YouTube invited me to take part in their monetization program several months back.  As someone that self-publishes all of my own music and videos without the help (or burden) of a record label, this seemed like a good way to earn a few extra bucks a month. I was hesitant to place ads on my videos, but I figured I could roll with their less intrusive “overlay” ads and forego the “wait 5 seconds to skip” ads that appear before the video. The ads don’t advertise Halliburton or killing puppies or promote the westboro baptist church so I figured I could give it a go. No intentions of becoming filthy rich here, but I could potentially cover a small part of the cost of making music.

independent artist on youtube - monetizing your videos

I am the copyright holder of everything I upload to YouTube, so you’d think it should be pretty straightforward to monetize my vids. I’ve come to find out is their decision to include or deny videos is a bit arbitrary. I’ve been able to monetize a handful of my videos without any problems, but there are quite a few that they just refuse to monetize.

Ultimately this isn’t a big deal—I don’t generally spend too much time thinking about this kind of stuff—I’d prefer to stay focused on staying inspired, coming up with new musical ideas, writing lyrics, learning a new instrument. But it is just a bit odd, and it seems their content review process is flawed. Maybe someone else has had the same experience and can share their insight.

Here’s one example. I recently posted this video that simply plays one of my most downloaded tracks “Computer“:

I signed up for monetization, and within a few days I received an email. I figured maybe their copyright detection algorithms flagged my video:

Dear stateshirt,

At this time, we are unable to approve your video(s) because we do not have sufficient information regarding your commercial use rights.

We may consider your video(s) for further review provided you verify that you are authorized to commercially use all of the elements of your content. This includes all video, images, music, video game footage, and any other audio or visual elements. Learn more


The YouTube Team

Ok— they don’t know that I’m the actual recording artist and copyright holder, and that I have the authority to allow my own videos to be monetized on YouTube. Fair enough. According to their FAQs, I need to submit documentation that I am the copyright owner.

So I submitted a letter (on my record label letterhead) stating that I am the recording artist, sole copyright holder (for the composition, sound recording, and moving images), record label owner, publisher, copyright administrator, and licensing administrator. I set the terms for the commercial usage of all my sound recordings, compositions, and videos. I gave permission for YouTube user ‘stateshirt’ (myself, duh!) to monetize my music and videos on the YouTube platform in perpetuity, worldwide.

After a week or so they send this email:

Dear stateshirt,

Thanks for submitting your video “State Shirt – Computer” ( for monetization. We did not approve this video for monetization because the content in your video and/or the metadata may not be advertiser-friendly.

Please note that YouTube reserves the right to make the final decision whether to monetize a video, and we may disable monetization for partners who repeatedly submit ineligible videos.


The YouTube Team

The tags in my video are things like “state shirt” “state shirt computer” “independent music”, etc. The song doesn’t have any lyrics that could be deemed offensive. Not sure what they mean by metadata that isn’t advertiser-friendly?

I went through the same process for several other videos that I submitted for monetization. This time they state commercial use rights could not be verified:

Dear stateshirt,

Thanks for submitting your recent video “State Shirt – So Weird” ( for monetization. We did not approve this video for monetization because we were not able to verify that you have the appropriate commercial use rights for all visual and/or audio elements.

Please note that YouTube reserves the right to make the final decision whether to monetize a video, and we may disable monetization for partners who repeatedly submit ineligible videos.


The YouTube Team

I guess I don’t know how else to prove to them that I authorize commercial usage of my songs on YouTube. Something is little fishy, considering you can often see YouTube users monetize videos where they clearly do not own the copyright to the content in the video. Why do those get approved by YouTube? I’ve even seen other videos that use MY music that are being monetized. So YouTube is letting someone else profit from my songs but not me.

Again, this isn’t really a big deal. I don’t like spending time thinking about money, but as a independent artist (and an artist that gives my music away for free) I do need to look at ways to keep this little “business” afloat.  I am just a bit confused as to what their policies are. I will probably not bother trying take part of this program if I’m unable to convince them that I’m the copyright holder of the music that I post on YouTube.

Anyone else run into the same thing? Any ideas? How has it worked for you?


17 Responses

  1. I’ve been googling this after one of my vids got rejected the same way. I filmed all the video myself and used royalty free music which I linked to and clearly says “may be used with youtube videos and monetized” and YouTube still rejected me.

    TONS of people have this problem. It’s all automated and very few humans actually review stuff.

    And now that my vid was rejected there NO WAY to dispute it.

    I’m very upset today.

    There are my 2 videos, one rejected, one was not. Same darn music!

  2. I never had this problem until yesterday, when YouTube was claiming I needed to prove I had the copyright to use videos in my photo slideshow. I am a photographer that took pictures of the mountains where my parents live, and some pictures of my mom’s flowers and cat. I basically pointed this out to Youtube, but the laughable aspect of all this is the determination about my video was made in the middle of the night, per the 1:30 a.m post mark of the email. Oh well, I am now considering other video options beyond YouTube.

  3. Hi! Love your work.

    The answer to your problem lies here:
    Specifically there’s a link at the bottom of the page you’ll want to look at.

    YouTube uses a system called Content ID to determine whether the audiovisual content of a video belongs to a copyright holder.

    You must become the copyright holder via their Content ID program, which admittedly will take some time and some research but carries the added benefit that you could identify (and/or monetize) all examples of your work being used by anyone on YouTube.

    This will at least sort that your work is your work with their system (and prevent anyone else from claiming your work is theirs.)

    The YouTube Partner thing I don’t understand yet. I had thought it was a sort of “Don’t call us, we’ll call you” sort of affair.

    Best wishes!

  4. I’m getting an email from youtube where they say about the same thing as they told you: We couldn’t verify that you own the rights to audio and video…
    I find it extremely annoying, since the video was me playing a cover version of Be Alright, and I used only material I made myself.

  5. Oliver,

    In your case, YouTube is justified in not allowing you to monetise your cover version of an original song as the copyright already belongs to the record label / artist.

    Your video may be all your own work but you are still copying an existing, copyrighted piece of work and repeating someone else’s music and lyrics.

    I’ve uploaded a cover of Katie Melua’s song Piece By Piece to my YouTube channel but have not even attempted to monetise it as I know it would be in violation of YouTube’s monetisation policy.

    Read more about YouTube’s monetisation policy and check out their clear guidelines on what types of videos can and can’t be monetised.


  6. I get this quite a bit myself on videos that are direct webcam uploads and hangouts on air and podcasts. I’m thinking the best possible route is to get your stuff sorted with the content ID system yourself when you upload your music. For me, monetization of my Science and Physics Q&A videos and podcasts is for me to download the direct webcam upload video and reupload it after having deleted the original from YouTube and monetize it again.

    I’ve had a video that’s been waiting over 2 years for monetization review again and it never got done, so I deleted it and reuploaded and BAM, suddenly it qualifies for monetization.

  7. I have the same problems as you, i’ve been googling and got an answer that might be used.
    When you monetize your video, YT will reviewing your video. When you got icon “under review” for long time apr. 3 hrs – 2 days. After 2 Days you will get notification that your video can’t be monet or you have to prove the video content. You can use this and your video will monetize.

    1. When you upload it, make it private.
    2. Stop monetizing, and set name for your video “default”
    3. Enhance your video using YT editor, make your video “black and white” by turn the saturation into (minus) -5
    4. Monetize your video again, refresh the browser until monetize icon showed
    5. If you still can’t monetize your video, change your video name again and monetize again.
    6. When monetize icon showed, change again your video like before.

    it works for me.

  8. @Marco teel when can i make it public? after monetized? or make it public after edit the video in black and white then monetize?

    is it posible to monetize and approve even if my vdeo is in private?


  9. I am facing the same problem which all of you are facing, and I have even vented my frustrations on my blog on a platform owned by Google, I seriously believe its time someone breaks Google’s stranglehold on the online advertising market and gives us more options to monetize out videos and blogs . if anyone has the time to read you may please read my YouTube frustration story

  10. I am also havin a problem that whenever i submit video they send me letter asking for additional Document. I submit my letter signed by content owner, But they refused to accept it everytime. I am really frustrated

  11. I’m really glad people wrote a lot of useful advice in the comments. I am having the same youtube problem with music and video recorded by myself, and all I notice is that I’m talking to a machine when I try to state that the copyright is mine.

    The funny thing about internet companies is that they are all equally unfriendly to users. Facebook considers me a spammer, so every link to my website will be blocked. I had no chance to re-establish my reputation and nobody even asked me if I was spamming or told me who accused me of spamming in the first place.

    Youtube believes I am stealing content and all I can do is try to tell a robot that it’s not true. Both facebook and youtube (google) never reply personally, it’s always just robots… if there even is an answer at all. All you can do is try to trick the system. Writing letters to them in which I allow myself to use my own music seems kind of stupid to me. Especially when there is a freaking ROBOT on the other end of the mail box.

  12. Hey, I know the pain. Studied found the answer no problem ever now. Save your file with minimum words not even the ones you will use. So like my movie as file name. Upload to YouTube. Just put a little description, a tag or two or none. save changes thumbnail etc…

    Once uploaded it will be a question mark. Refresh page once or twice F-5 or upper left circle arrow to check if monetized. Sometimes does first time. Now go into video manager to the video add a word or so to title, save changes and now unmonetize and save changes. sign out of youtube. Clear cache in chrome and even under control panel. sign back into youtube. Now monitize the video save changes. Refresh page and walla its monitized. Works every time. Now go back in and give the video the real title, description and tags you want its already monitized save changes your done.

  13. In case you didn’t know, for vimeo plus users (paid, unfortunately), vimeo now has a “tip jar” feature, where people can send you donations if they like your work and support your practice. I’ve never decided to do it, but if you own all the rights to your videos, you might consider it, especially if your audience is very large. And as far as I know, there is no verification by vimeo about rights and all that bullshit. It is a much more artist friendly site than youtube, rather than a garbage heap of selfie and cell phone videos like youtube. You simply post a video, turn on the tip jar function, and on the video’s page, as well as when anyone embeds it, I believe a prompt comes up at the end asking the viewer if they’d like to contribute, and there’s of course a link on the page. It could at least be an option to exercise in addition to youtube. Make more revenue, no downside. Plus, vimeo plus is only like $60 for a year. Who cares, it’s a lot more professional than youtube, and you’re in better company. You can even customize how embed windows look when they come up, the encoding for video is better, then improvements over youtube are endless.

  14. Hi,
    I run a newly established YT channel for Polish PC gamers all over the world. Recently some of my videos are being removed from the monetization program. They are still online but no earnings…. I can understand one of them – pretty brutal FPS for a mature gamer but even my VLOG has been forbiden from monetization! My VLOG, with me, no music, no other sounds than my voice! As for the rest of my videos, well, I have written permissions from developers or publishers. All legal here. What strikes me is the most the lack of explanation. All YT gives me are those incompetent automated answers, which do not explain absolutely anything. I will still create and publish my videos but at this rate it is hardly possible I’ll make the extra buck. All thanks the the same corporation that encouraged me to attend the partner program – YouTube.

  15. YT is goind stupid… i did the test to upload a 10 second video without music and just a black image (10s of black image without sound…). Still I got to prove that I own the right for the video WTF? but more funny is that 1 month later Im still waiting for approval… I dont know if youtube keeps a record of your previous mistakes or what, but this is just ASKING for a new youtube alternative… will you go to a new youtube without this problems or stay on this crap youtube we have now?

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