TikTok continues to be a leading source of new music discovery, but standing out from the competition can be difficult. We can help.
Alana Bonilla & James Shotwell / February 4, 2022
You should know all about TikTok by now. The insanely popular video-sharing social media platform has over 1 billion downloads worldwide and hundreds of millions of active monthly users. One in three US citizens is on TikTok, and most spend more than an hour on the app each month. That is particularly surprising when you consider that the average view time for a TikTok clip is roughly seven seconds.
What sets TikTok apart is its advanced algorithm. More than any of its competitors, TikTok knows its users. It understands how to take the raw data of their behaviors on the phone and transform it into an endless scroll of semi-relevant videos. The algorithm grows smarter still with each like and swipe, quietly learning everything it needs to keep you glued to your screen a bit longer. In other words, it’s a well-built app.
TikTok is not for everyone, but you won’t know if it works for your music career until you try. However, when presented with limitless possibilities for creativity, most have no idea what to make. Do you share clips or your music, or should you post a cute video of your pet? Will sharing your trip to Target win new listeners? If so, how?
The best thing about getting started with TikTok is that it’s pretty hard to make a mistake. As long as you capture something on video, you can make a post.
Mastering TikTok is a game of trial and error. You will most likely need to make a bunch of different content ideas to find one or two that you can use consistently. That may seem intimidating now, but trust us—it’s easy.
In this Music Biz update, host James Shotwell reflects on TikTok’s quick ascent to the top of the discovery world. He then shares basic advice for musicians starting out on the platform, including video ideas and tips to boost the reach of your content. James also discusses three recent trends on music TikTok that are helping artists get noticed.
Basic tips for TikTok videos:
- Autobiographical clips help people know your story in your words
- Behind-the-scenes footage takes people into the world of a working musicians
- Use trending sounds (even on mute) and relevant hashtags whenever possible
- Respond to every comment, and engage with posts you enjoy
- Share riveting clips from music videos or live performances
- Teach us something only you know, even if it makes no sense
- Share your pets
- Gives us a tour of your gear
- Walk us through your songwriting process
Three surprisingly effective recent TikTok trends for musicians
Ask your fans for inspiration (even if it’s a lie)
Recent pop star Gayle kickstarted her ascent through the music world by posting a clip on TikTok in 2021 asking fans for song ideas. One comment suggesting Gayle write a breakup song using the alphabet caught her attention. A few weeks later, Gayle’s breakout single, “ABCDEFU,” took TikTok by storm. Radio airplay soon followed, and now Gayle—who is only 17—is preparing for her first headlining tour this Spring.
Best of all? The comment was a plant! The commenter who suggested Gayle write a song using the alphabet works in the marketing department of Gayle’s (major) record label. “ABCDEFU” was already in the works when she made the video, but the reality of the situation doesn’t change the excitement her approach to sharing music created.
Mashups are all the rage!
Mashups are created when two existing sounds are combined to create something new and—in many cases—surprisingly good. The latest evolution of this is found on TikTok, where working musicians are infusing their songs (and the songs of other artists) with funny or quotable sounds found in popular TikTok videos.
Honesty never goes out of style
You have a story to tell, and people will listen if you tell it well. You don’t need to have endured unfathomable horrors or overcome life-changing trauma to be someone whose journey matters. Your life and your vision are good enough. Be who you are meant to be, and as long as you are honest about your intentions, the world will accept you.