If you had told someone back in 2005 that YouTube would one day become a major hub for music both mainstream and underground, they probably would have laughed at you, or at least given you a mistrustful sideways glance.
But like it or not, YouTube is one of the best possible platforms for working musicians and especially for young artists who are just getting their start and are eager to share their work with a wide audience.
If you've been wondering how to upload music to YouTube, you're in the right place. This is a beginner's guide to getting your work on the platform. Once it's there, you can easily share it with others and use it to promote your other musical endeavors.
Most of the article will look at how you can upload music to YouTube for free, as long as you have a Google/YouTube account. At the end, we'll take a very brief look at how to get music onto YouTube Music, which is technically a different service, and which can't be done for free.
First of all, you'll need to prepare your files. If you want to upload an entire album as one complete video, that's fine. Just keep in mind that it will take longer to upload. If you want to upload one song at a time, that's fine, too.
But the most important thing to know here is that you can't just take your audio file (most commonly a .wav, .mp3, or .flac) and put it on YouTube.
After all, YouTube is a video streaming platform, and these audio files won't be recognized by YouTube's uploading tools.
Instead, aim to place your music into a video file. You can use any number of free or paid video editing software programs to do this. As for visuals, if you have a music video to include, great. If not, just place some album art in the video timeline. You can even leave it blank if you really want.
When you're ready to export the video, make sure to choose a file type that YouTube will recognize. For 99% of people, that's going to be an MP4 file. This file type will preserve audio quality and can give you a nice clear image as well.
Once each video is exported, play it back on your computer to make sure nothing went wrong during the encoding.
Once you have your files ready to upload, it's time to choose which Google/YouTube account you want to use to upload your work.
If you don't want to use the same account as your standard Gmail, then you can create a new account for absolutely nothing and easily switch between the two accounts on your computer.
Since you're uploading your own music, you should probably give the new account your artist name so that people will know your videos are coming straight from the source. This can also be helpful for branding.
Alright, it's finally time to upload. As you might expect, this is where the real work happens. The YouTube uploader might seem a bit intimidating to newcomers, but it's really not that tough to figure out once you know what everything does.
To get started, just head to YouTube and look for the little camera icon towards the top right. If you hover over it, it says, 'Create.' Click on this icon.
You'll be asked to choose the file you want to upload. Since you've already prepared your video file, just choose it from the file explorer.
Congratulations, the uploading has begun! For best results, make sure your internet connection is strong.
You'll now be able to input the details of your video, which includes the title, a brief description, and tags. You can even upload a thumbnail, which, in most cases, should just be your album art.
Our overall advice for filling out these fields is to keep it simple. Resist the urge to explain everything about your music and your artist persona. If you want to include the full lyrics to the song in the description, go right ahead.
Don't ignore tags, either. Tags help users find your video on the platform, so try to include relevant tags like 'music,' your artist name, and the music genre.
At this stage, you can also choose whether the video will be visible to the public and when you'd like it to go live.
That's it! Keep an eye on the upload page until it says that the upload is complete. Then it's time to promote your work. Share it around to family and friends. Even a handful of views can help boost the video in the eyes of YouTube's algorithm.
If you upload multiple songs separately, you can also create a playlist that puts them all together so that listeners can go through the whole album easily.
Be proud of your work! You can even send links to these videos when you meet other musicians or need to give a label some samples of your past work.
The difference between vanilla YouTube and YouTube Music can be confusing. YouTube Music is technically its own service and is included as part of YouTube Premium subscriptions.
YouTube Music operates more like other music streaming services, meaning you're not just playing videos with music in them but playing specific songs.
Artists can't upload their music to YouTube Music in the same way they would to YouTube. In fact, you'll need distribution to do that.
Thankfully, putting music on different streaming services is easier than ever, even if you don't have a label.
Services like these can place your music on multiple streaming services as long as you're willing to pay an annual fee.
So if you're looking to have your music on YouTube in a slightly more professional capacity, you will need to pay for the privilege.