YouTube Tells Musicians: “You Need to Make a Lot of Content”

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…from a discussion in Oslo with Jeroen Bouwman, manager of content partnerships for YouTube Music, as reported by Music Ally.

“Nine out of 10 of our most-watched videos are music videos.  Music is a type of content that people engage with on a very strong emotional level.  Undoubtedly music is very important to YouTube, but it’s not the only content on YouTube.”

“If an artist had an album that had 12 tracks, it would come out, have one, two or if you were lucky three singles come out over five to six months, then the artist would go quiet for 12 to 18 months until their next album came out.  But to be successful on YouTube, going quiet for 12 to 18 months doesn’t really work. Those labels or artists that are successful on YouTube?  They’re posting a lot of content.”

“To be successful on YouTube, you need to create a lot of content. That’s at odds with how the traditional music industry works.”

“YouTube kinda grows on you, but you have to invest the time. It might not start out as something where you are making thousands or tens of thousands or millions. But it’s something it grows into for some people, and not for others.

“But the promotional value is always there.”


Image: ‘Marzipan Doll Assembly Line’ by A. Davey, licensed under Creative Commons Generic Attribution 2.0 (CC by 2.0). 

36 Responses

  1. Sarah Popejoy

    Okay first the old woman making dolls picture is cracking me up. But it’s true that for YouTube you need to have a lot of content to be heard. Plus you stay in people’s minds better. They don’t have to be music, it can be on your tour or just talking. I know an artist who had a show every monday talking about his week. Another great way to create content is to create playlists with similar music and stick a couple of your songs there.

  2. Chris H

    You have to finance and create a lot of content (and own it outright) to make small to middling amounts of money on Youtube is the message. Call me less than enthused.

  3. Jabsco

    YouTube is a parking meter, if you don’t feed the meter you get punished.

  4. jw

    Artists can be kind of hilarious.

    An analogy… say you want to make the best pizza of all-time. Well you can’t just make the pizzas & expect people to seek you out & give you money. The reality is that, regardless of how passionate you are about something, how much time or money you invest into learning your craft, if you want to make money, you have to also be good at business. That’s marketing, payroll, taxes, dealing with suppliers & dissatisfied customers…maybe you’ll also have to prepare salads & other items you don’t really care for. That’s just life. You can either be a broke artist, or you can turn your art into a business & deal with all of the responsibilities that come with that. The successful pizza dude is the guy who makes the best pizza, plus has the minimum amount of business acumen. The MOST successful pizza dude is the one who has the best pizza & the best business acumen. (Jay Z & Kanye & Beyonce & Taylor Swift are probably the most successful artists in the world right now, & are all known for their business sense as much as their music.)

    So many artists don’t want to do videos, don’t want to tweet, don’t want to blog… the reality is that if you want to make money, you’ve got to either execute the business side of things, or you’ve got to hire someone who’s going to do that for you. Otherwise you’re going to have to work a day job, or just spend your whole career living in your parents’ basement.

    No one has to be on YouTube. But if you’re going to be on YouTube, & if you want to be successful on YouTube, you have to put in the effort. It’s the same as anything else.

    Artists who have this idea that you write a great song & then it’s just leer jets & hookers & blow are going to be very disappointed with their career trajectory.

    • JTVDigital

      Nothing to add.
      Play by the (constantly evolving) rules or become invisible.

    • jw

      stfu, man.


      Only read your first sentence. Just stfu.

      • jw

        This was directed @ a deleted post by Anonymous. Not JTVDigital.

    • Anonymous

      What makes you an artist? I’ve heard some of your stuff. It’s worse than all the above listed “entertainers.”

      • Anonymous

        Haha wow, what a friendly supportive honest bunch here, delete all my posts filled with truth and honesty and industry details and news and just get pissed and shit on with people who can say anything, what. a joke… I thought the majors and the celebs were bad but with these people around its no wonder I get on better with them even midst what has happened, and would rather work with them then people like yall…

        luckily my music is some of the best around and my peers who are also professionals confirm as such… no wonder fashion rules music, so much better then these people….

      • Anonymous

        And with the way yuall treat people, no one will ever have sympathy for musos or want to help them, fuck that shithole of a business, wow…


        • Anonymous

          in conclusion i just want to add, ive done a lot of jobs in my life, had a few careers, done many things, reached some lofty levels, closed some million dollar deals, worked some really hard jobs, some labor jobs, dealt with a plethora of awful people, had some terrible bosses, had some good ones, started my own company, started another one, done a lot in my life, and i can assure people, nothing has been worse, nothing more awful, nothing as unpleasureable where ive dealt with a constant barrage of unpleasant people, bitter and jaded and just downright terrible to people then my adventures in the music business… Even landscaping my first summer at college, working 10+ hour days of extremly hard labor 6 days a week making no money with alcoholic assholes on your ass constantly and down your throat at a moments notice for laying a piece of sod wrong, and that is honestly heaven compared to my stint in the music business…

          Nothing has been worse, it was the worst industry ive ever experienced in my entire life and no one and no other industry has treated me as awful as the music industry, if not for introspection and self educating, i wouldnt have gotten anything from my time in, luckily i stayed away as much as possible, but this is just taking the cake… I can take a lot and i can handle a lot and i can fight through adversity and take peoples shit pretty darn good, but this has far surpassed its limits…

          i mean, music reminds me of a schizophrenic friend i once had who i cut off and wouldnt even take emails or calls from who ill never have another millisecond for, but he was someone who would spit in your face after you handed him a plate of food or you would put a pot of gold at his feet and he would kick it away and then say something stupid, he reminds me of my dealings in the music business, just a mind boggling experience, and if the industry wasnt taking it out on me, washed up musos were, or else id be media fodder, or else it was something else, just purely unreal experience in music…

          I once had someone on the board of one of the only funding organizations, someone who didnt even make music, someone who didnt sacrifice or take on extreme risk to learn the crafts and artforms, to delve into the process and make the art, just another person controlling things and holding doors with zero music knowledge or real experience somehow tell me i wasnt qualified to be a juror member, meanwhile im one of a few thousand to receive tv/film royalties, own my own business, have done some pretty cool things in music, and no matter what i do or where i go i get screwed with or disrespected… I try and give back even when most wouldnt, and all i get is further disrespected, its beyond irreparable, its disgusting… I mean honestly, i know of plenty of people on those jurors who shouldnt be, what a shame… Music man, i dont have any love left for it, ill never go to another concert, ill never try and give back or support, i dont even want to hear new music and never want to see any music in my face, ever again, its just the most awful experience ever…

          Once again the business of something and the people within that business have ruined something i love, and as per usual, i could have really benefited those businesses, but was always misunderstood and treated awfully… Met lots of cool people and got lots of knowledge and education out of it all, but overall, just a retched experience to the point it leaves me in shock…

    • Tcooke

      I respect where you are coming from, but do you have a business degree? Listen, the most successful acts nowadays, the you know whos, have a division of labor throughout the process, many specialized people who do what they do best. 5 songwriters to write a katy perrry hit, multiple producers, multiple engineers, then an expensive mix engineer, then a top mastering engineer. Exclusive distribution and marketing. Then someone who does their social media, then someone who does their legal, their PR, a personal assistant, a travel agent, a manager, their videos, hair and makeup, photography, and on and on. But, to compete with this, one might need to most of these things, and master their craft and put out something truly original and authentic and engaging. And do all this for 4 cents a stream, if they can even reach an audience at all.

  5. Anonymous

    Is the “Leer” Jet the one with buxom stewardesses?

    • jw


      I guess I was under the impression that Lear Jets & Leer Jets were one in the same.

  6. Yep

    This is also true for all streaming services.

    You have to keep feeding them with content or the $’s very quickly dry up.

    My label has over 300,000 tracks on streaming services. We delivery new music everyday. We delivery absolutely any type of music, as long as people want it and listen. This week we went into the office kitchen, recorded the microwave and the kettle and released that.

    I’m not joking.

    • Paul Resnikoff

      This week we went into the office kitchen, recorded the microwave and the kettle and released that.

      And, I’m asking seriously, how many streams did you get of that?

      • Yep

        It’s a 30 track release which comprised sounds of the kettle, fan, microwave, weather and running water. Since the 10th February 2015 it’s done 43,013 paid streams on Spotify. We don’t really pay much attention to the ad supported side, it’s about 10 times lower.

    • Big Swifty

      This is what it has come to.

      I love it.

      Absolutely no judgement about content quality it’s all about massive quantity product

      And I’m not being sarcastic

      It’s an epiphany

      • Yep

        Absolute rubbish.

        This week we have recorded a 28 piece orchestra, 28 of the best classical musicians in the world. Next week we begin recording a 5 piece jazz band, which contains some of the hottest jazz musicians in the UK, right now.

        We are very very focused on streaming services. Our entire team has laser focus on Spotty right now. Our content is built to last. We’re not interested in ‘street date’ or any other short term splash. We build release that will stream for longer, for years. The quality of our recordings is very high. The ‘noise’ releases are very popular (if you have a new born baby, you would know what I mean…)

        Subscribers need new content all the time. so you need to feed them with content, every week.

        People are consuming far more music now. It’s a completely different world.

        • David

          Let’s crunch some numbers for your classical session. You are based in the UK, and the UK Musicians Union minimum rate is £120 for a short recording session. If the musicians are really among the best in the world (e.g. LSO standard) they will probably cost more, but just taking the minimum rate, the cost for your session is 28 x £120 = £3360. Then there is the cost of studio hire, sound engineering, mixing and mastering. Let’s conservatively put the total cost of the recording at £5000. The payout per stream from Spotify would be about half a penny (£0.005) per stream. You would therefore need at least a million streams just to cover the recording cost. Maybe I’m lacking in imagination, but I’m finding it difficult to see how you get that kind of number. I just did a search on Spotify for ‘Beethoven’. The results are of course spread over countless recordings, but in the ‘artist’s profile’ the ten ‘Popular’ tracks have an average cumulative streaming total well below a million. In fact, only two of the tracks have above a million. In case there is something peculiar about searching for a composer, I also did a search for Daniel Barenboim, arguably the biggest performer in classical music (as both pianist and conductor). The average cumulative play count for his ‘Popular’ tracks is under 200,000. So if you really are getting millions of streams for classical tracks, I can only express my admiration.

  7. David

    The YouTube guy seems to conveniently forget that it costs money to produce ‘content’. The cost is as long as the proverbial piece of string, but one can reasonably guess that to make a 3-minute video to a professional standard requires a budget of at least a few thousand dollars (or pounds, etc). For comparison, to make a 90-minute feature film, to a professional standard, a budget of a million dollars (approx $11,000 per minute) would be considered low. Of course, you can always find exceptional cases of someone making a good video in the street for a zero budget, but economics doesn’t run on exceptional cases. If we take $3,000 as a fair minimum, it would take 3 million YouTube plays just to pay back the cost of making the video (assuming a payout of a tenth of a cent per play). Very few independent music videos get that kind of play count, even over a period of years. So for most musicians, producing more ‘content’ for YouTube would just be a way of losing money more quickly.

    • Chris H


      Plus, this guy quoted in the article works for Youtube, a business that supposedly hasn’t made a profit in a decade of operations. Great place to take business advice from.

      • Bandit


        if a musician ran their business the way YouTube supposedly runs theirs then the musicians “parent” company would’ve kicked them out of the house five years ago. Unless of course the parents figured out how (through creative accounting) to write off their kids music “business” losses as a tax deduction

    • GGG

      Do it smarter then. “Content” doesn’t have to be full on music videos. I’ve seen plenty of artists, famous and unknown, sit on stage with themselves and a piano or acoustic guitar and blow me away. If you’re actually talented, a video doesn’t have to be any different.

      Borrrow or rent a good camera or two for a day, and shoot acoustic versions of all your songs (if they aren’t already) and/or some covers and/or normal versions of song live, whatever. In one day you could get a ton of video to roll out for months if you do one a week.

      If you’re mediocre and need tons of production to cover up your flaws, then you might have a problem sure. But then, you should also not be wasting everyone’s time in music.

  8. Anonymous

    YouTube: “If you want to make pennies compared to what you should, then you’ll need to work 5X as hard. Why? Because we’re Google and no one’s going to stop us from doing anything”.

  9. Tcooke

    Keep in mind google is successful and though youtube is not flipping a profit, the division adds substantial assets to the balance sheet by way of intangibles. And also the potential for future earnings is there.

  10. Mike Errico

    I spoke at a streaming music conference alongside a YouTube marketing rep, and unless I missed this above, the YT search algorithm actually takes into account how often you upload ANY content when determining what rises to the top of search results.

    Meaning, it rewards those who upload more with more results. That’s a much more concrete reason for a statement like “To be successful on YouTube, you need to create a lot of content.”

    That doesn’t seem to be mentioned in this post, but is an important factor – and exposes a bit of doublespeak on the part of this guy.

  11. danwriter

    Aside from the vitriol directed at Google/YT (much of which is warranted), what’s being discussed here isn’t the volume of content but rather its distribution rate. The same 15 tracks once made to drop together on a CD are now released individually, one every few weeks. The album concept’s been largely dead for a few years now.

  12. Seriously

    Please YouTube is 80% sh t. Over saturation is not the answer. when oh when is the music business going to STAND UP and take control of their business? Kettle? Lmao

  13. Willis

    With the disappearance of artist development, are labels any different with their ‘quantity over quality’ approach?

  14. Johnny Gagnon

    Thats fantastic news if your a multinatanional record company , isnt it?

    • Name2

      For the multinationals, there is no such thing as bad news.

  15. Versus

    So the key is quantity of “content”. No mention of quality at all.
    Whereas producing quantity usually contradicts producing quality “content”, also known as “art”.

  16. JTVDigital

    I have to comment a bit here, not only because Jeroen has been one of my colleagues some years ago, but since he does make a point some people here do not seem to get…

    YouTube is interested in content, this is what fuels the service.

    Like it or not, in a digital world Music is “just” a form a Content. There is nothing pejorative to say that, this is the reality.
    This is not about “Art” or “Quality”, etc., these things are pre-requisites and shall not even be thrown into the debate.

    What he is saying is that artists / labels have to use their Content wisely, in order to maximize the ROI when exploiting their catalog online.
    This is valid for any form of digital/online exploitation, was it YouTube, iTunes, Spotify, D2F (Direct To Fans), social media and more.
    Artists / content owners need a release and marketing strategy otherwise it’s a dead end and they end up with frustration and bitterness.
    There is no magic formula to success or for having a song or music video go viral, but there is a set of techniques that can be used for at least trying to get a slice of the pie.
    Never forget you are in direct competition with multi-million marketing budgets if you do mainstream music, and with thousands of other artists if you are within a niche genre.
    So basically you need to be wiser and better than anyone else (with the assumption you don’t have a multi-million marketing budget).
    The main issue is that most artists do not even try and completely mess things up from the beginning, by releasing everything they have without any plan or strategy…

    “Content” is not necessarily a fully produced professional shiny music video (you only need 1 or 2 “real” music videos per album really), you can create lyrics videos, still-frame videos (with only the music and a static artwork image) organized in playlists to let people listen to your album on YouTube, karaoke videos (why not? depending on your genre, you’d be surprised how many people want to sing with you and get the lyrics), shoot your recording sessions, videos taken from live performances, from everyday life….etc.
    Anything counts as “Content”, it will fuel your channel, keep your subscribers happy (since they’ll get new content regularly), help acquiring new viewers and subscribers, and YouTube’s algorithm will be “happy” too. Don’t forget to monetize every single video you upload and every single song you release.

    So more content = more views, more subscribers, more exposure, more brand awareness…etc., and ultimately more money (hopefully).

    But yes it takes time, efforts, perseverance, A/B testing, success/errors, attempts…work.