YouTube To Broaden Subscription Option, Add Royalty-Free Soundtracks for Creators

In an effort to make its platform more useful to its top creators, YouTube on Thursday announced it will soon open its paid subscription option to more video channels and give them tools to find out more about their viewers and message them directly.

In addition, the Silicon Valley video company is giving away more than 100 royalty-free instrumental tracks to creators who want to add music to their videos, circumventing the need for creators to obtain licenses or write their own soundtrack so as not to run afoul of music labels and publishers. The company said there will be "more to come" regarding this program, which it is calling the YouTube Audio Library, suggesting that YouTube may add to that catalog over time.

YouTube made the announcements at the annual VidCon convention in Anaheim, Calif., where attendance is expected to hit 11,000 people, many of whom are professional YouTube creators who earn their living from the platform or have built businesses within the YouTube ecosystem.

The company did not organize the conference, which is staged entirely by individual YouTube creators. But it is working hard to show that it is sensitive to the needs of thousands of creators who feed its platform with content, responding to a rising chorus of demands for YouTube to help them get more views, reach a wider audience and better engage with that audience.

To help creators generate more revenue from their videos, for example, the company introduced a paid subscription tier earlier this year, but allowed only a handful of YouTube channels to participate in the initial launch. On Thursday, it announced plans to roll out the option to any channel with more than 10,000 subscribers "in the fall."

The announcement that generated the most approval from the audience, however, was Top Fans. For creators with more than 5,000 subscribers, YouTube developed a dashboard that shows who their most frequent viewers are, what they're watching and what other channels they subscribe to. In addition, video creators can contact their fans through the Google+ social network.

"From there, you can message them, send them a T-shirt, send them a discount," said Shiva Rajamaran, YouTube's director of product management. "We wanted to give creators a way to better engage with their top fans."

The company also announced that it will open a YouTube Space in New York City with production resources similar to its facilities in Los Angeles, London and Tokyo. Slated to open at the end of 2014, the facility will be located in Chelsea and be available to select creators to film, record and edit their videos using professional equipment.

Still, satisfying thousands of creators who depend on its platform for their livelihoods has been difficult. YouTube acknowledged as much, showing a video parody of its own "Complaints Department" during its keynote at VidCon.

"YouTube a hard job," said Jack Conte, a musician whose YouTube channel has more than 159,000 subscribers. "They're trying to please a billion people."