Dominate YouTube Cover Songs With 15 Easy Steps

Dominate YouTube Cover Songs With 15 Easy Steps

Search Pharrell’s song “Happy” and the word “cover” on YouTube and 13 of the first-page results are videos with over 1 Million views!

Pentatonix’ version has over 20 Million views!

This is how it happens:

Fans searching for a popular artist’s song often click a video of a cover version by mistake which causes views to increase for that particular cover video.

Some artists are able to launch a career by performing cover songs. Fans devour new content related to their favorite artist.

It is the goal of the artist posting cover songs to get in the path of that superstar-fan connection.

Let’s discuss everything that goes into YouTube cover songs.


Yes and no.

It depends on the song, and it depends on the music publishers associated with the song, it depends who wrote the song.

The process is easier than it was years ago, but you still have to go through the following steps:

YouTube Cover Songs Legal Checklist

  • Videos contain three copyrights, 1) the video, 2) the audio recording, 3) the underlying composition
  • To record a cover song, make sure the video and audio recording are your original creations
  • A synchronization license needs to be obtained from the music publishers who own the composition
  • FORTUNATELY most music publishers have existing agreements with YouTube that provide for cover songs
  • If you choose to upload your cover song without exploring a license, there is a good chance that the applicable music publishers will “claim” the song and start to receive a portion of advertising revenue per the agreement with YouTube


The most successful YouTube cover songs are performed in a fresh, new way.

Here are some best practices to follow when posting cover songs:

YouTube Cover Songs Posting Checklist

  • Come up with an original take on the song.
  • If you are performing the song acoustically, set up an HD video camera with a good microphone and record several version of the song.
  • If you are doing a separate audio track, first record the audio in the studio, then record the video.
  • Sync the video file to your audio track.
  • Upload the video to YouTube.

Be original. Come up with a fresh and different take on the song.

There are many ways to successfully ways to do this, it depends on the type of artist you are.

If you are a singer/songwriter, performing a raw, acoustic cover of a highly produced song might generate the most attention.

If you are an indie rock band, covering a female pop song might be your best course of action.

The goal isn’t to try and make an exact duplicate of the song. Those kinds of covers almost never gain traction as fans want to see and hear the original version, not a copy.

youtube cover songs 2
Austin Mahone first found success performing covers

With millions of artists on YouTube, getting noticed is about as easy as becoming the starting quarterback in a Super Bowl game.

Performing clever and unique versions of popular songs is a good way to expose your style to new fans. You may have many great original songs that you want to share with the world. You may have even posted them to YouTube.

Songs with the most promotion receive the most views. Why do you think the songs that are hits on the radio are also the most viewed on YouTube?

Slicing through millions of other music videos is tough. Convincing someone to watch a new video from an unknown artist is hard.

So how do you cut through? “Borrowing” the familiarity of a hit and performing YouTube cover songs is one of the best ways to do that.

Here are some great examples of successful covers that demonstrate the performing artist’s personality:

Pentatonix performs “Problem” by Ariana Grande

Tori Kelly performs “Suit & Tie” by Justin Timberlake


In order to get noticed you will need lots of views. If you are posting cover songs as a marketing strategy, views are generated by drafting off the search traffic of popular artists.

Effectively naming and tagging the song is the most important step in generating views!

The tags are actually more important than the name of the song in Google’s algorithms:

Optimize For More Views

  • Tag the video with the name of the original artist, the name of the song, song themes, your name, and any other relevant keywords.
  • Create a compelling title. Put the name of the song along with the word “cover” in parentheses along with YOUR name (look at the Pentatonix and Tori Kelly examples above).
  • Select a great image thumbnail to catch attention.
  • Annotate your video to give viewers a call to action. Ask them to subscribe to your channel.
  • Once your video is live, share on social media and send to your email list if you have one


Gaining fans by performing YouTube cover songs worked for artists like Shawn Mendes, Tori Kelly and Austin Mahone.

Performing cover songs on YouTube (done legally) is a great way to gain exposure and reach new fans. In the end of the day though, artists need to create great original songs to ultimately find a record deal and succeed as an artist.

Effectively naming and tagging the song is the most important step in generating views!

If your cover song becomes popular, you may want to think about making it available for sale. This will require an additional license which can be obtained through a service like Songfile.

Performing cover songs shouldn’t be an artist’s only focus. Creating and performing original material is still the top priority.

Don’t wait around for an idea. Write down 10 ideas of songs you can cover right now.

Start coming up with an original perspective on the songs you choose. Hit record.

You may not get things perfect, but the point is to take action.

Don’t create excuses why you shouldn’t perform covers on YouTube.

If you have any favorite YouTube cover songs, or examples of your own, post them in the comments!

photo: karina3094



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