Youtube for Artists Guide

You know that YouTube has the power to propel artists to new heights. The problem is, so does everyone else.

It’s an incredible tool, free-to-use (sort of), and available to all. But how do you approach it in a way that gives you the best chance of standing out above other talented artists?

If 300 hours of video gets uploaded to YouTube every minute, how can we you make your 3 minutes count?

Well, fear not Spinnup artists, we’re going to give you some expert advice here that has the power to set you apart from at least 99% of all videos on YouTube.

We’re not promising a guaranteed formula for viral invincibility, that comes down to your skill and artistry, but we can promise that these techniques are recommended by the experts and that learning them will give you the best chances of success.

Here’s what we’ll be covering:

  • How to plan your video like a pro
  • Shooting from the hip – smartphone techniques for great results
  • Top dos and don’ts of video production
  • YouTube video optimisation hacks
  • When to publish YouTube videos for best results
  • How to market your channel like an expert
How to plan your video like a professional

The biggest mistake artists make when shooting video for YouTube is adopting a ‘spray and pray’ approach that doesn’t works for anybody.

Planning (AKA: ‘Storyboarding’) is everything.

A storyboard is a graphic representation of how your video will unfold. It might sound a bit ‘Spielberg’, but all you really need is a piece of paper and a pen.

Break each section down into frames by drawing a box for each one, then roughly sketch the shot and describe underneath what will be happening in it.

Make sure that you know all the shots you’ll need to complete the final edited piece in advance. Do not start until you have this.


YouTube penalises videos that can’t hold viewers’ attention until the end by showing them lower down in search results.Therefore, it’s vitally important that you keep your videos, short, punchy and on-point.

Aim for 90 seconds for a short film, interview or behind-the-scenes clip. 180 seconds for a track. Try and avoid anything longer than this, especially if you don’t have a dedicated following yet.

Storyboarding is a great opportunity to get your timings right. For example, if you have 90 seconds and want to include 8 shots, you could set aside 10 seconds for the intro and 5 for the outro, leaving you 75 seconds to divide between the remaining shots.

Another tip, if you’re writing a script, is to work out timings at 3 words per second. So, a 90 second film script should be no more than 270 words.

This might all sound like a lot of extra work, but it forces you to get focussed and not waste a second of your film. This will give you better production results which will lead to more YouTube views.

Shooting from the hip – smartphone techniques for great results

Here’s a question that media organisations expect their journalists to know the answer to straight away: How much free memory do you have on your phone right now?

It’s critical because you never want to be in a position where you can’t capture something if you’re out on tour, working in the studio, or just hanging around with fans or bandmates and collaborators.

Those spontaneous moments, when edited into your videos, are the storytelling moments we all love. Just think of Jimi Hendrix playing his guitar in his Notting Hill kitchen whilst frying an egg or Cardi B freestyling ‘For That D’ backstage. Priceless.

Luckily, we all have an entire camera crew in our pockets these days.

It’s worth saying that an artist you are also a marketer, so you should never scrimp on your phone. It’s a business expense and money well spent. Just make sure it has enough spare memory to capture those moments!

With that in mind, here are 10 tips for creating mobile video content on the fly:

Smartphone video tips:
  1. Turn on airplane, flight mode or do not disturb.
  2. Clean your lens!
  3. Hold it the right way. For example, Snapchat is portrait, YouTube is landscape. If you are unsure stick to landscape.
  4. Always zoom with your feet (that means walk!) Phones don’t optically zoom.
  5. Hold it steady. You carry all the weight in your wrist so wedge your elbows in at your sides.
  6. Place the phone on palm of your hand, lift it up and steady with your other hand. This is known in the business as the ‘human tripod’.
  7. Alternatively, buy a cheap mini tripod and keep it to hand.
  8. Lock your focus and brightness. You should never let the camera decide what you’re interested in.
  9. Shoot in short focussed sequences (don’t spray and pray).
  10. Make sure you have enough memory to save your footage and never leave the house with a low battery!
Top do’s and don’ts of video production

There are some other key things to consider when shooting your video. Let’s start with the most important:

Audio quality

Viewers will forgive a momentarily shaky hand or some dodgy lighting, but they will never forgive bad audio. As an artist this is especially important to you.

Carpeted and curtained rooms usually offer better sound quality than kitchens and open spaces.

Check your audio quality and make sure you are happy with it. If using a smartphone, remember that your headphones will have a built-in mic.

Alternatively, pick up a good mic like the BOYA by M1 or RODE iRig iXLR. For radio broadcasting quality, take a look at the Zoom H1.


Good lighting is tricky, but fortunately YouTube is an organic platform where fans are not expecting the earth here.

As a rule, use natural light as much as possible and try to shoot in the day to avoid that grainy look.

Sequence formula

A lot will depend on the type of video you are producing, but a simple shoot sequence formula, like the one below, can be used as a template to enhance any video content you create.

  • CLOSE UP OF HANDS: eyes drawn to hand/motion – 8 seconds
  • CLOSE UP OF THE FACE – 8 seconds
  • WIDE SHOT – 8 seconds
  • SEE THEIR POINT OF VIEW: over the shoulder 8 seconds
  • UP HIGH, REFLECTION, SOMETHING A BIT DIFFERENT: any reflection or arty idea – seconds


We’ll keep saying this on our decoded guides. Collaboration leads to great things!

As an artist you have an opportunity to reach out to filmmakers and videographers who are at a similar stage to you and looking for subject matter.

Check out your local film schools and colleges or network with start-ups. Not only will they help you make better content, they’ll also be an extra promotional channel for you as they’ll want to promote their work too.

YouTube video optimisation hacks

YouTube is a search engine just like Google. It’s owned by Google. It’s also the second biggest search engine in the world after Google.

As such, you should follow these simple optimisation hacks to:

  1. Make sure YouTube understands exactly what your video is about
  2. Make it easier for people to find your content
  3. Make it more likely that YouTube will favour your videos over others


  1. Video Titles

These are important for telling YouTube about the content of your video. Include any keywords that people might search for as close to the beginning of the title as possible.

  1. File Names

Before uploading your video, save it using the file name of the video title or using keywords, rather than the stream of numbers and characters it uses by default.

  1. Description box

Use all the space you have. Write as much detail as you can about the video in the description box. YouTube will crawl and index this content so it’s a great opportunity to give your video more chance of appearing in search results. Think along the lines of terms that describe your music, like ‘atmospheric strings’ or ‘dirty guitar riffs’.

If it’s a track, you could also add some memorable lyrics in here. People often search for a song by typing in a few lyrics they remember.

  1. Pick the right channel category

Type your main keyword into YouTube and check out the top-ranking videos. This will probably be a genre of music. Pick the same category as the top-ranking video for the keyword you have chosen.

  1. Tag it up

You can use tags to add more keywords to your video, which will help more people discover it through the search bar. Enter things like subject matter, location and music genre.

  1. Use Thumbnails

Thumbnails are little images you can upload that sit on the preview of each video. Pick some nice shots that will entice people to click on the video or you’ll end up with a weird mouth-half-open-eyes-half-shut thumbnail. Or if you’re handy with Photoshop design a bespoke one. Remember to save them at 16:9 aspect ratio.

When to publish YouTube videos for best results

There are lots of studies out there that try and work out the best time to publish videos. When it comes to music we would recommend scheduling for 2-4pm local time on either Thursday or Friday as this is when YouTube has the highest engagement levels.

If you are planning on publishing at weekends, I’m afraid you’ll have to set your alarm. The best time on Saturday and Sunday is between 9-11 am. No-one said this would be easy!

How to market your channel like an expert

The best way to promote each video is to approach it like a professional media company. Stick to scheduled times and be consistent. If fans expect content from you at a certain time it will help to build momentum and lead to more views over time.

You should also adopt an integrated approach. Promote your video widely across all your other social channels and make sure to talk it up in your newsletters both before and after release.

If you are really interested in maximising views, study the methods of artists you admire. Join their newsletters and subscribe to their channels to see how they do it. Above all, be consistent and passionate, there’s not point putting out something that isn’t perfect.

In summary….

You want a summary? Why? What are you waiting for? You have the tools now go; go and make amazing videos and share them with the world. We’re waiting…