File Under: Making Money With Music

Your music might already be used in other people's videos, and if so, you are entitled to royalties each time it’s played through video sync licensing. Although many musicians may think the only way to make YouTube revenue is if they post their own videos, or believe that copyright is confusing and that sync licensing is complicated or out of their reach, it's simple to participate in YouTube's ContentID -- a program that allows you to collect royalties when any videos uses or incorporates any of your copyrighted audio or video on YouTube.

Sync licensing income is normally negotiated on a case-by-case basis, and each party that uses your music must get your permission to use it, usually for a fee. Of course, most YouTubers don't know copyright law, and instead assume it’s all free to use. They add whatever music they want into their videos and upload them. So, if you have a back catalog of music, it might already be out there generating advertising revenue.

ContentID allows you to register music and video content you own and takes a "digital fingerprint" of it. Registering does not post the music or video content to the public. It’s uploaded only for ContentID to try to find it. Once it's posted, their system can scan all videos on YouTube to see if any use it. If there’s a match, the system gives you three choices: you can require YouTube to take it down, monitor the video and track its statistics, or collect a share of the advertising revenue.

Unless you’re under a business obligation to take your material down (for example, an exclusivity agreement), getting a cut of the advertising is probably your best choice. To help their system (and increase the likelihood of a match), be sure to include your entire music back catalog in their system. Once you find the videos that use your music, you can help increase views and revenue by posting and sharing the best ones with your fans.

Here's a step-by-step method to generate a new income stream from your back catalog:

1. Sign up for an account.

Go to the ContentID site and fill out the form. You'll need to get approved before you can upload your content.

2. Upload your music.

Register your music, including your back catalog, with ContentID. You'll want to register all of it since you never known who may be using your music. Note that ContentID can also find videos that are private or hidden from public search.

3. Upload your video content.

If you have original video content -- not just music videos you might have made but also any original video content -- you should track those as well. It makes sense to make revenue off of this content too.

4. Track your statistics.

Once you've done the above, login occasionally and track the revenues made from your videos.

Note that there are services that claim to do these steps for you for a cut of the revenue. Some of them may be worth using if you feel that they provide extra value, or that they track the use of your content in multiple media beyond YouTube. But, if you can handle the above on your own, you can keep the full amount that YouTube pays out.

Challenge: Sign up for a ContentID account and upload some of your music.


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Photo Credit: Rego Corosi