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by Michael Lane

How to grow your YouTube Channel as a musician

Building a YouTube following can be tough. It’s a highly saturated platform with 400 hours of video uploaded every minute, and you’re competing against established channels. But if you do it right, you can do amazing things.

Sheet Music Boss, one of our flowkey Affiliates, started from scratch with a brand new channel and gained 500,000 in 1 year. The next year the channel grew another 600,000.

In this guide we look at tried-and-tested methods used by channels like Sheet Music Boss, and how you can use them to grow a YouTube musician channel. We look at what each of your videos must do, how to bring users to your channel, how to keep them engaged, and how to stay consistent as you produce more videos.

Each of your videos must...

Be valuable to your viewers

This is the most essential element. Give the viewer something they value and they will keep coming back for more. A few video types that get good engagement are:

  • Covers. Current hits get more views and potential followers. Be relevant and think of timing, so Christmas songs for Christmas, love songs for Valentine’s.
  • Tutorials. In-depth step by step guides to songs, or the music theory you just covered. Composing, improvising, that kind of thing.
  • Behind-the-scenes. This is where you lift the curtain on your process and showcase some of your personality. How you wrote an arrangement, what software you use, your personal tips and tricks, and so on.

You don’t have to stick to these. Daniel Thrasher makes hilarious musical videos that don’t fall into these categories, but he makes people laugh. And that’s valuable.

Have a unique look and feel

Consider how to best communicate with your audience. Will you talk directly to the camera, or would you rather never show your face? Also consider whether you want your channel to be funny, serious, artistic or melancholic. Be true to yourself, and keep it consistent. These decisions will define your distinct YouTube “personality”.

Every video should feel familiar, even if the subject is different every time.

Check out these four video thumbnails from different very successful channels - you can already imagine that each has a unique YouTube personality hiding behind them.

succesful youtube pianist

Get the technical side right

Videos that look and sound good give the viewer a more pleasant experience. It can feel overwhelming at first, but there are a few pieces of equipment that will help:

  • Camera. If you can afford a few hundred dollars or euros, a mirrorless or DSLR camera will help to create beautiful videos. But if you’re on a budget, then a smartphone or webcam with high quality video is also an excellent start.
  • Microphone. You can get a decent “studio” or “condenser” microphone for around 150 dollars or euros. Search online and you will find models that connect directly via USB and come in packs along with other accessories.
  • Tripod or Gimbal. This is to stabilise your camera and allows you to set the camera in a specific spot every time so your videos are consistent. Simple tripods can be found online for as low as ten dollars (or euros).
  • Lighting. Good lighting can make simple videos look incredible, and controlling it can help videos look consistent. Experiment with the type of lighting that suits the look you’re going for, whether umbrella, softbox, or on-camera.
  • Video Editing Software. After recording the video, you need to edit each shot into the final polished version. You can find free editing software online, but for more flashy techniques you may have to buy more advanced software. Of course, the level of editing depends on how you want to present yourself. For example, the videos on Jacob’s Piano are mostly a single unedited shot, and they get millions (often tens of millions) of views.

To get people clicking...

Think about thumbnails

An attractive thumbnail gets more clicks. 90% of top-performing videos on YouTube use a custom thumbnail rather than an auto-generated one, so consider creating one for each video. Make sure you theme them so your thumbnails are consistent with your channel’s style. Take a look at Sheet Music Boss for a meme-worthy attention grabbing style, or Jacob’s Piano for a more classical polished look.

Make yourself easy to find

YouTube search results are mainly based on two factors:

  1. How well the metadata of your video (title, description, keywords) fits the user’s search query.
  2. How your video has engaged users (likes, comments, watch time).

There are many other mysterious factors at play, so it’s hard to “game” the YouTube algorithm. A quick search for “YouTube SEO” (Search Engine Optimization) will give you plenty of detail, but there are a few simple, reliable ways to help:

  • Use relevant hashtags. You are allowed 15 in the description, and YouTube will display the first three above the video title
  • Write a unique video description. Only the first three lines are relevant for SEO, but this is also where to put links to your social media, patreon, affiliates etc. You can also use this as a mini-blog, to give more detail on the song, give updates, and connect with your audience.
  • Add accurate keywords to your video title.
  • Keep titles and opening credits short.

Periodic table of YouTube’s critical success factors

This is everything essential you need to consider, in order of priority. Save this and pin it above your workstation, so you don’t forget anything.

Promote yourself across social channels

Post new videos on your other social channels like Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. More awareness is always better, especially at the start when every view counts.

To keep viewers after the video ends...

Add End Screens. Your video held the viewer’s attention right to the end, that’s great. Now you want to direct their next move. Attractive end screens are the way to do that.

Create video series and playlists. Another way to keep viewers on your channel is to autoplay the next video in a series or playlist. They need to naturally lead into each other so viewers stay interested, and don’t click away to another video.

Convince viewers to subscribe. Ask viewers to subscribe and click the little notification bell so they get a notification every time you upload a video. Plus, more subscribers means more organic reach for your videos. It’s Social Proof: we are more likely to subscribe to a channel that we can see other people like.

Keep people engaged

User engagement (likes, comments and watch time) is one of the two main factors that pushes you up the YouTube search rankings. The best way to keep viewers engaged is to start a conversation and make them feel valued.

Ask users to decide the video topics in comments. It helps viewers feel part of the process, and is a great way to generate ideas.

Communicate in the comments. This means liking, commenting and answering comments under videos and in your Community tab. Remember, keep it friendly.

Use the Community tab. Like a social media feed, this is a great way of keeping users engaged when you don’t have a new post to promote. Repost older videos, merchandise or anything else to keep people interested.

Use Pinned Comments. This stays at the top of the comments, so each viewer will see it first. Ask questions for people to discuss in the comments, or just use it like a mini-blog to give more information on the video.

As you produce more videos...

Be consistent with uploads

New content keeps people interested, so at the start you should give it to them as often as possible without dropping your standards. You don’t have to post a video every day like Sheet Music Boss, multiple posts per week on a regular schedule can quickly raise your channel in the algorithm.

Keep it consistent so viewers know when to expect videos. It could be every Monday, or Wednesday. Whatever works for you.

Develop a workflow

Make it as easy as possible for yourself. Set up a small video studio so when it’s time to shoot, you can simply turn on the lights and get started. Create a routine around the process, from thinking up video ideas to recording, editing and uploading them.

Treat it like a job. And maybe one day, it can be.

Stay motivated

It’s worth saying twice: building a following is hard. It can feel demotivating in the first few months - or even years - if your channel isn’t growing as fast as you had hoped. It’s highly competitive, but don’t give up. The more you produce, the better you will get. Keep producing excellent videos and sharing them over other social media. Stay engaged with your viewers to work out what they like, and how to give it to them.

Good luck. The flowkey team is rooting for you.

If you want to speak to the team about our affiliate program, please get in touch at [email protected]ey.com