YouTube unveiled major changes to its affiliate program on Tuesday, announcing that creators will soon be able to earn ad revenue from Shorts, its TikTok competitor.
The YouTube affiliate program, which started in 2007, has paid creators a portion of the ad revenue from their videos. Over the past three years, YouTube has paid creators, artists and media companies more than $50 billion, the company said in a blog post. But videos posted to Shorts, which debuted in 2020, were not included. Instead, YouTube launched the temporary Shorts Fund, a $100 million fund distributed over 2021-22 to pay eligible creators.
Beginning early next year, YouTube partners will be eligible to share revenue on both YouTube’s main platform and Shorts, the company said at an event in Los Angeles on Tuesday.
The YouTube Partner Program criteria don’t change for long videos. “Short-targeted” creators can sign up for the program if they have at least 1,000 subscribers and 10 million Shorts views over 90 days, according to YouTube.
“This unique business model means we can only succeed if our creators do,” Amjad Hanif, YouTube’s vice president of creators products, wrote in a blog post Tuesday after the event. “And creators succeed – these creative entrepreneurs are building their own successful businesses with employees and full-fledged operations.”
The company will also launch Creator Music, an online catalog that will allow YouTube creators to license copyrighted music for use in full-length videos. Creators who don’t want to pay for licenses can share ad revenue with copyright holders.
Until now, creators have mostly used royalty-free music or risked their videos being taken down for copyright violations.
“We believe Creator Music will mean more collaborations between creators and artists, more tunes in viewers’ playlists, and more ways for artists to break through — all while keeping money in creators’ pockets,” Hanif wrote.
For videos posted to Shorts, YouTube adds up the entire revenue from ads that appear between videos on the Shorts feed to “reward Shorts creators and cover the cost of music licensing.” Creators will receive 45% of the total revenue, divided according to their share of the total number of Shorts views. The proportion remains the same whether or not they use licensed music.
“…since music is one of our most vibrant and memorable shorts, it simplifies the complexity of music licensing so creators don’t have to worry about whether or not to use music in their short,” Hanif wrote.
Hank Green, an early YouTube star who is an authority on internet culture, described the revenue sharing plans as “a serious threat to TikTok.”
Green was one of those this year to mention TikTok’s monetization feature for underpaid creators. The way TikTok compensated them — through the Creator Fund, a money pool distributed based on creators’ share of the platform’s overall views — was outdated, some argued.
In May, TikTok announced TikTok Pulse to “begin exploring our first ad revenue sharing program with creators, public figures and media publishers.” The ad program allows marketers to buy inventory in the top 4% of all videos on the platform across a dozen categories, Variety reported. Creators and publishers with a minimum of 100,000 followers were eligible to participate in the initial phase.
On Tuesday, responding to YouTube’s news, Green said he believes TikTok is “already gaining a clear, definitive reputation for being hostile to creators” and that many creators see the YouTube program “increasingly as a path to success in a platform where they have more control and opportunities.”
YouTube’s announcement is “a huge step forward for creators and a reformulation of YouTube’s understanding that long-term success is built by creating economic systems that reward creativity,” Green wrote.
Still, he noted, the music industry is also benefiting from YouTube’s announcement.
“It feels like YouTube cares about creators with their hearts, but they care about the labels with their wallets,” Green wrote.
“In principle,” he added“This is a great day for creators, but I want people to understand how this really works so we’re not blind to the mechanisms that govern our culture and creators’ livelihoods.”