YouTube is the best place to grow an audience online, especially for musicians, music artists, producers and bands. But how do you grow an audience there? I’ve grown my YouTube to 43,000 subscribers, so let me tell you what i’ve learned.
Before we get too deep I want to point out that you can’t expect to just upload a music video every 1-3 months and blow up on YouTube, unless you’re getting serious traction on other platforms. If you want to grow on YouTube you’ll need to be cranking out quality video content at least every week, and you’ll need to do so for a year straight.
If the only thing you put on YouTube is music videos and you have no interest of expanding that content, then YouTube ads may be your best option for growing your YouTube presence and stats.
My YouTube Journey
My YouTube growth didn’t happen overnight, its the result of over a decade of time and 650+ videos. Before you get discouraged, most of those years and videos were in different topics from the one I cover now – music marketing / business. Also, most of the time I had zero idea what I was doing and zero plan or strategy.
I grew my channel up to 5,000 subscribers off of vocal / screaming lessons. Eventually I got bored and quit for a few years. I also wasn’t that consistent with it. However because I was one of the few people doing screaming lessons at the time I grew an audience.
Then I came back and switched to music production and music software tutorials, and switched to uploading weekly. Eventually I switched to twice weekly. In 2019 I started learning how to make better thumbnails, research video topics, improve my video lighting, and upgraded my camera. This dramatically accelerated my channel growth and took me to 15,000 subscribers.
Late 2019 I started covering music marketing topics, and by a few months into 2020 it became my main channel topic. Fast forward to January 2022 and we’re at 42,000 subscribers.
Why did this happen? To figure that out I need to share some things with you…
Target Audience & Value Proposition
Every YouTube channel, and really any business or brand, should have a solid idea of their target audience and the value proposition they have to their audience. You need to know exactly who you’re making videos for and why they should care, even before you have a single viewer.
You also need a fan avatar, basically a fake person you can describe in a very detailed manner that would be your perfect subscriber. You should be able to fill out a Facebook profile for this imaginary avatar.
To figure this out you need to ask yourself questions like:
- How old is my fan avatar?
- What other channels do they watch?
- Where do they hang out online?
- What products do they buy?
- What do they want most in life?
- What scares them the most?
- What music do they love?
There are many more questions you could ask yourself but if you keep going down this rabbit hole you’ll be on the right path.
Target audience and value proposition are a huge factor in why my channel started growing faster over time. I locked in my audience and found a very solid value proposition. It took me a while to get there though.
The ONLY reason people subscribe to your channel is because it gives them value. No value, no audience. That value doesn’t have to be as tangible as education, it can be that your videos just make them happy or calms them down. But there has to be some value.
You want to be consistent on YouTube. Whatever topic in the music niche you’re covering, production tutorials, vocal lessons, music covers, vlogging etc… you ideally should be uploading at least 1 time per week.
If you can’t do once per week don’t let it stop you from starting at all of course, but realize that if you’re starting at once per month you’ll want to build up to once per week over time.
Make your audience aware of your upload schedule. It will help keep you accountable. If keeping up with it is hard, try batching videos ahead of time so you have a several week buffer of content finished. You want people to start expecting content from you over time.
Algorithm & Analytics
The YouTube algorithm is fairly simple. It basically just wants to keep people on YouTube as long as possible. Now in detail, its actually optimizing for ‘expected watch time per unique user impression‘, but lets break that down…
An impression is when your thumbnail shows up on a screen. Watch time is how long someone watches your video for. So ‘expected watch time per unique user impression’ is just fancy lingo for ‘how long will someone watch your video after they see your thumbnail on average?’.
But we can break this down further. When someone sees your thumbnail, they have to click your video before they watch it at all – the rate that people click your video is the Click-Thru-Rate or the CTR of your video. When they watch your video they will have a certain average view duration, and generate a certain amount of watch time. Also, when they get to the end of your video you can show End-Screen-Elements and get them to watch more videos on your channel which extends the viewing time even more.
So basically you want to optimize every video you upload to have:
- As high of a CTR as possible
- As long of a view duration as possible
- As high of an end screen element click rate as possible
But what does this translate to in reality, in your actual video?
First let’s talk about CTR, or click through rate.
To optimize CTR we’re really talking about improving our thumbnail and our title. Typically most people will see a thumbnail that interests them, and that gets them to read the title of the video. Then the title of the video ‘sells’ the person on why they should watch it.
This means your thumbnail needs to be custom crafted to tell a story, to catch someones attention and get them to ready the title. The title should reinforce the thumbnail, and really seal the deal.
Every channel will have different styles of doing this, so I recommend you check out some larger channels in your specific niche. Try to figure out why their thumbnails are working, and which ones are the most enticing. Also look at people like MrBeast, an absolute master of thumbnails and titles.
Average View Duration
To optimize average view duration there are several things you can do. The first of course is actually delivering on the promise your title and thumbnail promised to the viewer. I recommend structuring your video in the following manner:
- First 5 seconds – hook. What is this video about and are they in the right place? Deliver on your title and thumbnail in some way.
- 5-30 seconds – importance. Why is this video important to the viewer? What are the stakes? Why should they keep watching?
- 30 seconds – whenever. The rest of your video
- Last 20 seconds – end screens. This is where you need to pitch your audience to watch another video or playlist.
Notice in here there is no place for a long intro and no begging for subscribers or likes. Nothing gets people drop off your video faster than a 15 second intro, and then 15 more seconds of you explaining your channel and begging for subscribers prior to you giving them any value whatsoever.
The screenshot above shows an audience retention graph for one of my videos. In this case people watched on average 45% of the video, for an average view duration of 5:20. My personal goal with every video is to have at least a 40% audience retention. I don’t always hit it, and the longer the video the more unlikely it becomes, but thats my goal.
When a video gets longer you need to work even harder to get people to keep watching.
End screens are when you have a chance to drive people to somewhere else. Many YouTubers will simply ask for subscribers or likes, but this is a missed opportunity. Subscribers are nice, but watch time is better. If you can get someone to watch multiple videos from you in a sitting, you’ll be following them around YouTube for a week.
Thats right, even if they don’t subscribe to you your videos will be recommended to them just because they watched a couple of your videos. So instead of trying to get that early subscriber, get them to watch another video and they’ll subscriber at some point on their own.
One way to improve this is to make several small playlists on your channel in various topics, and tell people why they should watch them at the end of your videos. For example, “so now that i’ve showed you how to use Ableton Live’s session view, check out this playlist where I should you how to use every other feature in Ableton Live”.
If you focus on putting out videos on a weekly basis that get people to click, and get them watching the entire video and hopefully clicking to watch another video on your channel – you will grow on YouTube. People tend to give up on YouTube either because they aren’t patient enough to see results, or because they never learn which metrics actually matter in YouTube analytics.
If you’re looking for a more detailed course on how music artists can grow their YouTube channel, and how you can use YouTube / Google ads to promote your videos, I have a course called YouTube Growth Machine that teaches exactly that!