I was thinking about what marketing efforts got our music the most exposure. The answer was clear: YouTube Music Promotion Channels. Also known as YouTube promoters, promo channels, music promo channels, broadcasters, YouTube blogs and a variety of other names.
To some this may be a familiar topic, to many it won’t be. One thing is for sure though – they are the new taste-makers of electronic music.
With the relevance of radio, record stores and even digital shops like iTunes and Beatport faltering, streaming is becoming the widely adopted choice for listening to music. YouTube, Soundcloud and Spotify is where it’s at.
Altogether, YouTube, Soundcloud, Spotify, Vevo, Vimeo and Rdio brought in 434 BILLION plays over 2014. That’s a whopping 95% increase over 2013 and a 363% increase over 2012. Streaming really is the next big thing.
Out of all those platforms, YouTube is by far the most used. Everyone’s on there, not just the younger generation, and it probably boasts the widest selection of music of all the streaming services. The latest statistics reported that over 30% of YouTube plays were people listening to music videos.
What are YouTube music promotion channels?
In 2008, a trend started where people launched YouTube channels to upload music. Often teenagers between the age of 15-20, rendering videos with tracks that they loved and artwork that looked cool, so that their friends and randoms could listen to the music.
The music was selected because they wanted to support the artist, or because the tracks weren’t available on YouTube yet. As this trend coincided with the rise of electronic music, the result is that the majority of promo channels are pushing Electronic Dance Music (EDM).
As YouTube grew, so did many of the promoters and an eco-system developed where many EDM producers looked to get uploaded by the most influential YouTube music promotion channels in their genre. It became important to be on those channels – and in turn it became a ‘thing’ to start promo channels.
It’s something that started out so simple, yet became so huge.
As YouTube grew and further implemented their monetization system, many channels professionalized. YouTube’s advertising system allows them to place ads on their uploads, resulting in a pay-out that is determined by the number and duration of plays.
If you have an average deal with a YouTube network, or with YouTube itself, channels earn between $1 for about 1250-2000 plays. Of course, monetization can only be done with permission of the rights-holders, which the promo channels need to get from both the owners of the music and any artwork they might use. Sometimes this has to be granted by the artist directly, other times by the labels.
As a result, the eco-system developed even further – where all the rising electronic producers now look to be uploaded by the major channels, and the channels pick the music that is bound to do well with their audience. The promo channels profit by monetization and keep the money, whereas the artist is paid by the exposure they receive. A model that’s been serving both parties well for quite some time now.
A selection of promo channels have developed audiences far exceeding the thousands of subscribers. Many are in the 50.000 – 200.000 range, but a selected few – typically the first to get started in the trend and to professionalize – have built tremendous followings.
One of the house / chill promoters called Majestic Casual now boasts over 2.2 million subscribers, averaging 32 million plays per month.
A quick look at their SocialBlade profile shows that their estimated yearly earnings are between 75k and 1.2 million USD – the latter being more likely, as they have enough clout to negotiate a monetization deal where they receive a good pay-per-view and revenue share.
The top 50-100 YouTube music promotion channels each have such big audiences that they can create significant ripples in the scenes of the styles of music they are pushing. It’s becoming a way to reach a more mainstream audience, which even the major labels are catching on to. Many of the biggest promo channels have deals with the majors to get exclusives on tracks.
Promo channels truly have the power to define what’s hot or not.
How to get promoted?
This is the right question to ask – for which the answer is essentially the same as for when you are trying to get signed by a record label.
First and foremost, you need to have great music, good (visual) branding and set-up your online profiles correctly.
After that, it’s a matter of building relationships and adding value. Figuring out how you can stand out from the crowd.
The golden rule is never to spam – and to only pitch stuff to people of which you’re certain they will appreciate it. Learn more about pitching in our guide here.
The biggest promotional channels, specifically the guys whom I am about to outline below, all receive tremendous amounts of submissions. The best way to submit content to them is to figure out who the channel operators are, to establish relationships with them and to submit via personalized emails.
And if you can’t seem to get in touch with them, you’re already far ahead of the curve if your product offering is exceptional and you’re sending them a to-the-point email, to the right address, that includes their first name.
The essentials of a good submission:
- Use clear email subjects. The format that we found to use is: “Artist name – Track name (Possible version)”, so for example “Ark Patrol – Voyager” or “Eastside – Ellie (Ark Patrol Remix)”.
- Only send finished material. No work-in-progress tracks. Make sure everything is properly mixed and mastered.
- Only send material to which you own all the rights. No unofficial remixes, bootlegs or tracks with uncleared samples.
- Submit music pre-release. Promoters like getting tunes before they come out, as the best of them schedule their uploads weeks in advance.
- Offer them exclusives or premieres. Exclusives are that only they are entitled to the upload. Typically this is done under an embargo of a number of days – say a three day exclusive from the release date onwards. Premieres are when they are granted a head-start on the upload before any other blogs, typically for a one day period.
- Always include a stream. Promoters never want to have to download before listening to the track. Private Soundcloud sharing links are ideal for this.
- Always include a download link. Either enable ‘download’ on your Soundcloud upload and mention that you’ve done so in your mail, or add a download link from a trusted host like Dropbox or Google drive. TIP: Do not use Zippyshare or Mediafire, because of the pop-ups and slow download speeds.
- We like to include all the relevant information in the description of the private Soundcloud upload, including the release description (press text), private download links for the promoter, public download / purchase links (which will be active on release day) and the social media links of the artist and Heroic.
The approach that we use, is that for every release we put out on our label, we make a selection of the key tastemakers in that specific genre, to which we submit the release via personalized emails. We’ve established relationships these key promoters – so short and to-the-point emails suffice.
Once all premiere or exclusive periods have passed, we send a nicely stylized Mailchimp mailout to our YouTube promo and blog partners. As many of these have gotten to know us over time, they don’t mind getting an automated mail – and as a result some of them whom weren’t in our initial target selection pick up on the release.
The key to seeing good results when sending mailers, is to first have established personal relationships with the people you’re sending to. That way the newsletter isn’t just from a random person, and you’ll see your open and response rates improve when people recognize the sender.
Should the promoter be interested in uploading your music, be prepared to sign a license agreement that grants them the rights to upload and commercially exploit (monetize) the release. You can only lawfully grant this license if you control the rights to the music.
If a channel uploads uncleared material without permission, they can be striked by the actual rights-holders. After three strikes a total YouTube channel can be taken down permanently.
For more detailed tips on how to pitch to YouTube promoters, check out this article I wrote for DJTechTools or this article where I’ve written some notes on how to pitch and shared some email templates.
A Selection Of The Finest
The way this works is that a number of promo channels dominate a specific sound or style.
A few promoters rule the bass music scene. A few others deep house. And so on.
I have created a selection of the most influential taste-makers in the current electronic music genres.
Now this list is by no means exhaustive – there are way more promo channels – but rather a strong guideline for which players you gotta look to get support from in each scene. As for pitching to them, do not take my genre descriptions as fully restrictive of all the music that they promote. Many of them will go beyond their primary genres, if the music is good enough or the goodwill is there.
The subscriber count and submission addresses are added for all channels (only if they made it public, of course). You should work with the assumption that the bigger the channel, the more sought after they are – so you’ll find those founders harder to trace, and the channels harder to get on.
I also spoke to some of my promoter friends to ask them about what they specifically look for in submissions, which I added as to those channel’s descriptions.
Before pitching your music to any of these channels, make sure to have listened to at least five of their most recent uploads, to get a good feel for what music they are promoting.
You now have insight into the one secret that brought Heroic and our artists the most exposure.
Without the help of our friends that run promo channels, we wouldn’t be where we are now – so if you’re an artist in any of the scenes mentioned above, I highly urge you to invest time and effort into building relationships with these people and to try and get amazing music out to their audiences.
YouTube Music Promotion channels changed the game for us. And they can for you too.
P.S: If you liked these tips, you should check out my book The Soundcloud Bible. It contains a ton of other strategies that will teach you how to get exposure and build an audience.