I started the day editing part 2 of my week with a Ford Focus Electric. Last week, Ford loaned me a fully electric vehicle so that I could vlog my experience (part 1 is here). Which means that I’m sifting through hours of footage in order to tell the story. But a series of email notifications indicating that videos of mine have sold online keep interrupting, perhaps serving as a sign that I should write this blog and answer a question I get asked on a daily basis: How do you make money from YouTube?
People reflexively think it’s all, and only about YouTube views. But that is only half the story (possibly less than half the story from a monetary perspective). You will make money from views – generally about $1,000 per million views. And that’s if you’re not using a licensing agency for your video. If you are using a licensing agency that is monetizing your videos on YouTube, you will be splitting any revenues from YouTube views 50-50 (or better if you can negotiate a better split, which I had been able to do with two agencies based on sales). I will get into this in greater detail below. But from my experience, the money I have made from ‘YouTubing’ is not only, or even primarily, from YouTuber views per se.
From what I have read on the interweb, from a source that may be as reliable as a dollar-store pregnancy test, only about 0.33% of videos on YouTube reach 1,000,000 views. Regardless, anyone with any YouTube experience knows that it is extremely difficult and rare to get millions of views on any given video, let alone on multiple videos such that you can make any meaningful money from YouTube views in and of themselves. (You also have to be a ‘YouTube Partner’, which requires some minor digital paperwork, in order to be able to monetize a video in the first place). So unless you are a Casey Neistat or a PewDiePie, who have a massive following and generates millions of views per video, it’s difficult to rely on views alone to make any money. There’s also a fair bit of politics involved, where YouTube can “demonetize” a video or a channel if it deems the content to be offensive or inappropriate (PewDiePie knows this all too well). But I won’t get into that. My content is not political.
YouTube views are indeed one way of making money from videos, but it is not the only way. Another way is through video licensing.
I made a short video outlining video licensing and how it works (click on this hyperlink to watch it). Video licensing is, without qualification, amazing. People who only think of revenue in terms of YouTube views don’t really appreciate that YouTube is just one video-viewing platform. YouTube is not the only place where people go to watch videos. They watch videos on Facebook, in blogs, in online news outlets, etc. That said, content creators don’t have direct access to these types of third-party platforms – as in, they can’t freely upload directly to them as they do with YouTube.
It is true that for the most part, videos are not “monetizeable” in the YouTube sense on these types of third-party platforms. Third-party platforms have to pay for the rights to use a video of interest (unless they flat-out rip it from YouTube or another source, which is unfortunately quite common). And that’s where you stand to generate revenue from a video that may generate minimal attention on YouTube. Think of every video you have seen in those Facebook compilations… In theory, each clip was licensed from the creator or the licensing agency handling the licensing of that clip.
Licensing agencies (at least the good ones) have access to a network of countless third-party platforms – online newspapers, video-sharing Facebook pages like Unilad, LadBible, etc. They have access to companies who may be running ad campaigns and may want your video, or a portion of it, to be featured in the ad. They have access to television shows that need short clips for various montages. Licensing agencies (again, the good ones) have access to potential customers for your videos that you don’t have access to – and some that you may not even know exist. As a personal anecdote: My two biggest individual video sales came off two videos which barely had 1,000 views on YouTube. Another video I posted on YouTube of the Mpemba effect in winter in Quebec got slightly less than 90,000 on YouTube, but was licensed by multiple Facebook platforms and got well over 40,000,000 views on Facebook alone. Of course, you don’t make money off the views on Facebook, but you made money off the sale. The point is that views and interest vary by platform. But this will be the subject of another blog post.
How much can you license a video out for? Anywhere from $10 to $5,000 (perhaps more, but I haven’t seen that yet). It just depends on the use that is going to be made of the video. A three second inclusion in a Facebook “fail” montage will not sell for as much as the video, in its entirety, being featured on an episode of “Outrageous Acts of Science”. If I can toot my own horn, I have done both 😉
And to come back to splitting revenues from YouTube views with a licensing agency: People tend to think that they can do it themselves… Why give a video licensing agency 50% of revenues generated from YouTube views when you can keep all of that sweet, sweet moon-money for yourself? The reality of this is two-fold: YouTube employs an algorithm that allocates more pennies-per-view depending on the quality/applicability of the ad. Quality video licensing agencies are, apparently, able to maximize the pennies-per-view you get by getting quality ads running before or during your video such that you actually generate more revenue from the same amount of views. They are also able to get exposure for your video such that more people ultimately view it.
I say “apparently” because I really don’t know how this works, nor do I have any concrete evidence that it does in fact work. All that I know is that I have always made more by splitting the monetization with a quality licensing agency than I have by “doing it on my own”. Also, and not an irrelevant bonus, licensing agencies will go after people who rip off your video such that any views they have gotten, or continue to get count towards your views. Maybe you can do this on your own. But if you’re anything like me, the last thing you want to have to deal with is some dude thousands of kilometers away stealing your original content. It’s a hassle that is simply not worth what you’d be giving up not to deal with it.
Other methods for generating revenue which I haven’t dealt with in this blog – and perhaps the most obvious ones – are paid advertising, sponsorships, product placement and the like (i.e. “influencer marketing”). Generally speaking, you need to have a sizeable following in order to be in that market. And it’s a huge market. For example, “Gamers” with millions of subscribers often get paid big bucks to play games for their millions of viewers. The same thing goes for any niche market… Cooking… Fishing… Cars. Anywhere where there is an obvious opportunity for brand sponsorship. I’m not there yet, and it is a subject on its own. Maybe next year 🙂
So that’s my 101 on how it’s done. Or at least how I’ve done it. In a future blog, I’ll tell you what to watch out for when it comes to video licensing agencies, and how a bad one can indeed exploit you.