Your YouTube channel serves many purposes. It gives you a platform to display dynamic content, from music videos to interview clips. It lets everyone from fans to industry moguls see you in motion, experiencing your personality and style. And, importantly, it should help inform the kinds of content you make in the future.
But how can you use your current content to help decide what your viewers like and want to see more of? Keeping an eye on several key areas — like how long people are watching your videos and what kinds of devices they’re watching them on — not only helps you understand what types of content resonates with your viewers, it helps you better understand your audience overall, which could impact other areas of your music career, like touring or ad targeting, for example.
Although the numbers might seem a bit dense to wade through at first, by starting with these six key metrics — all of which you can check out via your YouTube Analytics panel — you’ll have a better understanding of how your videos are performing.
1. Keep track of views over time.
For some, total views alone can be enough to gauge how well a video is performing, particularly as they watch it increase over time. While this might be more of a vanity measurement, isn’t the goal to get as many YouTube views as possible and go “viral”? Realistically though, regardless of how high the number climbs, it’s vital to evaluate if and how well your content is working.
At a basic level, watching the view count to monitor how your content performs 24 hours after being posted, a week later, a month after that, etc. will generally give you some idea of its popularity. It’s a quick, simple way to easily check which of your videos are the most popular and most likely draw some correlations between your streaming numbers, as well.
2. Understand how viewers watch your videos.
Now that you know people are watching your videos via their view counts, it’s a great idea to figure out how they’re watching them. Luckily, there are tons of stats pertaining to where traffic to your videos is coming from, which kinds of devices your viewers are using, even how much of your videos they’re watching — regardless of the platform.
Some major areas to pay attention to are:
Playback and retention
These two important metrics pertain to how long viewers watch your video (both in seconds and percent) and how many times an individual views your video. If you notice your playback or retention rates are low, tweak your content to hook your viewers, then watch and see if those numbers improve. Don’t get bummed out if it seems like no one is “staying tuned” — depending on the length of your videos, a 30% or 40% average is actually pretty decent.
What’s actually more important to note is if there’s a trend of when people click out. If most viewers stop watching 46% in, though the playback rate isn’t bad, think about why they’re choosing that point to stop watching.
Monitor your traffic sources to see what kinds of referrals are generating views, whether that means people are watching your content via a blog embed, social media shares, organically via YouTube search, etc.
Besides helping you track where and how your content is being shared, traffic sources can also help you make future decisions about promoting your videos. For example, if you notice there’s more traffic and views after premiering your new music video on a blog versus when you launched your last one via social media, you can draw a conclusion that’ll help you figure out how to release your next one.
The name of this metric is a tip-off. Device information — i.e., are more people watching your videos on their phones and tablets vs. desktops — can help you determine what kinds of content are appropriate for the majority of your viewers. (If most views are coming from mobile, for example, you might not want to incorporate tiny lyrics or text into your videos, since it can be difficult to read on a small screen.)
3. Monitor your subscribers.
Speaking of subscribers, it goes without saying that you’ll want to accumulate as many as possible. How to attract them deserves its own article, but for now, let’s focus on tracking the ones you’ve already got. It’s important to keep an eye on your subscriber rate because judging by fluctuations (up or down), you can ballpark what kinds of actions generate more subscribers, what video calls to action (CTAs) are working, whether your marketing push to your YouTube channel achieved its goals, and so much more.
Remember: More subscribers equals more people seeing your content.
4. Discover your key demographics.
You probably already have some idea of who your fanbase is — their typical age range, where they live, maybe even what they like to do and what other types of music they’re into. By analyzing your key demographic through data in your YouTube Analytics panel, you can better target your marketing efforts and make sure you’re speaking to the right people — i.e., people who will actually dig your music, stream it, and come to a show.
Even if you’re positive you already know exactly who’s tuning in, it’s important to periodically check in to see if your demographics are shifting. Maybe your latest single really appealed to the ‘tween age bracket, even though your usual listeners fall into the coveted 18-24 range. Those kinds of tidbits and revelations should spark a few thoughts on how to reach more of those listeners.
5. Respond to comments and track feedback.
You’ve likely heard the phrase, “Never read the comments,” but we have to disagree when it comes to YouTube. Sure, there will be the odd troll here or there, but the majority will probably be genuine remarks from real viewers who took the time to not only watch your video, but go the extra step and leave a comment. And, regardless of the sentiment, it’s important to take stock of all comments, positive or negative.
To monitor and respond to comments, you’ll want to visit the “Community” tab in YouTube’s Creator Studio. There, you can and should respond to your comments, as many of them as possible, in fact. Even if a viewer simply said, “Cool video,” it’s worth a, “Thanks so much!” from you. It’ll definitely foster goodwill with the commenter, and anyone who happens by will know you take the time to respond to viewers, which, in turn, generates engagement that may extend beyond YouTube to other platforms.
6. See which videos have been added to playlists.
Playlisting is obviously a hot topic at the moment; being added to a popular playlist on a streaming service like Spotify or Apple Music can help your music get discovered and gain traction. By monitoring your playlist adds via one of the newest tools in the YouTube Analytics panel, you can get a sense of how people are consuming your music and also note which tracks and videos they deem worthy of addition to their collections.
You want to keep track of which videos have the most adds and where, geographically, they’re coming from. If one of your top playlisted videos is, for example, your as-of-yet unreleased music video for your next single, the insight that it’s being added to playlists means you should probably plan a major release strategy because it’s already gaining momentum.
By keeping a close eye on these changing numbers, you can better target your YouTube video content to your audience and ultimately improve your messaging and objectives. But finding and watching these metrics is only half the battle; now, you have to find an efficient and accurate way of keeping track of them. For now, a spreadsheet will do — as long as you have an easy way to compare and monitor your numbers, noting any qualitative changes that correspond with the figures (i.e., if a video was retweeted by a major music critic and, thus, received an uptick in views).
It’s important to stay organized and optimistic about your numbers. Taking control of your analytics is the first step in refining your YouTube content strategy. Good luck!
Take the next steps towards better time and resource management of your career with Soundfly’s curated Hustle series of articles and popular online course offerings on topics like how to book a tour on a shoestring, band leadership, and crowdfunding your next music project.
Sign up for our On the Fly newsletter to receive exclusive discounts on current and forthcoming courses!
Allison Johnelle Boron is a Los Angeles-based writer and editor. Her work has appeared in Goldmine magazine, Paste, and more. She is the founder of REBEAT, a “blogazine” focused on mid-century music, culture, and lifestyle.