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Understanding YouTube's Monetisation Policies

Have you ever wondered how ‘influencers’ or ’reviewers/critics' receive remuneration on YouTube for what they create? They might sound complicated, but YouTube’s Monetization Policies are actually super easy to understand.

So let’s dive in

In 2018, YouTube introduced stricter guidelines for monetization. Prior to 2018, any YouTube Channel owner could earn money through the YouTube Partner Program only if their channel had at least 10,000 public views, with no specified number of hours within which such number of views had to be generated. Those channels who qualified for this requirement earlier were able to monetize their videos on YouTube through the introduction of ‘Ads’ before or in between their videos. But after 2018, these requirements have gotten more specific.

There are primarily 4 things on the checklist for any content creator to be able to monetize from YouTube:

  1. The videos on the channel should have generated a minimum of 4,000 hours of Watch Time within the past 12 months 

  2. The channel should have a minimum of 1,000 subscribers 

  3. These videos should adhere to the various YouTube policies and guidelines such as - YouTube’s Community Guidelines, Terms of Service, Copyright and the Google AdSense Program policies

  4. The channel owner should have a linked AdSense account

So let’s break down these requirements a little more;

  • Firstly, the 4,000 hours of watch time does not include the number of times the creator themselves have watched the video, it’s based on the hours of watch time by people all around the world. Even if your total views are beyond 4000 hours in the lifetime of the channel, YouTube now only cares about, from February 2018, the 4000 hours of watch time of the past 12 months with relation to your uploaded content.

  • Secondly, your channel has to have a minimum of 1000 subscribers. Pretty straightforward right? Unlike the Watch time hours, this requirement doesn’t have a time period within which you should have gained the required number of subscribers.

  • Thirdly, and the most important point, the content creator has to comply with the various guidelines of YouTube. While these varied policies are very detailed, a general principle to be aware of is that the content uploaded is not inappropriate or violating anyone’s copyright. A helpful tip with respect to the copyright policies is that if you are aware that you’re using someone’s copyrighted material like if you’re recording a cover of someone’s song, either take permission from the copyright owner or ensure that there is some ’significant’ addition you’re making to the original copyrighted material. This significant addition should be your original creation and should add some value to the original copyrighted material. Another option is to explore a revenue share with the rights holder or publisher of the original song. Apart from the copyright policies, the channel owner has to also comply with other policies such as Terms of Service, Community Guidelines and Google’s AdSense Program’s policies.

  • And finally, let’s address the Google AdSense account linking – this is the hub through which all the content creator’s channels will earn revenue through if they comply with all the other requirements. Multiple channels of one creator can be linked to one AdSense account and the royalty/remuneration generated through YouTube will be deposited in this account.

If you’ve met all these requirements, then you’re eligible to be a part of YouTube’s Partner Program and will most likely be accepted into it to start monetising from the videos you upload. While these strict requirements have created problems for newer artists to generate enough views to be able to monetize from their uploaded content, these regulations were enacted to ensure that inappropriate content does not garner revenue from viral views, as had taken place in the Logan Paul fiasco.

Other routes

Now, apart from being able to make money through advertisements and promotions by YouTube through their partner program, what are the other benefits YouTube provides in terms of monetization? YouTube has this tool known as ContentID which is very helpful to all artists uploading their original work on YouTube. Let’s understand this with an example. Suppose you’re an indie artist and you’ve composed a melody on your guitar, which is your original creation and thereby you have a default copyright in this melody and you’ve uploaded this onto YouTube. Now suppose this video of yours becomes extremely popular and some other accounts start recording your video and uploading it on their channels and monetize from that. Here comes ContentID to your rescue! It works in various ways. If you, the original artist, find your copyrighted material on another person’s channel being monetised without your consent, you can report a copyright claim. This claim can also be made by other users who see such infringing material on channels other than the copyright owner’s.

Another additional feature provided to the channel owner is to be able to set ContentID to either block the material from YouTube where the claim is made or allow it to remain on YouTube along with the ads, but only, the revenue generated from that video will go to the copyright owner of the claimed content and not the infringer’s account. YouTube has provided detailed understanding of how ContentID works and to whom all it applies. So as an indie artist, if you live in the fear that someone else can infringe your copyrighted work and monetize from it on their channel on YouTube, don’t worry, ContentID can help you save the day.

And in conclusion;

Now that we know the way YouTube’s monetization tools work and how artists have options to protect their copyright material from being infringed, these are some brief concluding points to keep in mind: 

1. Upload appropriate content. Most advertisers look for such material to pair their advertisements with content that is appropriate for a large number of audiences. Also, violation of the community guidelines can lead to very quick takedown of your content by YouTube. 

2. Be extremely aware of the copyright regulations which you are governed by on YouTube. If you’re using someone else’s copyrighted material, whether its audio or visual content, it’s ideally better to take their permission before doing so or to ensure that your material abides by the copyright policies of YouTube.

3. Ensure you’re being honest with your content. Apart from honing your craft and being true to yourself as an artist, it’s important that you consistently upload high-quality content and valuable content to be able to connect with your audience on YouTube and drive up the views. This will also help you reach the goal of monetizing sooner rather than later. 

4. Keep a track of your channel’s analytics through the tools offered by YouTube to understand the traffic your channel and videos generate. This will additionally come in handy once you’ve started monetizing from your videos as you’ll be able to view your estimated earnings from ads. 

5. And finally, be patient. As a newcomer or indie artist, building a connection with your audience, generating views through a strong fan-base, all of it takes time. But if you consciously deliver authentic content, your channel is bound to grow.

This post was written by contributing writer, Diksha Arora. Diksha is a final year law student in Bangalore, India moving to Los Angeles soon to pursue her masters in Music and Entertainment Law at the UCLA Law School. She's an absolute music nerd, very passionate about artist rights and holds a keen interest in everything related to movies, music, and entertainment.


Photo bySara KurfeßonUnsplash

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