YouTube Says It Pays $3 for Every 1,000 Views. A Musician Says He’s Making 1/50th of That.

YouTube Says It Pays $3 for Every 1,000 Plays
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YouTube Says It Pays $3 for Every 1,000 Plays
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photo: Paul Domenick (CC 2.0)

Is YouTube seriously paying $3 for every 1,000 views?  Or is that just another ‘alternative fact’?

How much does YouTube really pay?  Welcome to the million-dollar question for musicians, studios, and rights owners everywhere.  Or, shall we say, the million micro-penny question.

Just last week, a crack of clarity seemed to poke through the frustrating fog.  Lyor Cohen, YouTube’s Global Head of Music, finally wrote a concrete number down for the world to see.  Here’s what Cohen wrote last week in a broader blog espousing YouTube’s beneficial role for the music industry:

“Artists and songwriters need to truly understand what they’re making on different platforms. It’s not enough for YouTube to say that it’s paid over $1 billion to the industry from ads. We (the labels, publishers and YouTube) must shine a light on artist royalties, show them how much they make from ads compared to subscriptions by geography and see how high their revenue is in the U.S. and compared to other services.

“For instance, critics complain YouTube isn’t paying enough money for ad-supported streams compared to Spotify or Pandora.  I was one of them!  Then I got here and looked at the numbers myself.

“At over $3 per thousand streams in the U.S., YouTube is paying out more than other ad supported services.”

Earlier, YouTube executive Robert Kyncl has flat-out refused to offer any concrete payout figures.  Instead, Kyncl leaned on a vaguely-gigantic sounding ‘$1 billion’, which the executive claims YouTube had paid content owners over the past 12 months.  “In fact, in the last 12 months, YouTube has paid out over $1 billion to the music industry from advertising alone, demonstrating that multiple experiences and models are succeeding alongside each other,” Kyncl stated in December of 2016.

Cohen also tossed around the ‘billion’ figure as well, multiple times, and for good reason.  It simply sounds so damn big, while demanding so little detail.  “YouTube’s ads hustle has already brought over a billion dollars in 12 months to the industry and it’s growing rapidly,” Cohen parroted, with a sprinkle of street slang tossed in.

How to Destroy YouTube & Save the Music Industry

All of which makes this more concrete number a breakthrough.  Except: is anyone actually getting paid that handsome $3 payout?

Definitely not this artist, who kindly shared his YouTube royalty statements with Digital Music News earlier this year.

Here’s what this musician made after crossing one million views (which equals 1,000 x 1,000):

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That’s right: $64.60 for 1,048,893 views.

Doing the math, that’s roughly 6.1 cents per 1,000 streams.  Or, approximately 1/50th the claimed $3 per 1,000 spins figure from Cohen.

Surely, there must be an error?  We asked the artist, who opted to remain confidential, and he informed us that all of these plays were ContentID enabled.  Moreover, the figure was largely in line with the previous year’s figures.  “Last year was nearly half a million views at $27,” he said.

So this isn’t an aberration or some calculation error.  It’s a consistent average for an artist earning ContentID-enabled, high-engagement views:

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Perhaps there’s another explanation?

We’re not experts in YouTube payouts (though we know some people who are).  But these actual figures seem so wildly off the $3-per-1,000 mark, they raise questions over who — if anyone — is getting paid that much.  Indeed, at $3-per-1,000 views, a content creator with 1 million monetized views would earn $3,000.

A video with 10 million views (not uncommon) would earn $30,000.  Not bad!

USA vs. ‘Developing Nations’

There is one detail worth mentioning here.  In his post, Cohen specifically noted that the $3-per-1,000 views figure was for US-only views.  ‘Developing nations,’ on the other hand, earn far less.  After quoting the bombshell $3 payout figure, Cohen hedged as follows:

“Why doesn’t anyone know [the $3-per-1,000 views royalty figure]? Because YouTube is global and the numbers get diluted by lower contributions in developing markets. But they’re working the ads hustle like crazy so payouts can ramp up quickly all around the world. If they can do that, this industry could double in the next few years.”

That said, the explanation leaves out everyone in-between.  For example, Norway is by no means a ‘developing nation’. But per capita, Norway is far richer than the US.  So what does an artist earn from 1,000 views in Norway?

But we can say this: across the board, US-based advertising fetches a far higher premium online.  We know this at Digital Music News simply by looking at our advertising payouts.  It’s not a secret in the advertising world, by any means.

The question is whether YouTube’s ‘ad hustle’ can fundamentally tilt the disparity between developing nation payouts and US-based payouts.

And, whether that US-based payout figure is actually real.



25 Responses

  1. Michael

    $3 received revenue per 1,000 (RPM) in the US is reasonable. It depends on so many factors, particularly for music. The numbers vary hugely by country and type of content. Reasonably, YT is assuming fully-controlled content. I think the example you are using is probably not giving a good sense of the population.

    • James Walsh

      The trouble here is that Youtube and other streaming services are making millions off advertising and not sharing that revenue with artists. Instead they give the artists a cheque for less than $100.00 and then continue to make millions – money that they would not necessarily have without the artists product. This is what amounts to as a one sided contract. There is no living to be made here except for employees who may have IPO shares which allow them on paper to be millionaires. Meanwhile, the artists have to go into debt or tour continuously to make a break even point – after 5 years of hard work. This is unacceptable.

  2. Michael

    Our experience on YouTube is very different from this example. Revenue depend on so many factors, including type of content, geography, time of year, advertiser demand. Also, really importantly here, monetization of music content is very different from other types of content.
    I believe that many music channel are doing way better than $0.06 per 1,000 views, more like in the the range of $2 to $5 per 1,000 views, in the United States.
    I’m Interested to hear the experience of others.

  3. Anonymous

    Because of the censorship Paul is a proponent of, an increasing number of YouTube videos are no longer monetized at all.

    First, the victims were primary people and artists associated with LGBTQ (they’re obviously still hit hard).

    Then it spread to videos expressing a variety of other non-mainstream points of view.

    You’re next.

  4. Faza (TCM)

    $3 for 1000 views?

    Based on the numbers I’m getting: not bloody likely.

  5. daeboganmusic

    I wonder if these reported numbers include the full pie of what YT pays per video, including publishing royalties. The partner earnings screenshot, I assume, does not include performance royalties paid out to the artist’s PRO.

    – Dae Bogan
    @TuneRegistry / @RoyaltyClaim / @DaeBoganMusic

  6. Graaf Orlok

    On average, about $0.15 per 1000 views in my experience.

  7. Anonymous

    In your example you have used a 3 year period, and you haven’t selected the U.S as the territory. So your comparison is not accurate.

    I would assume Lyor Cohen is referring to the Ad Rate being $3 in the US for Partner Uploaded content (Excluding UGC), but he does not state that (Which if that is the case, he should have stated that specifically)

    • Paul Resnikoff

      Still feel like we’re in the shroud of the fog. What was Cohen really referring to?

      Well, the artist himself has now calculated that 1/2 of ALL his streams were US-based.

      • Debonair73

        You can drill down in the analytics for more details. You can sort by country. You can get a list of what you made in each country. It’s a lot of questions about the person data you use. How many of those views are monetized? Does he do original music without samples? If he uses samples his video might get claim by the original artist. Is he part of a MCN because they take a cut off your revenue YouTube is transparent in the analytics tools. That let you see ad rates by country, type of ad, for each video. They even let you see what you made in the video each day from the time it was monetized.

  8. DavidB

    To misquote Disraeli, there are lies, damned lies, and YouTube statistics.

    The Washington Post published an article recently which stated that ‘Zoe Keating, an instrumental cello player, showed the Washington Post a statement from YouTube showing that she earned $261 from 1.42 million views on YouTube.’ That works out at less than a thousandth of the figure claimed by YouTube. Zoe Keating has no record label, publisher, or co-writers to share her payouts. However, it is likely that many of the 1.42 million views are on third-party uploads which happen to use her music, and may not be monetised. But then the same is likely to be true of many other artists. I have a suspicion that this may partly explain the discrepancy. Reading the full statement by the unfortunately-named Lyor, he repeatedly uses the phrase ‘ad-supported streams’. Why would he do this, when YouTube’s main platform has no other form of support? Could it be that the $3 per thousand figure really applies only to monetised content, i.e. streams against which ads are actually played? If so, it would be a classic piece of weasel-wording that any politician could be proud of.

    • DavidB

      Oops, apologies for getting my cents and dollars mixed up! Which is embarrassing because I’ve often criticised others for the same mistake. I should have said Zoe Keating’s figure was less than a tenth, not less than a thousandth, of YouTube’s claims. It’s still a big difference, but within the range that might have some reasonable explanation.

  9. Jake

    Paul – Your comparison is flawed. You’re looking at artist (i.e., sound recording) royalties, whereas YouTube’s estimates are based on sound recording and publishing royalties. Please conduct proper research before writing these articles. Unfortunately you have a sizable audience and a lot of people are misinformed and confused by your posts.

  10. Duke Vukadinovic

    I knew immediately that a YouTuber that you cited was outside the US because a number of my country fellows are facing the same problem.

    I sincerely hope Google will start to reward them appropriately because I don’t want to them to shut down their channels because of poor rates YT pay them. In order to same to same or even to become better and more profitable for that company, they money!

    • Paul Resnikoff

      But, keep in mind: 1/2 of these are US-based streams. They should be getting these $3+/1,000 rates; unless there’s something I’m missing?

      • Duke Vukadinovic

        No, you’re not. You’re totally right about that!

  11. Versus

    It seems like the only fair solution is to set a reasonable statutory minimum rate per stream.

    That may required:
    – YouTube to do away with its free tier, or limit both its free and paid tier to a certain number of streams per month for a given user (there could be an “unlimited” tier at a higher price).

    • old enough to know a skunk when smelled

      What, you mean that the industry has not been crying wolf all along? YouTube has been hurting creators all along? Yep, and until the flawed DMCA is fixed, it will continue. Please let your political reps know and ask that they protect copyrighted material from all the thieves on the internet, especially alphabet soup.

  12. SF

    Indie record label guy here. We make around 50 pence/1k streams on YT. But we use a 3rd party service provider for rev collection so that’s likely a little higher than a completely independent operator.

  13. Arthur

    I write music for a tv show…all the episodes are wall to wall full of my music and currently broadcast on YouTube with ads galore. Current view tally for show is 1.1 billion views. Currently I have my publisher looking into it…but I have no clue if it’ll be 2 cents or $150,000,000, if 15c per 1000 views is correct… knowing my luck it’ll be the 2 cents. ?‍♂️?‍♂️ Does anyone know anything about tv underscore and YouTube?

  14. gomer evans

    There are over 100 Youtube videos featuring my music. One was blocked in Germany about two years ago, but it is still being viewed outside Germany. It has received over 3 million views. It also features advertising. According to my distributor, or publisher as he is described, Youtube have not pay one cent! There is now a second video called “Wild Sweden but with much fewer views 33,000. Does anyone really know the situation regarding payment from Youtube? I’m tired of asking this question!

  15. Ed

    The problem is people are stupid. WHY the F are you allowing content you created to even be on Youtube? You are creating content and allowing this website that is not YOURS make money off it! WHY? Youtube does not own the internet!! Make your own website and if content you created appears on Youtube, sue their ass off for theft and copyright infringement. What does Youtube do for anybody? Do they promote your content? No. Do they pay a one time licensing fee? No. Why is it up to you how many times a video gets played? That’s not your problem, that’s Youtubes problem. Do you know what Netflix pays to play movies? Tens of MILLIONS. Just as an example Chris Rock recently produced two shows and they paid him a one time licensing fee of $40 MILLION. They also pay $1.85 million PER EPISODE to have the right to play the show “The Walking dead”. F Youtube, why ANYBODY allows ANYTHING they create to be on that website is beyond me.

  16. Nunya B.

    Just FYI, you have completely gone off the deep end on this one. First off, the pictures you are showing are of someone’s youtube channel analytics page. This immediately shows that the person who made the music and uploaded it, is making money from the content creators program on youtube, not for licensing fees (These would not be shown on a youtube channel’s analytics, and if you look and check, 0.68 per 1000 views is a normal and common rate of payment for content creators on youtube.). Second, with the above information, and also already known information, if it was a case of licensing fees, it would be a statement of payment to a record label, or signing label, whichever one the “Creator” you have shown here is signed to, is the one that would receive the payment for licensing fees for their music, and the label would then give whatever share is contracted between the artist and signing company. It would NOT go through youtube itself directly to the artist.
    Please do not spread false information like this, musicians like Taylor Swift are already getting paid $3,000,000 per 1,000,000 views, and the greedy shits STILL think it is not enough, even when their videos altogether has BILLIONS of views, and thus have made BILLIONS off of youtube licensing their song. (Albeit as stated before, some of the money goes to the record/label company, but still a good portion goes to the artist.)