Social Media Marketing for Artists: YouTube

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The Growth of Social Media Marketing for Artists: Considering YouTube as a Marketing Option

Social media marketing has exploded in popularity in recent years. Facebook recently added its billionth user in October 2012, and YouTube is now the second most popular search engine, just behind Google. Individuals and companies are advertising nowadays with the use of Twitter accounts, Facebook pages, Instagram pictures, and YouTube channels, rather than the simple newspaper ad or bulletin notice.

In particular, YouTube has experienced remarkable growth since its founding in 2005. By 2009, it had reached 1 billion daily video views; merely three years later, that number soared to 4 billion. This year, YouTube experiences over 800 million unique visitors and has over 400 billion hours’ worth of video viewed, every single month.

The variety of videos on YouTube is astounding: from music videos to cooking tutorials to documentary clips to news reports to video blogging—the database seems as extensive as Google in some aspects, which is why YouTube as a search engine receives more hits than Yahoo, Bing, Ask, and AOL combined. Thus, like such search engines, YouTube is used as a powerful marketing tool, not only for music or business companies, but for ordinary artists alike. Many have taken advantage of the website’s features and crowds to generate a following and in turn, a source of customers and revenue.

One of the main ways that YouTubers earn income is through YouTube’s Partner Program, which is designed to give its members a percentage of the revenue Google generates from putting ads on their videos – but only once their video receives a certain number of views. The program currently boasts over 1 million members and, according to Bing Chen, one its managers, thousands of those partners make six-figure incomes a year. Furthermore, the income generated by partners in the program has apparently doubled every year for the past four years, indicating that it has only been growing in popularity and efficacy.

For some, the revenue generated from advertisements is not even the main source of profit; rather, the money lies in selling their own products. For instance, Eric Letendre, also known as “The Amazing Dog Training Man,” earns several hundred a month from the program, with over 10.5 million views. However, the majority of his revenue, “a lot more” as he states, comes from using his channel to sell books and special services. Similarly, Pilates-instructor Cassey Ho, boasting now over 55 million views, links her line of Pilates clothes and gym bags through her YouTube channel. She states that the revenue generated from Google ads varies, but she undoubtedly makes a six-figure income every year. In the same way, artists can market and sell their own products.

The quandary lies in how to gain the crowd needed to reach the threshold value of views that YouTube requires, as well as how to gain a following that will want to buy your products. Several well-known artists on YouTube have marketed their work in different ways:

  • Tutorials. It is much easier for people to learn through visualization and action rather than through the instructions of a website or manual; it is simply the way our brains work, with over 50% of it engrossed in just visual processing. It is much of the reason why YouTube has become such a popular search engine, and why video tutorials have blossomed in popularity all over the Internet. An evident example is Michelle Phan, a make-up artist who put up tutorials while she was in art school in 2006. By the end of August, 2012, she had more than 2 million subscribers and 624 million views; less than a year later, today, she has doubled her number of subscribers to 4.3 million and increased views to 749 million. Another popular tutorial maker is Bob Davies, an art teacher in the UK who joined in 2 007 and now has over 12,000 subscribers and 3.6 million views. He makes videos primarily on how to use techniques for different art media.
  • Storytelling. Some artists like to not only put their art out into public, but narrate a background story behind how it came to be, or what inspired the end product, or even how they came to be an artist. It is a well-known fact that people resonate much more deeply with an individual or personal anecdote, rather than with objective facts or pictures. Thus, by establishing a more personal tone to your art through connecting a story to it, people are more likely to empathize and want to subscribe to your channel to see the “continuation” of your life and stories. One of the most successful artists who uses this strategy is Val of Val’s Art Diary. In 2008, she had 28,000 subscribers and nearly 1.2 million hits; as of 2013, only 5 years later, she has 42,000 subscribers and over 25.4 million views.
  • Behind the scenes. Many videos that become “viral” these days have a fast-paced, edgy factor that draws in the crowds. For instance, viewers might not be so interested in the final product of the art, or the history behind it, as in the actual process of creating it. One artist who does this particularly well is Phil Hansen, who filmed himself painting a large canvas of Bruce Lee in a karate-style fashion, but dramatically sped-up the processhttp://www.youtube.com/user/Philinthecircle. He now has over 29,000 subscribers and 14.4 million views.

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Further ideas include showing a slideshow of your artwork, with musical accompaniment; reviewing or critiquing artwork; filming art exhibitions or shows when allowed; or recording testimonials of other people reviewing or buying your art.

Whatever your ideas, whatever the art – it is important to realize the importance of marketing these days not online in galleries, but online, in social media, and in particular, on YouTube.

If you find that you are interested in starting a YouTube channel or considering a form of social media marketing for artists, please contact us at New York Artists; we serve not only the New York area, but the international market – and in particular, you and your interests.

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