol.
Although the judges did not like her singing, the internet did! She continued making videos on YouTube of herself singing in her bedroom as most users do.
Whether you saw her videos before her fame or not, now you can go see her for yourself on tour or performing at the Grammys as she has always dreamed of doing.
Here’s one of the many videos that made Tori famous:
#4 Sam Tsui
Sam is an American-born musician who’s earned some decent fame on YouTube. He’s posted many high-quality cover videos since 2011.
As of June 2019, he has 3 million+ subscribers. He covers songs of popular artists such as Adele, Bruno Mars, Justin Timberlake, Taylor Swift, and Britney Spears.
He also sings some original songs, mashups, and medleys, along with his collaborations with Kurt Hugo Schneider. He releases a lot of his original music independently.
Here is one of the videos that kick-started Sam’s career:
#5 Austin Mahone
This popular singer was discovered on YouTube and was offered to sign a contract with Young Money, Cash Money Records.
His social media platforms have always been very popular. He’s now won plenty of awards including the VMA for “Artist to Watch” award a few years ago. He released an album in 2016 to A.M. Music and is still popular today!
Here’s one of the covers that have made him famous since 2012:
#6 5 Seconds of Summer
5 Seconds of Summer developed their following organically on Facebook and Twitter, but it was their YouTube that really got them signed.
Louis Tomlinson from One Direction saw their cover of “Teenage Dirtbag” and then he backed them up with a supporting tweet. This led to them going on tour with One Direction and then world stardom. They’re now one of the most streamed artists in 2019 so far.
Here’s their cover of Teenage Dirtbag:
#7 Shawn Mendes
Shawn Mendes is another famous singer who started off posting covers on YouTube and Vine. When Vine first came out, he would get up to 10,000 likes in just one day which was pretty huge for Vine in its early days.
He eventually grew his audience after many support tours from 2013 onwards. He opened for fellow YouTuber Austin Mahone and then eventually joined the Taylor Swift tour on her 1989 tour from 2014.
Here’s one of the first covers that Shawn uploaded:
#8 James Bay
James Bay started by booking small-time gigs at bars and open mic nights up to 6 nights a week! For him, this is because he would rather speak through his music, which shows while listening to his songs.
He uploaded these emotion-filled videos and live performances to YouTube. Eventually, he had amassed a big enough following on Twitter and YouTube to help obtain a record deal with Republic Records.
Here’s one of James Bay’s oldest YouTube videos:
#9 Alessia Cara
When she was young, Alessia’s after-school activities consisted of posting stripped-down, acoustic covers of her favourite songs.
EP Entertainment’s founder was shown an Alessia video by his daughter. It led to the opportunity for her to record demos, so her entire senior year was entirely focused on her music.
Now with her chart-topping debut album, it’s refreshing to see that not much has changed. The way she lights her official music videos is still reminiscent of how she staged it at the start of her career.
Here’s her very first video that she uploaded to her channel:
#10 Charlie Puth
Doing a cover of Adele is not easy, but a video that Charlie Puth was featured in back in 2011 was Charlie’s key to stardom.
Prior to releasing “Nine Track Mind”, the singer-songwriter studied at the prestigious Berklee College of Music, which naturally put him in top shape for making YouTube videos brimming with talent.
Here’s the video that got Charlie discovered through the Ellen Show. Ellen DeGeneres found this video and then featured him on her show:
Here’s Charlie’s first appearance on the Ellen show in 2011:
#11 The Weeknd
The Weeknd’s name and music were quite cryptic at first – only static images were featured throughout all of his music videos in his earlier days.
After posting a number of videos on YouTube, he was still able to develop an impressive following, proving that his infamous climb up the charts was based solely on his signature voice.
Here’s one of his first YouTube videos back in 2011 that amassed huge amounts of views in the platform:
Pentatonix started on YouTube, making very creative covers of popular songs using only their voices.
They now have two Grammys under their belt and are still growing in popularity in 2019.
Here’s one of their most famous mashups – Daft Punk:
#13 Ed Sheeran
Ed Sheeran seemingly appeared out of nowhere, but it was online where he first got his start.
From singing in his bedroom to having someone record him outside with his guitar in hand, it did not take long for people to fall in love with Sheeran’s soft voice, thoughtful lyrics, and personal touch.
His main goal while uploading and writing his music was to be as relateable to people as he could. Ed has become one of the biggest musicians in 2019 who started on YouTube.
Here’s one of his earliest covers that he put on the platform:
Have you got any tips on how to use YouTube as a singer? What methods have you used? We would love to hear about them in the comments below!