How to Be a Successful Musician on YouTube: Tips & Tricks

To become a famous YouTube musician is a dream for many. Here are a few important tips on how to stand out and get into the spotlight.
[Updated] How to Be a Successful Musician on YouTube
How-tos
Urban Klancnik

Emma HeestersJuicy M, Ed Sheeran, even Shawn Mendes, they all have a successful music career thanks to YouTube. But it’s not enough to upload a few videos and wait for something to happen. You have to take matters into your own hands. But how to get noticed?

Every minute, 500 hours of content are uploaded to the platform, competing for the attention of 2B active monthly users. In one of our previous articles, we reported that Pop, Electronic and Hip Hop musicians on YouTube have leveraged the power of the channel massively, as the top 2019 “growers” have seen anywhere between 400,000 and 1.2M new subscribers in one year. The interest is definitely out there, and by playing smart, you can work your way towards the best.

Here's how to get more followers and views as a YouTube musician, step by step.

#1 Create a professional-looking channel

The first impression is crucial. Have you ever seen a successful musician on YouTube without a professional-looking channel? It makes you more legit, and there are many ways to customize it. Spruce up your layout, profile pic and channel art, and make sure you add links to all your other channels – webpage, Facebook, Instagram, Viberate… Be sure to add a logo, if you have one. Once you have all that plus 100 subscribers, you can also create a custom URL to make it easier for your viewers to find you. 

Users watch over 1B hours of YouTube videos a day, more than Netflix and Facebook combined. And music videos are the most popular among them.

Remember to use your YouTube channel art to promote your new stuff, and reach out to your subscribers. This can mean anything from prompting them to check out your new video and sharing your music among their friends to buying your merch, whatever seems reasonable. 

Take inspiration from G-Eazy, who’s always hustling, yet careful to remain on-brand with his visual storytelling. During the coronavirus lockdown, he pointed out how his new release is convenient for homebound listeners, used video chatting as a relatable visual motive, and discreetly included the “request to be in my live video” prompt. 

#2 Use YouTube for networking 

Be proactive and use YouTube and other social media to communicate with people who might be important to your work. Comment under their videos/posts, ask questions, and engage in discussions. You can even send e-mails, if you can find the right address, but don’t overdo it. 

A great example of successful commenting is rapper Caleborate, who took great efforts to comment on popular Hip Hop videos, posting links to his own tracks in some of the comments. All with good reason: his music talent is undeniable, so he could back himself with good music. Soon, artists started noticing and praising him, and people started subscribing. 

Hard work is memorable: here’s a comment on Caleborate’s “4 Willem”, which has over 3M views today. 

#3 Be consistent with uploading

Don’t let your fans wait for too long. Give them a little taste of what you’re doing every now and then, like samples, demos and so on, if only to show them that your YouTube music channel is active and that you’re always producing something. It’s hard to say how often you should post, as it depends on the type of videos, but it’s a smart move to let your fans know your posting schedule.

Tori Kelly, Karmin, 5 Seconds of Summer, and The Weeknd are just few of the artists who started their music career on YouTube.

#4 Think about live music videos or covers

Additionally, rethink your content formats. YouTube musicians know that videos from live performances can be pure gold due to their spontaneous nature. Alternatively, the corona lockdown saw us replace spontaneity with creativity and seize the moment in the comfort of our own homes. 

Take a page out of The Offspring playbook: they were quick to react to the glory that is Netflix’s “Tiger King” and covered the controversial song “Here Kitty Kitty”. The official YouTube music video got extensive media coverage and millions of views until it was taken down, successfully placing The Offspring – a Punk band of over 35 years – back in the mainstream spotlight.

As a commenter pointed out, the official video was probably taken down because the band sat too close together.

A lot of other musicians on YouTube, such as Disturbed, Bad Wolves, and Alien Ant Farm, also got a lot of new fans and views by doing cover songs. But you don’t always have to create a professional music video or record the song in a studio; just get some basic recording equipment (a mic and a camera) and do a live take. Be careful, most songs are protected by copyright law, so get familiar with the licenses you’ll need to do it legally. 

But the most important part for YouTube success as a musician is to give the audience something different. Your art and ideas don’t need compromises, so make sure you bring attention to them with smart promotion. It’s going to be a challenge sometimes, but it can be done. 

#5 Find the right support channels

Musicians on YouTube have to be on the lookout for promotion channels that support artists such as themselves, and try to get on their radar. There are a couple of interesting music channels covering practically all major genres and engaging anywhere from a couple of thousand to millions of subscribers, so do some research. Ask them to upload your video, and you might snatch some new fans. But note that some channels might ask for payment in return.

#6 Use SEO and technical tools

Search Engine Optimization or SEO is a science in itself, but you can master the basics pretty fast. At its core, it means that you use phrases people will be searching for. To make it as a musician on YouTube, there are four key points you should be aware of: video keyword research, finding low-competition keywords, and understanding what Audience Retention and Click-Through-Rate (CTR) are. 

The most important YouTube SEO tools that will help you rise:

  • Google Trends – it shows you the search volume behind the keywords and helps you research new trends.
  • Google Analytics – it’s great for seeing what’s happening on your pages, and yes, you can add the Analytics ID to your YouTube account.
  • Google Keyword Planner – provides insight into your keywords, as well as alternatives to them.
  • YouTube Analytics – another tool to improve your SEO strategy.
  • Awario – for researching hot content on different social media and tracking mentions.
  • Rank Tracker – a tool for recommended keywords
  • Rapidtags – for researching the best tags and keywords for your video.#7 Follow the numbers and adjust

#7 Follow the numbers and adjust

It’s important to learn how to manage your time and efforts. To stay on an upward trajectory, see what works and what doesn’t. You can monitor your performance with Viberate's music analytics, a simple cross-channel overview tool that brings our Viberate data together. That’s how you can stay on top of your fans and their preferences, and spark new content ideas to engage them. There's loads of features you can work with – and you can try them out in a 30-day free trial.

 

LET'S RECAP

➡️ Create a professional-looking channel.

➡️ Network.

➡️ Be consistent with uploading.

➡️ Think about live music videos or covers

➡️ Find the right support channels to promote your music.

➡️ Use SEO for more hits. 

➡️ Follow the numbers and adjust.

 

Cover photo: Alejandro Ortiz (Unsplash)

 

Read this next: 

If You Make Electronic Music, YouTube Might Just Work for You

Unique Path to Success: Lessons From Savvy YouTubers

These Five Artists Took Advantage of the Power of TikTok, and You Can Too

Urban Klancnik

Urban Klancnik

Guest Writer at Viberate
A journalist, writer, drummer, and music enthusiast. Spent the last 20 years destroying his hearing with Metal and Rock and sharing his experiences from some of the biggest festivals in the world.