Since starting my tips videos two years ago on YouTube, many of you have asked some excellent questions about how to start, build and grow your YouTube Channels. Below you'll find my answers to the most frequently asked questions regarding Getting Started, Growing Your Audience and Monetizing and Managing your channel effectively. I truly hope this helps you as you work to build an awesome presence on YouTube. -bc
Disclaimer Time: None of the information posted here should be considered legal advice. Everything I'm sharing with you is entirely experiential in nature. In other words, it's always a good idea to seek legal counsel if you are in doubt about an issue you're having with your channel.
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What's the first thing I should do when starting my channel?
Answer: Instead of asking "what?' Ask "why?" Why do you want to start a YouTube Gaming Channel? Do you want to entertain people? Encourage people? Earn a living? These are all awesome goals and you should determine why your channel should exist and why viewers should care. This is called your value proposition and it's very important that creators who want to grow, establish and communicate it well. Remember, people don't rally behind what you do, they rally behind why you do it.
Next, I recommend you do some heavy research to ensure you are making content that people want to see. You can have the greatest value proposition in the world along with the most professionally produced content and still not get many viewers or subscribers if you are making content that nobody wants. Find a way to mesh your passion for gaming with current trends in the market. In Television, they call this "testing." Online and on YouTube it's called SEO, or creating and tagging content such that it's easily discoverable.
What Should I Name My Channel?
Answer: I always recommend naming your channel something that exemplifies your value proposition. However, catchy and fun can be just as effective.
What do I need to send to YouTube when I get a Content ID Claim or if they ask me to prove that I have permission from the copyright owner to upload copyrighted gameplay material?
Answer: The best information you can send YouTube is the actual permission language written by a copyright owner's legal team. Some developers and publishers are awesome enough to publish this on their website (Activision-Blizzard, Microsoft, etc.). When they do, copy and paste the pertinent language as well as the link to the page where it's published into YouTube's form. When copyright owners don't publish it, you can do one of four things:
1. Ask the copyright owner to send it to you in writing on their letterhead (email won't suffice)
2. Ask the copyright owner to publish permissions on their website
3. Dispute the claim stating that you have permission and the name of the person that sent it to you
4. Do not dispute and leave your video un-monetized.
How do I contact developers and publishers directly? And what do I say to them when I do?
Answer: I use GamesPress.com - but I'm also a member of the media. Before I started using Games Press, I used to scour developer and publisher websites for email addresses or contact forms. I recommend the same if you cannot get access to Games Press. You can see a sample of the email I use at the bottom of my Monetize YouTube Videos Using Copyrighted Game Footage Article.
How do other channels seem to get away with monetizing videos that YouTube won't let me monetize?
Answer: There are many reasons why this may be the case. They may have contact with the copyright owner that you do not have. They may be a managed partner at an MCN and thus not scrutinized as severely when it comes to monetizing their work. It may not be THEM that's monetized the video as the copyright owner could have claimed it and monetized it themselves.
Do my gaming videos have to include commentary for me to upload and monetize them?
Answer: This varies from copyright owner to copyright owner. Mojang (Minecraft), for example, require that you add something to your videos to make them your own. Other copyright owners do not enforce similar standards. Just be careful if you choose to go the "no commentary" route as YouTube may consider the video to be in breach of Fair Use and YouTube standards.
Do I have to join a Multi-Channel Network (MCN), like Machinima, in order to monetize gaming videos or can I do it solely as a YouTube partner?
Answer: No! You can monetize gaming videos without joining and MCN. Check out YouTube's policy for more information here.
Can I upload and monetize game footage from really old games?
Answer: I think what you all really meant to ask here was, "do I still have to get permission to upload video game footage from really old games?" The answer is, "maybe." If your video adhere's to YouTube's policy outlined here, then you probably don't need to get explicit permission. But, having permission is always a plus if you are a new channel and YouTube's "trust" algorithm is still feeling out your content.
YouTube's "Trust" algorithm?
Answer: Okay, so I made up that term. However, as YouTube gets used to you uploading content that meets their standards, their Content ID System will give you more and more "trust" when you upload your videos.
Can I upload gameplay videos if I don't monetize them?
Answer: Maybe. Watch this video as I say it way better than I can type it here. In short, monetizing and uploading are two separate issues. Your videos have to meet certain requirements whether you monetize them or not. YouTube's policy for uploading and monetizing without explicit permission is found here. You can also check out my Can You Upload Videos Using Copyrighted Material if I Don't Monetize them video below.
Who should we contact for permission to make gaming videos? Developers or Publishers?
Answer: The one who owns the copyright. In many cases, it's the publisher. But there are cases where the developer or even another third party can own the copyright. The moral of the story is do your research!
Will Multi-Channel Networks, like Machinima, grant me permission to upload copyrighted game footage?
Answer: I can't speak for every MCN, but I can tell you that they are held to the same standards as individual creators. So unless the MCN has a license with game copyright owners, the answer is no. Ask them when you are doing your research if you are looking to join one.
Can I use copyrighted music in my gaming videos?
Answer: Only if you have permission in writing from the music copyright owner(s). (btw - this can be very hard, if not impossible, to acquire. Especially if you are trying to use music from a big-name artist)
What's this whole "commercial use" stuff these copyright owners are talking about?
Answer: That depends on the copyright owner and the language in their policy. In most cases I've seen, when a copyright owner tells me my videos can't be for "commercial use" they mean I can't sell videos using their footage or charge people to see them in some other way. Many of the copyright owners who say this, in my experience, have been cool with YouTube partner Adsense monetization.
YouTube's automated system is approving monetization inconsistently on my channel. What can I do to avoid this?
Answer: Use gaming footage from copyright owners who've given you permission to make your videos or ensure your videos follow these rules to the letter.
Does the length of my video affect my ability to get copyright owner permission to upload and monetize my gaming video?
Answer: YouTube's policy does say that your video should exercise "limited use" if you don't have permission. I have no idea how long "limited use" is and no copyright owners have ever told me that my videos can't be past a certain length.
Should I create my video under a Creative Commons or a Standard YouTube License?
Answer: Standard YouTube License. Unless you own the rights exclusively to the content you are creating, you won't have the right to issue a license to another entity to create work using yours.
Will Multi-Channel Networks, like Machinima, allow me to upload copyrighted music in my videos?
Answer: Possibly. I've had MCNs reach out to me using "We have all kinds of licensed music you can use in your vids" as a selling point. Ask this question to your account rep when you are doing your research.
Can you look at my video and tell me if it adheres to the Fair Use Exception to Copyright Law?
Answer: Nope, This is one of those "call a lawyer" moments I spoke about in the disclaimer.
Does giving an artist credit grant me permission to use their copyrighted work in my videos?
Answer: No! I believe this copyright myth started because many artists require you to give them credit in order to use their copyrighted work in your videos. However, simply giving them credit doesn't automatically give you permission to use their music, video, art, etc. You can see my long-winded rant titled Giving a Copyright Owner Credit does Not Give You Permission To Use Their Work in Your Own below.
Grow Your YouTube Audience and Manage Your Content
What's the most important thing I can do to get more views, watch time and subscribers?
Answer: First, MAKE DOPE CONTENT (yes I'm yelling). It's not a cliche if it's true. Great content is the first thing viewers are going to notice and it's what will keep them coming back. If your content is whack, no one will want to watch it no matter how many tricks I teach you. Secondly, learn and master Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Use my channel in the early days as a case study for SEO. I completely ignored it and just focused on getting good content out as fast as I could. And that's exactly why so many of you found my channel and couldn't believe I didn't have more views and subs. The facts are, even if you make great content, it won't matter if you put it in a place where no one can see it. Our channel would be a lot better off had I not neglected this simple principle. Learn from my mistakes!
How often should I upload videos?
Answer: When it comes to frequency, there are two things to consider:
1. What is a reasonable schedule you can maintain without burning yourself out? (If you're not keeping yourself happy, your viewers won't be either)
2. Experiment and let your viewers and analytics tell you what's best.
How do I request review copies for video games?
Answer: The simple answer is, "you ask!" And when you do, tell the developer or publisher what's in it for them. For a step by step approach to requesting review copies, check out my How Do I Request Video Game Review Copies video below:.