So you wanna be a YouTuber? Advice for Musicians

*Note this is specifically focused on making music for YouTube. Other types of YouTubers may not find this helpful.

EarToTheGround Music subscribes to over 120 YouTube channels, many of which are individuals “on the rise” in their respective careers. They’re making an attempt to succeed in the music industry. Suffice it to say we’ve had some time to compile “best practices” based on folks we’ve seen be very successful (and seemingly happy) with their online growth.

1) Be real. – Call it inauthenticity or lack of “genuineness,” but creating a YouTube account just to make money is evident and undesirable. Don’t be a “like” whore, always seeking likes and shares. If the art is good and captivating, people will share it. It’s okay to remind your viewers and subscribers to keep clicking on what you produce, but it’s not a good idea to beg for likes. They will happen naturally when the music and performance is good.  Be yourself with all of your quirks.  The best part of the process is the intimacy you can generate with fans and viewers.

2) Post often, but make sure posts are unique. – YouTube audiences can be fickle. They will make someone go viral one day, then never view them again. Those folks are not the target audience. The purpose of becoming a YouTuber is to build a strong, loyal, devoted fan base of people who watch your rise to fame. To do that, post a variety of covers and originals. Post a Q&A video to let your fans get to know you. Do you write your own music? Tell viewers the backstory to one of your tracks. There are a million things to do to keep viewers coming back for more and sharing with their friends. Don’t just try to constantly replicate the top view video.

3) Collaborate with other artists (but not right away) – The great part about collaboration is that you’ll have an opportunity to broaden your viewer base. But you shouldn’t do this until you have a viewer base of your own. Collaboration can take you out of your genre comfort zone, force you to sing or write differently than usual, and expose your talent to thousands of new possible fans. Once you have a bunch of fans commenting on videos, ask them for ideas on who to collaborate with and which songs to cover. There are some good ideas available.

4) Treat it like a business. – Far too often I see YouTubers posting “sorry, I had some things to do.” Oh really, for three months? You are lucky to have any subscribers at all now! If you really are taking it seriously, then post something every week. It doesn’t have to be a top production, but it should be something to keep people connected. Just like a business you have to keep quality, availability, and marketing in mind. It’s hard to sell bathing suits in the winter time – but stores do it all the time – because they’re not just selling the bathing suit. They’re selling the hope and excitement for the coming summer sun. Your videos should be working together to get viewers excited for new vids, new content, and eventually – your new album, tour, and merch. Think ahead!

5) Show that you love what you do (or don’t do it) – This doesn’t mean you have to be happy in every video or disingenuous (see #1). Rather, it means that you should exude a passion for your art. If it seems that you’d rather be doing something else while making your video, then don’t do the video that day. While it’s a business and a grind and a lot of work, it should be a work of love and passion. Some of my favorite YouTuber vids are actually Crackerfarm’s Avett Brothers videos. It’s not because TAB are “under the radar” but because in the vids they come across as ordinary nice guys who just love to play music. Other than their clear world-class musicianship, you can barely tell that they’re Grammy winning artists. How can you cultivating that unassuming “just a guy or gal that loves to play music” ethos in your own way? That’s the challenge.

For a few more examples of YouTubers that I love, check out:
Christina Grimmie (before The Voice)
Josh Turner
Kiersten Holine
Josh Schott
Daniela Andrade
Haley Klinkhammer

Feel free to leave the names of some of your favorite YouTubers in the comments below. And please, if this post helped you in launching or continuing your YouTube music career, feel free to reach out to EarToTheGround Music (especially if you do folk or singer songwriter style music).

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