Someone is using your song in their video, and they didn’t ask. What do you do?
You could tell them to remove it, or even report it to YouTube. It wouldn’t make you any friends, but you’d most certainly be within your rights.
Or, you could just ignore it. It’s exposure, right? Even if you’re not properly credited, it’s always nice to know people are hearing your music.
There’s actually a middle ground that many musicians don’t know about. You can upload your songs to a service like Audiam or AdRev. They use YouTube’s Content ID system to check for matches, slap ads on infringing videos, and pay you a share of the ad revenue.
Way back in August of 2013, I set out to compare the two services for the purpose of writing this article.
I uploaded 8 of my most popular songs to Audiam for fingerprinting. It found 40 videos with approximately 100,000 cumulative views, as of today.
For example, this Spanish cooking video has 41K views, and uses my song “We’re Not Getting Any Younger” throughout.
Big bucks for me, right? More like $3. Not just for the video above. That’s the total payout for all 40 videos since I’ve been with Audiam.
Hold on, you say. Only $3 for 100K views?
Almost certainly not. Audiam’s view count isn’t very helpful, because it reflects total views rather than views since my ads were placed. For all I know, 98K of those views occured pre-Audiam.
I uploaded 214 other tracks to AdRev, using its convenient bulk upload feature. As of today, its found 156 matching videos (click for full size):
Cumulative views are in the low thousands, but that count reflects only views with my ads. Now that’s the information I want! I can even see how many views each video got on a monthly basis.
The most popular is a cosmetics ad using my song “Two” throughout:
To date I’ve earned $4.73 from that video, and $11.56 total from AdRev.
Underwhelmed and confused
Now, this stuff is complicated, and my analysis is superficial. I don’t pretend to be an expert in the ever-changing intricacies of copyright law as it applies to sync licensing. Audiam has an excellent FAQ that breaks things down nicely.
What I do know is that YouTube has been scouring its catalog for traces of my songs for a year and a half now, and I’ve got $15 to show for over 200 videos.
So really, the question isn’t so much which one you should use, but whether or not you should use one at all.
You’re probably thinking, sure, it’s only a few bucks, but what have you got to lose?
In my case, people ask me if they can use my music in their videos on a regular basis. I pretty much always say yes. Problem is, if I don’t remember to submit the URL of their video to Audiam or AdRev, they receive a scary copyright warning, and ads placed on their video.
“But you said I could use your song!”
Or maybe someone doesn’t ask, and uses my music in their birthday slideshow. They receive a copyright warning, ads get put on their video, and they vow never to use my music in their videos again!
Look, I’m not saying you should release all your music under a Creative Commons license, and let anybody use it for anything. At the same time, if a fan wants to use your music in their video, that’s always a good thing in my book!
I’d love a service that shows me every video containing my music, and lets me place ads on only the ones I select. Better yet, let me set a threshold, so that once a video reaches a certain number of views, ads are placed. Or place them automatically if the channel has over, say, 100 subscribers. Or both!
Since you asked, the verdict
Of the two, I prefer AdRev. The bulk upload is handy, and the data they provide is slightly more useful. Here’s my affiliate link if you’d like to sign up (they send one to every user). The way it works is, if anyone who signs up with my link makes $100 in the first year, they’ll also pay me $100. Pretty unlikely!
The other big player in the field is Rumblefish, who I was with via a partnership with CD Baby for… a few years? I don’t remember. After dozens of attempts to get them to stop flagging my own videos, I decided to pull the plug. I raked in a handsome $8.35.
Bottom line, I’ve got better things to do with my time than chase pennies from YouTube.
Am I wrong? Wouldn’t be the first time. Convince me otherwise!