If you follow some cover singing YouTube channels you have probably noticed that these tend to have millions of views. If you want to make a YouTube channel where you upload cover songs then there are some things which you might need to learn before starting, and everything you need to know is listed in this article.
When doing cover songs on YouTube you will need a musical composition license or a synchronization license. On the other hand, YouTube does have contracts with different publishers and some songs can be legally used as cover songs without any requirement for a license. You can find these songs in your YouTube account dashboard, just keep in mind that the list of songs is relatively short.
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A lot of singers want to get as much exposure as they can, YouTube is by far one of the best platforms to do so as a singer. There are literally millions of YouTube channels dedicated only to making cover songs, while some actually make it as a professional singer, but most of them will simply abandon their YouTube channel and even singing altogether. Most people think that these cover singing YouTube channels must be making a lot of money as they have millions of views.
The truth is that only a few of these YouTube channels make any significant money and mostly because of the strict rules around uploading cover songs. Most beginner singers upload a cover of a song to YouTube only to find that their video has been Content Id’d, muted, monetized by the original creator, or simply unavailable in a lot of countries. If you think this is bad, it gets actually worse, mainly because of Article 13 voted by the European Union, which might actually break the internet all together not just the YouTube singing part.
There are some legal ways of uploading a cover of a song with a musical composition license or a synchronization license. The problem is that these are extremely expensive and take a very long time to actually get them, and in some cases even if you have one of the above licenses you can still get demonetized, content id’d, etc. This is because the copyright laws are very strict and YouTube relies on bots to determine if there is an infringement or not.
The good news is that the above-mentioned rules apply if you want to monetize the cover song with YouTube ads if you are not then you are somewhat safe. Even if the artist claims the ad revenue for the song it wouldn’t really matter to you, plus I have rarely seen an actual ad on a music video. The trick is that you have to upload the cover of the song, no intro, no thank you guys, nothing else just the song, and do not make it longer than 3-4 minutes.
If you still want to make money from your cover songs, which I can understand as the equipment to actually record these cover songs do cost a lot of money, then luckily there are a couple of ways you can monetize your cover song without YouTube ads. I have written an in-depth article on it and you should definitely check it out How do singers make money from YouTube? ( In 9 Easy Ways ).
Know how cover songs on YouTube work
If you want to know how to make cover songs for YouTube then you will need to understand how YouTube actually works. This is the part where most people with a YouTube channel actually fail, a lot of beginner singers expect to have views in the millions with just a few cover songs uploaded. While this can happen if your cover song goes viral, but I wouldn’t get my hopes up just yet as the odds for that to happen are slim to none.
If your YouTube channel is new then it will take time till YouTube starts to trust you and to target your audience correctly with the suggestion feed. The problem is that you will have to show YouTube about what your channel actually is and that you upload regularly. It is vital that you upload regularly, at least once a week as you will get more views if you upload regularly. You might even be tempted to share your cover song on as many social media websites as you can, while this is a good idea, I would honestly work on the actual cover then to promoting yourself.
How to do a cover of a song legally on YouTube
There are some licenses that you can get but even with these you are not safe from content id and other rules around cover songs, and you probably do not want to pay for a sync license for each of your cover songs. Luckily for you, there are some songs on YouTube for which you can actually make a cover song without getting in trouble. YouTube has contracts with some publishers which actually will allow you to sing a cover song without getting in trouble.
You can simply check out for which song you can make a cover right on your YouTube channel. Log in to your Youtube account, click Create, click Music Policies and you can search which song you want to make the cover for. On the left of the song title you will see a small upward pointing arrow, click it to see if YouTube has a deal with the artist or publisher aka youtube cover song license, if it has then you are in luck and you can use the song to make a cover song, if not then just move on.
If you want to monetize your video with YouTube ads then you will have to make sure that the cover song which you are uploading is actually being done so legally. If you are worried about missing out on potential revenue, then just consider YouTube as a platform where people can find you easier, plus there are a lot of ways to make money as a singer, just check out my article How to make money by singing ( Top 27 Methods ).
Ask permission from the original creator to do a cover of a song on YouTube
I see a lot of people teaching others and saying that they simply have to ask permission from the artist in order to be able to upload a cover song. DO NOT !!! do this, as you will be only wasting your time, and even if by some kind of miracle you will get a response then you are still not safe from the YouTube strict rules for copyright. If you manage to get a response from the publisher you will probably have to get a sync license before you can upload the cover song, and the sync license ain’t cheap. If you are asking yourself can I monetize cover songs on youtube, then the answer is yes and no, it is different for each song and publisher so make sure you make your own research?
Record yourself while singing the cover song
If you want to make cover songs for youtube then you will need to not only record your singing, but you will also need to record yourself as you sing. There are a lot of channels that upload the cover of a song, with a slideshow of images or a still image, this will not work. If you want anybody to take you seriously then you will have to record yourself while you are singing, this way you will connect with your audience a lot easier.
You do not even need some expensive camera, any camera would work, even the one from your smartphone provided that it can record in 1080p. As a pro tip make sure that the camera is steady as nobody likes a shaky video. Some singers might ask one of their friends to record them while they are singing, but my personal recommendation is just to find a good stable place for the camera where it will record you.
Headphones are vital if you want to make cover songs
If you are a beginner singer you might probably wonder why would you need a headphone, it’s simple you can actually hear the song which you are singing and this will make you sing a lot better. As in the case of the camera you shouldn’t invest a lot of money in your headphones, especially if you are not making any money from your cover songs yet.
Record the cover songs with a high-quality microphone
This is by far the most important tool which will actually make you sound better, you shouldn’t cheap out on the microphone as a good microphone could last you for a decade. If you have a home studio then you are probably already well equipped to record your cover songs. If not then my personal recommendation is to avoid USB microphones as these are not well suited for singers. You should get a microphone which comes with XLR cables and it is a condenser microphone as these are the best for singers. If you want to know what I personally recommend for a small home studio then check out my article Singing at home equipment ( Top 11 Essentials ).
Sing your heart out while recording the cover song
Now that you have your recording equipment all set up, it is time to sing your heart out. Do not make the mistake of only making one recording of your singing and uploading it, make several recordings and pick the right one. My personal recommendation is to make these cover recordings at different times of the day, 2-3 in the morning, in the afternoon, and at night time. The main reason is that your voice will actually change during the day, and this way you will be able to choose the best recording.
Edit the cover song before uploading it to YouTube
Most beginner singers actually neglect to edit their cover songs, who can blame them as editing and mixing music can be hard and time-consuming. Editing should not be that complicated, just cut the bits out which don’t belong to the cover song and replace some bits with other recordings, who knows you might not be able to hit those high notes in one recording but you were able to hit them correctly on another recording, just simply replace these parts with the good ones.
How to upload the cover song to YouTube
Uploading to YouTube your cover song might seem simple enough, but there are a couple of useful tricks which you can actually do to make YouTube understand better what your video is about and this will make it so it can suggest the video to people who are actually interested in the cover song. This, in turn, will lead to more exposure and traffic. You probably have seen a lot of videos with some fancy intro, do not do that, also do not ask for likes and for people to subscribe, if they like your cover song they will like it and subscribe to your channel.
- Title: The title of the video is by far one of the most important when it comes to traffic, if you just copy and paste the title fo the song for which you are making the cover for you might think that people might click on it because they think it is the original, while this might get you clicks, but your engagement will be so low that YouTube will not be suggesting the video to anybody. Make sure that the title says it is an actual cover of the song.
- Description: If you have a following on YouTube then this is the best place to place your affiliate links if you do not have a following then my recommendation is to avoid adding affiliate links. If you have social media accounts then put them in the description, this is where people who like your cover singing can follow you and be the first to watch any new video you might upload. PS make sure that you add in the description that the video is a cover performed by you.
- Tags: Although this might be obsolete when you start reading this article, but tags are still somewhat relevant. For the tags add 5-6 words, including the name of the actual song and that it is a cover, from there on just use your imagination, what would people search for when looking for the cover of that song.
- Thumbnail: The thumbnail of the video is as important as the actual title before you upload the image to YouTube make sure that you title it correctly and only then upload it. Just look around YouTube what kinds of thumbnails do cover singing channels use and try to make your unique one.
You can get a lot of views by sharing your video on social media like posting cover songs on Facebook, the problem is even if you have a lot of friends on social media only a few would be interested in watching the video. The ones that actually click on your video will probably not stay a long time on the video, this makes for poor engagement which is not a good sign for YouTube. My recommendation is to share it where people are interested in singing, this way you will target your audience directly and get some valuable criticism.
Do a cover song that you can actually sing
This is probably a no-brainer but far too often people try to follow the latest songs in the music industry, in order to capitalize on their fame and success. The problem is that you as a singer have a unique voice that doesn’t really go well with every song, no matter how popular it might be. Most singes who attempt the make a cover channel and only upload one or two cover songs and simply just abandon it, mostly because they were having extremely high expectations.
The truth is that once you upload a cover of a song you will get fairly few views, especially if your YouTube channel is new. While you might think that you can also promote it to your friends on social media, but odds are that the views will spike for a couple of days and it will drop off. My personal recommendation is to choose a couple of songs which you can sing and make a cover for each of them, then upload them to your channel like one every week.
Uploading your cover songs on YouTube is a good idea to get exposure, the problem is that in order not to get banned you have to consider a lot of factors before uploading the video. While you can virtually upload any cover song if you have a sync license but this will not be an option for most singers. In this case, you should use the above-mentioned way to find if the song can be uploaded legally, if yes then it probably means that YouTube has an agreement with the National Music Publishers Association (NMPA).