how to collect your youtube royalties

October, 14 2021

It is an interesting time in history to be a songwriter and musician.  The music business has changed significantly from the old paradigm of the major record company/artist relationship and is evolving towards the independent artist model.  While the work and effort to stand out among the masses are significant,

there are more opportunities to make money as an artist than ever before: Live streams, merchandise sales, Spotify/Apple playlisting and operating your own media channel through YouTube, resulting in multiple income sources.

With this SONGLINK, we're focusing on YouTube, including how you generate income and collect your YouTube royalties.


How to Collect Your YouTube Royalties: Five Questions Answered

YouTube is owned by Google and now represents a major marketing platform and revenue stream.  As of this writing there are more than 600 hours of content uploaded to YouTube every minute, and their advertising revenue alone is more than $16 billion annually.

Here are five Q&A’s that can help you better understand the intricacies of dealing with YouTube.

  1. “How does my publisher/administrator collect my YouTube royalties for the songs that are streamed throughout the service?”
    • A. PROs: Your administrator registers your songs with your performing rights organization first --ASCAP/BMI/SESAC.  This way performance tracking is initiated to collect your performance royalties based on the amount of streams you have which is then tracked through your PRO and subsequently goes through your administrator. With your videos uploaded through your distributor on YouTube, your administrator then registers your songs in two ways.
    • B. YOUTUBE DIRECT: Through YouTube CMS (Content Management System or Content ID System), YouTube is able to ingest your metadata that your administrator submits for tracking.  This can often involve complex formatting and strict adherence to submission protocols from YouTube.  This is for your audio/visual videos.
    • C. THE MLC:  Subsequently your administrator registers your songs with The MLC to catch the performances of audio-only videos on YouTube so you are paid your mechanical royalties which The MLC specializes in, via your administrator.  Again your administrator must follow strict formatting protocols from The MLC.  This is referred to as the DQI—or “Data Quality Initiative” that helps The MLC ingest your song data cleanly and accurately.  Your administrator specializes in submitting these audio-only works to the MLC from YouTube as well as the many streaming services.
  2. “Does YouTube pay less than Apple Music and Spotify?”
    • The short answer is yes but this is an ever-moving target. Why?  
      It depends on how much the songwriter/publisher pool of money is, that each service has during a payment period, based on money from advertisements and subscriptions. But it also depends on how many commercially active songs are in each services’ payout “pool”.  The more songs that are in the payout pool, the less value each song has.  Right now YouTube, Apple Music, and Spotify are the top three online music streaming services.  In very general terms in 2021: Apple Music pays $.00783 per stream, Spotify pays $.00318 per stream, and YouTube pays $.0008 per stream.  But those rates will likely change in 2022 and beyond. And YouTube has the additional earning stream for your songs when they are synchronized to video content.
  3. “Whatever happened to GooglePlay?”
    • In October of 2020, Google announced that it was closing GooglePlay Music in order to focus on its acquisition and expansion of YouTube and YouTube Music.
  4. “What is the difference between my streamed song, my video, and my lyric video when it comes to royalty collection?”
    • For each YouTube video that uses your music, there are up to four types of royalties generated.
    • A. YOUTUBE VIDEO CONTENT OWNER ROYALTIES:  There are royalties for the video content owner or media company that owns the video content.
    • B. YOUTUBE AUDIO RECORDING OWNER ROYALTIES: Artist/producer royalties that go to the artist and/or record label.
    • C. YOUTUBE PERFORMANCE ROYALTIES FOR THE SONGWRITER: For the public broadcast of your music.
    • D. YOUTUBE MECHANICAL ROYALTIES FOR THE SONGWRITER: A mechanical royalty is generated for the interactive stream of your song which goes to the songwriter. 
    • And of course each royalty pays at a different rate.
  5. “What is YouTube CMS (Content Management System)?”
    • Your music can earn royalties on the entire YouTube site, not just on your content channel.  To generate and collect your YouTube royalties, YouTube's Content ID system matches the audio from your original recording –including the audio metadata provided by your distributor and the song metadata provided by your publisher/administrator - using sound files and other relevant information to identify videos that are a potential match across the entire site.  This includes cover song videos, lyric videos, live performance videos, and more, giving the rights holder the opportunity to monetize the content --or restrict it if your music was used without proper permission.  Composition owners have more opportunities for monetization than master recording owners who can only monetize videos that contain the original specific recording.

The Benefits of Working With A Publishing Administrator

In today's digital world, artists and songwriters have more opportunities than ever before for generating income from their work.  However, the process for generating royalty income is complicated and often confusing. 

The best option for collecting all of the money owed to you through YouTube is to work with a publisher/administrator who understands:

  • How to submit the proper song registration format to YouTube.
  • How to submit CWR song files to The MLC
  • How to properly register your songs on both the songwriter and publisher side with your PRO

CONCLUSION: A good publishing administrator will work with you to make sure that you collect all your U.S. YouTube royalties.  And when it comes to International YouTube royalties, your administrator must be sure your songs are registered throughout the world with your administrator’s affiliated collection agencies and/or subpublishers in order to maximize your overall global income.