YouTube for Indie Artists: Part One

Published on November 13th, 2015

YouTube for Indie Artists

Music videos are more important than ever when it comes to introducing your band to the world! The low cost of creating serviceable visual content (music videos, vlogs, etc.) paired with the popularity of streaming platforms (YouTube, Vevo, Facebook) has not only made videos accessible to every level of artist, but a vital part of any marketing plan. Whether you’re an independent artist or signed to a major label, you can bet that video content is going to be a primary tool in attracting new fans and selling your product. Of course, like most content streams in the internet age, it can be difficult to ensure you’re getting optimal performance on your own videos. The blog below will help you ensure your hard work isn’t for nothing!

This is the first of a two-part series with some suggestions to consider while planning your next music video release (or when launching any type of music video content). We’ll be focusing on YouTube, as it’s the most commonly used platform, but many of these points are relevant to the other platforms as well!

Uploading Your Video to YouTube: Small Things Matter

*For the sake of this blog’s length, we are going to assume you know how to upload a video to YouTube. The setup process is very intuitive, and you can view it step-by-step here. One tip before we move on: it’s a good idea to always upload your video as unlisted – this allows you to fully preview and privately share the finished upload before launching. When you do eventually make the video public, the upload date will reflect the day you made it viewable to all, not the day you originally uploaded it.

Sharing the video within your own social following is one thing, but organically appealing to strangers is a more daunting task. You must use YouTube’s full range of features in order to make your release as effective as it can be. This is crucial when determining how to get the best Search Engine Optimization (SEO). You can set most of these up while your video is uploading, so enjoy the nice, warm feeling of productivity while you wait for that progress bar to complete! Yahoo!

The Title is the doorway to your video. Make this clear and concise. Users will always gravitate toward official videos. It’s your job to make sure this is evident within a list of search results. For the most part, this is a no-frills operation: for music videos, for example, you can simply use “Song Name – Artist Name [Official Video]”.

The Description is like bringing food to dinner at a friend’s house when they explicitly told you not to bring anything. Seven times out of ten it’s completely unnecessary, but every once in awhile it’s appreciated and you may even be regarded as a hero. What we’re saying is this - even though most of your viewers will NOT look in-depth at your video description, others will use it as a springboard to become a full-fledged fan. So you better be prepared.

You have a variety of options to consider for your descriptive content. Yes, you should include a short synopsis of the video, all of your social media links, and even song lyrics, if you like. A crucial takeaway is to always provide a stream or purchase link (or some sort of call-to-action) within the first two lines of your description. This ensures the most important information (the kind of information that sells albums, tickets, or merchandise) is in plain sight at all times, even when the description is in YouTube’s default short-form (non-expanded) view. Also, do you have upcoming tour dates? Throw them in there too! But of course, remember to go back to remove them once the dates have passed!

Your video’s Tags are also very important, and will likely be how the average, bored YouTube user accidentally discovers you! Use 10-12 tags that are relevant to your video. Steer away from spam tags (random words that don’t have anything to do with your video) as they can decrease your ranking in YouTube’s search engine. Yes, this means that tagging Justin Bieber six times will not help you, and will in fact likely lessen the chance of you suddenly having thousands of screaming fans show up at your next show.

Instead, simply use tags that fit the video’s category and content (“Official Video”, artist name, song name, genre, city or country, people involved, etc.)

Your video’s Thumbnail Image is the user’s first impression. Use a unique screenshot from the most eye-catching imagery in your video. A good thumbnail image is visually pleasing and will pique the curiosity of the viewer. If you want to really up your thumbnail game, you can take your screenshot into Photoshop or another graphics editor and add your artist name and song title to the image!

Launch Preparation: Are You Really Ready?

Anyone can release a music video. It’s what happens next that will separate you from the crowd! Here are a few more points to consider to make sure your video is 100% ready for the public’s eyes:

Where can your fans get the song? 

The goal of this video is ultimately to push your music… right?! Make sure your track is available everywhere where people can stream or buy music (Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon, Bandcamp, the list goes on). If you’re promoting a video for a song that is not yet commercially released, then make sure you have an album pre-order link ready to go in the video description, or you can direct fans directly to your Show.co player to encourage even more valuable engagement.

What comes next?

What are your plans for the next 6 months? Whether you’re going to be releasing a new record or going on tour, it’s going to affect your launch date and promotional plan. If you’re smart, the music video will be a strategic way to bring attention to your activities as an artist. Make sure you’re thinking long term when planning your video release in order to take full advantage of the buzz you’ll be attracting immediately afterward.

Who can help drive views?

“We get by with a little help from our friends”

There’s a good chance that you have friends and acquaintances of some influence in their respective social spheres. Send them the unlisted link and let them know when you’re launching. Ask if they’re willing to post about it or share it on their social platforms at the time you are planning to go public.

Are there media outlets or blog homies that have been supportive of you in the past? Reach out to them and ask if they’d like to set up an exclusive premiere! A premiere partnership can often be mutually beneficial, as each party is directing traffic to the other’s platforms.

And lastly, maybe you want to invest a bit in an ad campaign? YouTube has some great options and you can target like minded fans. We will get into more on that in the next blog, so stay tuned!

Congratulations! You’re ready to launch. Next week we’ll look more in-depth on best practices for your lead-up promotion and how to continue directing traffic to your video following its release.

Happy YouTube-ing!

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