What is a YouTube Art Track?
You may have seen the term 'Art Track' pop up when reading about music on YouTube. To be sure Art Tracks can be a confusing subject but we'll try to clear that up by covering:
- what they are
- where they can be found
- who owns them
- regions they can be viewed from
- how to make one for your track
As defined by YouTube in their own wording: an Art Track is an automatically generated YouTube version of a sound recording.
An Art Track has three major parts according to YouTube:
- the sound recording (the track audio)
- the release cover art
- metadata for the song recording such as the track title, artist name, copyright date, etc.
How are they created?
You may notice that each Art Track has a tag that says "Auto-Generated by YouTube" and while this is a true statement it doesn't fully explain the process of how Art Tracks come to be.
When YouTube started there was no organization for music content on the platform, it was still entirely video based, but over time users began to add art tracks of their own (just a normal video upload with a video showing only the cover art and the audio playing over it) and with the success of YouTube Content ID plenty of audio content was registered and added to YouTube's music catalog. With this large catalog of music content it made sense to create official videos so the average user could stream the content that was already there all along, and so the option for YouTube to create an Art Track for your owned content was provided.
Art Tracks are created in a completely separate manner from the YouTube videos you may be used to. Because they are fundamentally different from normal videos Art Tracks cannot be managed like a normal YouTube video would, instead their creation, all edits, changes, channel assignments, and so on are managed directly by YouTube at the behest of the content owner.
The Art Tracks show up in a manner similar to regular videos, and can be added to playlists and viewed like you would with video content. The major noticeable differences are that there's no video, instead you'll see a static image of the cover art and you'll also notice the auto-generation details in the description. In addition you'll notice that the 'up next' in the queue after an Art Track will typically be another Art Track for that artist while video content like a user created audio track will link to videos from their artist channel, this is a nice subtle feature that keeps YouTube playing music instead of bouncing from music content to video content and vice versa after the end of each play.
Why are they created?
Art Tracks are created by YouTube to create an “official, label-sanctioned YouTube version of every sound recording.”
The Art Track contains within it all the information needed to sort and categorize musical content (UPC or EAN numbers, GRid numbers, artist info, label info, release info, track info, etc), it's YouTube's attempt to have a single format and place for keeping track of musical content for anything that comes into its music catalog.
In the end Art Tracks are a way for YouTube to provide you and other consumers with audio content on a video-based platform.
What's the benefit of using an Art Track?
There are a few reasons to use an Art Track as a content owner instead of just submitting the content directly as a video to YouTube.
Art Tracks benefits include:
- Enhanced audio quality versus video submissions
- Mobile audio-only playback via YouTube's YouTube Music App on mobile
- Art Tracks are searchable by topic, related artist, and playlist
- Placement on topic Channels & Playlists that are managed and maintained by YouTube directly instead of placement on user owned and operated channels
All of these benefits also give the Art Track compatibility with the subscription service YouTube Music (formerly YouTube Red).
YouTube Music & Art Tracks
The YouTube Music service is really where a lot of the benefits of an Art Track are highlighted. If you're a subscriber you get access to every Art Track on YouTube in their audio-only mode (meaning your mobile phone screen doesn't need to be on and showing the video for the track) which is a huge benefit to anyone trying to save battery life but also wanting to use YouTube primarily as their streaming service of choice.
The service also allows access to playlist creation based on music genome matching, and will favor Art Track high quality audio for the album version of a track over other versions of a track on their system like the music video version for example. This can be particularly nice when you run into a track like Michael Jackson's legendary Thriller video where the music video version is almost fourteen minutes long and is practically a short movie while the studio version is merely six minutes.
One final thing to keep in mind about YouTube Music is the availability of the service. Due to restrictions like international laws of different governments around the world YouTube Music is only available in only a few countries:
- United States
- New Zealand
- United Kingdom
YouTube updates the available locations from time to time here.
If you're trying to use YouTube Music features or view Art Track content outside of the specified regions you may see that the content is not available in that region and blocked by YouTube.
How Art Tracks generate revenue
Art Tracks earn revenue based on views from subscribers of YouTube Music and ads from non-subscribers, similar to streaming services like Apple Music or Spotify where they earn revenue based on streams from subscribers and ads from non-subscribers.
This shouldn't be confused with YouTube Content ID, which is a separate method of income from Art Tracks on YouTube Music. They are separate services and thus report separately.
Content ID, YouTube's fingerprinting service for content on their platform constantly scans and claims content in their system, once claimed the content begins to generate revenue via ads and subscription user views. If your content is used on hundreds of user uploaded videos then Content ID will claim each and every one allowing you to earn revenue on them.
Should you choose, you can opt in or out of either service, though here at Symphonic we recommend using both services unless you have specific reasons for not doing so. If you're with Symphonic and submit content to YouTube Music you'll see the royalties collected via this service reported in your monthly report.
How to create an Art Track
If you're a client with Symphonic then creating an Art Track is really rather simple. When you're creating a release in the Symphonic system (covered in this guide) you just need to select YouTube Red under the partners section, and that's it. YouTube will handle the creation of the track and placement to a channel in their system.
YouTube Music releases are automatically placed by YouTube into a topic channel for the artist, content on those pages cannot be moved or edited, they are not the same as a personal owned & operated channel that you would normally use for videos on YouTube, they are managed directly by YouTube themselves. Channel placement in their system depends on several factors, but most importantly they source their information for artists from:
Wikipedia & Musicbrainz entries are required for a dedicated topic channel with the artist name. Artists without enough available information for placement may be placed on a 'various artists' topic channel instead. For this reason we advise making as much information about the artist readily available as possible prior to distribution to YouTube Music.
Once submitted to YouTube's system content may appear on a "Various Artists" page for up to 30 days while their system matches the correct artists to the new content.