YouTube channel strategy for musicians: How to grow your audience

Illustration: Benedikt Rugar

Over 122 million users are on YouTube every single day, making it one of the best places to find an audience for your music.

At the same time, 500 hours of new content are uploaded to the platform every minute, so if you’re hoping to see results, the videos on your YouTube channel really have to stand out among the rest.

In this article, we’ll go over simple things you can do to get your content seen and build a community of loyal fans on YouTube as a musician. We’ll spend a large portion of it talking about your content strategy—by far, the most important part of it all. From there, we’ll share 10 more tips you should keep in mind in order to maximize your chances for success.

Without further ado, let’s dive in!

1. Create a content strategy for your YouTube channel

One of the most effective things you can do to build a successful YouTube channel is create a well-thought-out content strategy. To do this, ask yourself the following questions:

Who is your ideal audience?

Would you prefer to have 10,000 views from people who watch one video and then forget about you completely, or 1,000 views from people who genuinely care about you, come back to watch every single one of your videos, listen to your music, and buy your merch?

The latter is possible when you take the time to identify your ideal audience and make an effort to cater your content to them.

To do this, create a profile of your ideal subscriber and describe them in as much detail as possible. Where do they live? How old are they? What interests or hobbies do they have?

As you plan out and create your videos, keep this profile in mind to ensure that your content helps you attract and retain the right audience.

What kind of content do they want to see?

Figuring out what kind of content you will post is the most challenging, yet the most important, piece of the puzzle. It will determine how successfully you can attract your ideal audience, turn them into long-term fans, and grow your community.

Many musicians use their YouTube channel exclusively for sharing new releases, music videos, and lyric videos. This is great for keeping your existing audience up-to-date on your new music, but it will do next to nothing in helping you attract new fans.

Others opt for regularly posting cover songs. While this was a great strategy back in 2008—and helped some of today’s biggest pop stars get discovered—it’s simply not enough for today’s YouTube. People might watch your cover because they like the original song, but it could be challenging for them to make a genuine connection with you as an artist and become a life-long fan of your original music.

If you do want to include cover songs as part of your content strategy, think about how you can stand out from the crowd and make the songs truly feel like your own. And don’t rely on covers alone—we’ll get into the other types of content you should consider making in just a moment.

Lastly, a brief note on making content for other musicians. You may have heard before that you should make helpful, educational content on YouTube, focusing on what you already know and what you’re good at. For many musicians, especially producers, this can look like posting DAW tutorials and sharing advice on navigating a career in music.

Before you go down this road, however, think carefully about who your ideal audience is. If you’re looking to attract other musicians to your community so you can sell beats or production courses, then by all means, go ahead and post content that’s geared towards them. But if your ultimate goal is to promote your original music to the general public, the majority of them may not be interested in seeing content about how to make music.

Now that we’ve covered content ideas that might not give you the results you’re hoping for alone, let’s talk about what you should be posting to successfully build your audience on YouTube.

The videos you post to your YouTube channel should help you grow your community in a number of different ways, and there are corresponding types of content for each one. Here are three types of videos you should include in your content plan:

1. Something people are searching for

This is how new people are going to find your channel. Make use of YouTube and Google SEO (search engine optimization) tools and make a list of keywords that you can target with your content. Look for topics that your ideal audience is interested in. At the same time, these should be videos that you enjoy making—otherwise, it’ll be hard to stay consistent in the long term.

Think about posting both seasonal and evergreen content—seasonal content will give you a boost in views when it’s relevant, while evergreen content will provide a smaller but more consistent stream of new views year-round.

2. Something that shows who you are

Now that new viewers have found your channel, you need to give them a reason to stick around. This should be content that helps you stand out, shows your personality, and shows your authentic self. Don’t worry as much about keywords and SEO here—the primary goal isn’t for these videos to rank super well in search results, but to engage and build a relationship with your existing audience.

3. Content related to your music

Lastly, share videos related to your original music—footage of you playing live, new releases, music videos, and the like. Don’t spam too many videos in this category in a short period of time, because they can feel overly self-promotional. Instead, think of them as a special treat—focus an equal or greater amount of effort on the first two categories, and the people who truly care about you will be excited to check out your music-related content when you share it.

How frequently will you post?

The last step in creating your content strategy is figuring out when and how frequently you’ll post.

More isn’t necessarily better here, so don’t worry about posting a new video every single day. Instead, pick a cadence that will allow you to produce high-quality content on a consistent basis, and do it for the long term. Most YouTubers post once every two weeks, once a week, or twice a week.

Once you have your videos and your cadence figured out, create a content calendar. As much as you can, plan at least the next three or four videos and have them ready to go well ahead of time. This will give you a bit of breathing room so that you’re not constantly scrambling to get something out. There will also undoubtedly be weeks where life gets in the way and you can’t produce anything new, so it’s nice to have a video in your back pocket that’s ready to go.

Now that we’ve covered what and when you should be posting, let’s get into some other things you should keep in mind when growing your YouTube channel.

2. Prioritize watch time

The YouTube algorithm will help you grow by showing your videos to people who might enjoy them, but it will only do so if it can tell that your videos are worth watching. It does this by analyzing a number of factors, including watch time (the amount of time viewers spend watching your videos) and the average percentage viewed for each video.

With every YouTube video you make, think about how you can increase your watch time. Here are a few tips:

  • Use a hook: Grab the viewers’ attention within the first few seconds of the video to entice them to keep watching.
  • Keep your intros short and to the point: If you spend too much time beating around the bush, people might lose interest.
  • Pay attention to pacing: Edit out unnecessary pauses and dead spaces to make the video more interesting to watch.
  • Take courses: Up the production quality of your videos by learning about technical things like camera angles, lighting, audio recording, and editing.
  • Create some longer videos: Longer videos naturally offer a better chance of keeping someone watching for a long time.

YouTube offers detailed analytics that will help you see the watch time for each video, as well as the point where most people stopped watching. Check these metrics on a regular basis and think about where you can make improvements.

3. Keep them coming back for more

YouTube’s goal is to keep people on the platform for as long as possible, so the algorithm values creators who make binge-worthy content.

Your goal, then, should be to keep people on your channel and entice them to watch a few of your videos in one sitting.

Here are a few ways to do this:

  • Organize your videos into playlists so they automatically play one after another.
  • Create a series of related videos (for example, people have to watch part two to find out what happens next).
  • Link to related content at the end of each video using end screen cards.
  • Verbally invite viewers to watch another video by saying, “If you liked this video, you might also like video X, where I…”

4. Drive traffic

As we’ve already discussed in the content strategy section, using SEO tools and targeting keywords that your audience is searching for will help you rank well in search results and bring in new viewers. That being said, there are a few other things you can do to drive even more traffic to your channel and maximize your results.

  • Promote your videos on other social media channels where you already have an audience, such as Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok.
  • Embed your videos on your website, in blog posts, or even your link in bio site on social media—people don’t even have to come over to YouTube to watch the videos, but their views will still count.
  • Collaborate with other creators. They don’t necessarily have to have a bigger YouTube audience than you. In fact, they don’t have to have a YouTube channel at all. For example, someone can have a large TikTok following, and when you invite them to be a guest on your YouTube channel, they can direct their TikTok audience to check out the video.

5. Engage with your audience

Your viewers aren’t just there to consume your content—they’re also there to build a relationship with you. Make this possible by being an active member of your own community. Respond to comments, spark discussions, and invite viewers to give you feedback and ideas for future videos. Thank your audience for their support by giving shoutouts and hosting giveaway contests.

Don’t forget to engage with prospective viewers, as well. You can do this by leaving comments on other channels. Of course, don’t spam for the sake of self-promotion, but if you participate in relevant discussions and make genuine contributions, people might take notice and check out your channel to see what else you have to share.

6. Get technical

Content aside, a lot of work goes into uploading a YouTube video that has great chances of getting discovered by its intended audience. This includes designing an eye-catching thumbnail, crafting an intriguing title, writing a keyword-rich description, adding relevant tags, and adding captions.

We won’t get into the granular details of these here, but there are plenty of resources out there—not necessarily for musicians, but for YouTubers in general—that will teach you how to optimize your videos for best results. Take the time to familiarize yourself with these technical aspects of uploading to YouTube and you’ll have a much better chance of finding success on the platform.

7. Pay attention to YouTube channel analytics

When it comes to growing on YouTube, data is your best friend. Head to YouTube Studio to access your channel analytics and get a detailed look at how you’re doing. Here are a few of the most important metrics to track:

  • Click-through rate: Of all the people who saw your thumbnail and title (e.g. in search results or the related videos section), how many of them clicked to watch it?
  • Watch time and percentage watched: How much of your video did people watch?
  • Returning viewers: How many people are coming back to watch your videos?
  • Traffic source types: Where are your viewers coming from?

Track these and other analytics to make sure you always know how your videos are performing, what you’re doing well, and where you can improve.

8. Use calls to action

We all recognize the typical “Like, comment, subscribe, and hit the notification bell” from just about every YouTube video ever, but people say this in their outro for a reason—it works.

Whether you choose to say it or write it on the screen (or both), be sure to use calls to action (CTAs) to invite your viewers to engage with you beyond just passively watching. A simple like or comment can make a massive difference in helping other people discover your video.

Don’t forget about other CTAs that will encourage people to interact with you outside of YouTube. For example, you can invite them to follow you on Instagram, subscribe to your email newsletter, pre-save your new release, or check out your merch.

9. Try livestreaming

Livestreaming is one of the best ways to engage with your audience and strengthen your relationship with them. It’s a chance for you to interact with your subscribers in real time and offer a unique experience that they wouldn’t get from a pre-recorded video.

You can livestream a performance, a Q&A, a new release listening party, a studio session, or anything else, really. Whatever you choose to stream, your audience will love a chance to see something raw, unscripted, and unedited.

10. Post YouTube Shorts

YouTube Shorts are relatively new, but they’re quickly becoming a widely-used feature on the platform. Similar to TikToks and Instagram Reels, these short-form videos offer bite-sized snippets of content for your audience to enjoy.

The great thing about Shorts is that they’re quick and easy to make, so even when you don’t have time to make a full-length video, you can still keep your viewers updated on what’s going on in your life.

Like TikToks and Reels, Shorts get shown to people who don’t already know you, so posting them regularly is a great way to expand your reach and attract new subscribers.

11. Set up an Official Artist Channel on YouTube

You may not be eligible for this step right away, but as soon as you can, sign up for an official artist channel through your distributor. This will bring all of your content and music together under one roof and give your channel an official, unified presence. Plus, you’ll get access to detailed analytics about your music across the entire platform.

YouTube channel strategy for musicians: Conclusion

So there you have it! Whether you’re just thinking of starting a YouTube channel or looking to grow an existing one, use these tips to build your community of life-long fans who love both your YouTube videos and your music.

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November 3, 2022


SAYANA is a contemporary R&B singer-songwriter based in Toronto, Canada. She’s currently releasing a new song every month for a year. Check out her latest release, “Nobody Needs to Know” anywhere where you listen to music.