What are they?
YouTube is the world’s largest and most oft-used platform for listening to music. As I mentioned before, master rights holders (labels or performing artists) earn royalties every time their recording is streamed within a YouTube video – if your video has an advertisement attached to it. YouTube earns its revenue from its advertising partners, then shares it with musicians and music rights owners who help the site generate billions of views.
It’s very important to clarify that publishing rights owners (publishers and songwriters) also receive money from YouTube, but YouTube sends its portion of the royalty pie to performing rights organizations (PROs), which you’ll read more about later.
YouTube collects royalties using incredible technology called Content ID, which creates an audio fingerprint of your recording, ingests that into YouTube’s massive database, and tracks every single time someone uploads and streams your recording on YouTube. That means that whenever someone you don’t know uploads a video with your song to YouTube without getting your permission, YouTube tracks that, throws an advertisement on the video, and monetizes it on your behalf.
Who collects them?
YouTube allocates the royalties to master rights holders.
How do I know if I’m earning them?
If you’re a master rights holder (i.e. a label or performing artist on a recording), and your recordings are on YouTube – whether on your own channel, your label channel, or anyone else’s channel – you have the ability to earn YouTube royalties via Content ID. The more views, the more revenue you generate.
How can I collect them?
You can go to YouTube directly to get these royalties, but there is a massively long waiting list, and most applications go unanswered. There are companies out there that collect YouTube recording royalties.