YouTube unveiled major changes to its partner program Tuesday, announcing that creators will soon be able to earn ad revenue off of Shorts, its TikTok competitor.
The YouTube Partner Program, which began in 2007, has paid creators a cut of ad revenue generated from their videos. Over the past three years, YouTube has paid creators, artists and media companies over $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 the course of 2021-22, to pay eligible creators.
Starting early next year, YouTube partners will be eligible for revenue sharing on both YouTube's main platform and on Shorts, the company said Tuesday at an event in Los Angeles.
The criteria for the YouTube Partner Program will not change for long-form videos. “Shorts-focused” creators can apply to the program if they have at least 1,000 subscribers and 10 million Shorts views over 90 days, YouTube said.
“This unique business model means we only succeed when our creators do,” YouTube’s vice president of creator products, Amjad Hanif, wrote in a blog post Tuesday after the event. “And creators are succeeding — these creator entrepreneurs are building successful businesses of their own with employees and full-fledged operations.”
The company will also launch Creator Music, an online catalog that allows YouTube creators to license copyrighted music to use in long-form videos. Creators who don't want to pay for licenses will be able to share ad revenue with copyright holders.
Until now, creators typically used royalty-free music or risked having their videos taken down for copyright violations.
"We believe Creator Music will mean more creator-artist collabs, more tunes in viewers' playlists and more ways for artists to break through — all while continuing to put money in creators' pockets," Hanif wrote.
For videos posted to Shorts, YouTube will add up the entirety of the revenue from ads run between videos on its Shorts Feed to "reward Shorts creators and help cover the cost of music licensing." Creators will receive 45% of the total revenue, distributed based on their shares of total Shorts views. The share will remain the same regardless of whether they use licensed music.
"...since Music fuels some of our most vibrant and memorable Shorts, it simplifies the complexities of music licensing, so that creators don’t have to worry about whether or not they use music in their Short," Hanif wrote.
Hank Green, an early YouTube star who is an authority on the culture of the internet, described the revenue sharing plans as “a serious threat to TikTok."
Green was among those who called out TikTok’s monetization feature this year for underpaying creators. The way TikTok compensated them — through the Creator Fund, a pool of money distributed based on creators’ shares of the platform’s overall views — was out of date, some argued.
In May, TikTok announced TikTok Pulse to “begin exploring our first advertising revenue share program with creators, public figures and media publishers.” The advertising program allows marketers buy inventory in the top 4% of all videos on the platform in a dozen categories, Variety reported. Creators and publishers with at least 100,000 followers were eligible to participate in the initial stage.
On Tuesday, responding to YouTube's news, Green said that he believes TikTok is “already earning a clear, definitive reputation for being antagonistic to creators” and that many creators see the YouTube program “increasingly as a path to success on a platform where they have more control and opportunity.”
YouTube's announcement is "a massive step forward for creators and a restatement 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.
"Basically," he added, "this is a huge day for creators, but I do want people to understand how this actually works so that we aren’t blind to the mechanisms that control our culture and the livelihoods of creators."