In The Wake of “The Harlem Shake,” Labels Make YouTube Moves

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Tim Mosenfelder / Getty Images

Baauer performs during the Snowglobe Music Festival at Lake Tahoe Community College on Dec, 29, 2012 in South Lake Tahoe, Calif.

When the “Harlem Shake” song/dance/video craze swept the Internet in February, many casual music-video watchers and copy-cat-video makers learned about one of YouTube’s more interesting features: if you upload a video using a song in YouTube’s Content ID program, the ad revenue from that video goes to the original artist.

But music fans weren’t the only people who were fascinated to learn how that particular music-industry sausage was made. Musicians and industry insiders are still learning how to take full advantage of YouTube, says Brandon Martinez, CEO and co-founder of INDMUSIC, a company that’s aiming to help them do just that. The firm helped monetize “Harlem Shake,” using techniques that included adding a link, in all YouTube clips that used the song, to buy the track on iTunes.

INDMUSIC (pronounced IN-dee-music) has just announced today that several more labels and music-management companies have joined their program; the company—which mostly functions on YouTube as a “network” rather than a channel—will essentially serve as their YouTube consultant. A few of the artists involved in the deal include Diplo, Lecrae, Afrojack, and Explosions in the Sky.

(MORE: ‘Harlem Shake’ Controversy: Artists Behind Unlicensed Samples Seek Money from Hit Song)

Martinez says that most independent labels and artists understand why they should put videos online but not how to make sure they’re getting the most profit possible from that move. For example, users can usurp the first response to a search query about a song by having a better understanding of the search algorithm, and established bands can encounter the problem of a fan who has already claimed their name for a channel. “We work with artists who don’t think about YouTube beyond as a place to post your videos,” he says. “People are aware that they should know more about rights management and stuff like that, but they still don’t quite know how.”

“The Harlem Shake” is the best ad for INDMUSIC, Martinez says, but their model comes from the world of gaming, specifically the YouTube video-game network Machinima. Machinima’s network has nearly 1.8 million videos and 7,647 channels, compared to INDMUSIC’s 13,000 and 218. But, Martinez says, the idea is the same: there’s more to YouTube than just uploading a video.

“YouTube is one of the only places where the more you engage the more money you can make,” he says.

(MOREThe Harlem Shake Is Dead; Long Live the Harlem Shake)