Given the many and varied ways there are for a YouTuber to earn revenue from their channel, and the increasingly volatile ways in which YouTube decides who can earn revenue through their platform, it can be a little confusing trying to work out when YouTubers get paid and when they don’t.
Whether you are looking at this from the perspective of a YouTuber wanting to know if they can get paid, or an interested viewer who is just curious how it all works, you might be looking for a little clarity.
In this post, we’re going to provide some of that clarity as it pertains to YouTube Premium. Do YouTubers get paid if you have YouTube Premium? – YouTube Premium is an additional revenue stream for creators to replace YouTube ads for ad free video viewing. YouTube Premium membership fees are split between the creators a member watches based a percentage of their total watch history and behavior that month.
What is YouTube Premium
Let’s start with the basics; what is YouTube Premium?
YouTube, as we all know, is a free service. For those of us old enough to remember the early days of the platform, you might recall that YouTube’s ability to make a profit was one of its main criticisms, and the fact that it was free was a big part of it. These days, of course, YouTube displays advertisements on their content (sometimes excessively so) to make money, but that isn’t their only source of revenue.
YouTube Premium is YouTube’s subscription service, giving a subscriber a range of benefits like access to exclusive YouTube content… and ad-free viewing. It is this last one that is the reason why there is any confusion about whether YouTubers get paid—if there are no ads being shown, there is no ad revenue to split with the YouTuber.
Do YouTubers Get Paid if You Have YouTube Premium?
The short answer is yes.
YouTube Premium users do not get shown ads on content they watch—regardless of who made that content—but the content creator receives a share of the YouTube Premium revenue in place of that ad revenue.
This share is proportionate to the amount of watch time you receive. So, to pull some completely unrealistic numbers out of thin air for an example, if the total YouTube Premium earnings for one month was $1,000, and your content accounted for 0.1% of all YouTube Premium watch time, you would earn $1 of YouTube Premium revenue.
There are other factors you could take into account, such as YouTube Premium exclusive content.
A mixture of more traditional television and network style TV show creators and regular YouTubers have found themselves making content for YouTube Premium in much the same way that Netflix Originals are made. In this case, though, the deal regarding what the YouTuber is paid and when would be agreed beforehand.
There are also rumours (though nothing official at the time of writing this post) that there will soon be an option for YouTube Premium members to donate to a channel of their choice as part of their membership.
Much like how Amazon Prime members get one free Twitch sub as part of their subscription.
Why Does YouTube Want a Subscription Model?
You might be asking why YouTube would want to offer a model like this, rather than stick exclusively to advertisements. After all, a YouTube Premium subscription is a fixed amount per month, regardless of how much content a user watches, whereas a user could watch a ridiculous number of ads in that same period, easily overtaking the value of a Premium subscription.
There are a few reasons why this model is appealing to YouTube, and the fact that it is a fixed amount per month is one of the bigger ones.
Advertisement revenue is erratic by its very nature. Trends in marketing, the economy, regulatory changes, and more can all have a profound and immediate impact on the revenue of an ad-based business.
For example, COPPA regulations surrounding how the personal data of underage users is treated forced YouTube to make changes that effectively stopped advertisements from being shown on a substantial number of YouTube videos. This naturally affected a lot of YouTubers, but it affects YouTube as well. If there are no ads being shown at all, there’s no revenue for anyone. While Premium subscriptions can still fluctuate (user’s can cancel any time) it is a far more reliable source of revenue than advertising.
It is also an easier source of revenue. Advertising online is a game of information; the more information you can collect about a user, the more relevant ads you can show them.
This is increasingly becoming a problem as more people become hostile to the idea of big tech companies collecting their data, and actively resist with ad blockers and VPNs (virtual private networks). And, of course, regulations like the aforementioned COPPA situation.
With a Premium membership, YouTube does not need to collect any information about its users to make the revenue from those subscriptions, making that particular revenue stream impervious to ad blockers and regulations around data protection. In fact, we might expect, going forward, that privacy could become one of the selling points of services like YouTube Premium. “Want to protect your data? Go Premium!”
Should YouTubers Do Anything Differently?
A natural follow-up question for a YouTuber here is whether they should be changing their approach because of YouTube Premium, and the short answer is no. Not yet, at least.
Stats from 2020 show that there were around twenty million YouTube Premium subscribers. Given that there are several individual YouTube channels with more than twenty million subscribers, it is safe to say that the majority of YouTube viewers aren’t on a Premium subscription.
Going forward, however, it would be reasonable to believe that YouTube would prefer more Premium users than not, and if they achieve this goal, it opens up an interesting new paradigm for YouTube content creators.
Since Premium revenue is paid based on watch time, and since there are no restrictions on Premium revenue (other than being eligible to monetise your content, of course), there really would be no other onus on a YouTuber than to make quality content.
Sure, you would still need to think about discoverability, but the need to think about advertising niches and advertiser-friendly content would be gone. You could make content for anyone and about anything (within YouTube community guidelines) and not have to worry about your revenue being hit.
Of course, this is an unlikely situation any time in the near future, but it is an interesting one to think about.
Does YouTube Premium Affect Other Revenue Sources?
The only revenue source that is affected by YouTube Premium is advertising revenue, since the fact that you are earning any Premium money means that somebody definitely was not watching ads on your content.
Everything else, however, is unaffected.
You can still earn revenue from things like Super Chat, Memberships, merchandise, and, of course, any external revenue sources like brand deals and Patreon are completely unaffected by YouTube Premium.
Should I Focus on Watch Time?
While Premium users make up a small number of the overall viewership of YouTube, we would still argue that focusing on watch time as long as it doesn’t harm the quality of your content is a good strategy.
This is because it should result in more revenue regardless of whether a viewer is a YouTube Premium subscriber or a regular user. The more watch time you have, the more of a share of the YouTube Premium earnings you get, but also the more opportunity there is for YouTube to display ads.
It should be stressed, however, that this is only the case if people are actually watching your whole videos. If you make your videos longer, but most viewers switch off after the first few minutes, you will not benefit from the additional length of the video. In other words, making your content longer does not guarantee more watch time.
What Do You Get With YouTube Premium?
In addition to ad-free viewing and exclusive content, there are other benefits to YouTube Premium. These include;
- YouTube Music Premium
- Background Play
- Video Download
As the name suggests, background play lets you play videos without actually having the video onscreen, which is good for content that is primarily audio-based, such as podcasts or long music tracks.
It should be noted for the content creators who make those kinds of content that background plays still count as far as revenue share goes, so don’t worry if people are putting your content on in the background; you’ll still get paid. Watch time from downloaded videos is also counted.
While YouTube Premium is not a particularly significant thing that YouTubers should be changing their strategy for—especially since there is not much strategy changing that would be necessary—it does represent a possible future for YouTube that is more creator-friendly.
Right now, YouTube is essentially beholden to advertisers as their main source of revenue, so if advertisers want something, YouTube generally has to give it to them.
If Premium were to become a substantial part of the YouTube system, it would mean that YouTube could be more consistent—and more fair—with their creators, both in revenue sharing and policy changes.