How to Make it on TikTok as a Musician

How to Get Your Music Heard on TikTok

TikTok can be a great place to express yourself, whether you’re an at-home barista, a dancer, a singer, or a musician. However, it can be hard to know where to start if you want to promote yourself.

Creating music and posting it online requires time, energy, but mostly courage. It can be scary, especially when so many people are on TikTok trying to go viral and get noticed. It’s important not to compare yourself to others, and before you start, treat it like a business and create a plan of action.

In this article, we will go over the basics of TikTok and the types of videos on the app, how to create a plan for your content, and what factors to consider when creating and posting your music online.

The Many Sides of TikTok

TikTok is an app where anyone can create and share videos with a variety of sounds, filters, and effects. The videos are typically 15 seconds to a minute long, but can also be as long as three minutes. There are many sides to TikTok; there’s Coffee Tok, Music Tok, Mental Health Tok, Cooking Tok, Astrology Tok, and more. The videos are tailored to the content you enjoy watching and what you interact with most, so it’s not uncommon for you to be on one side of TikTok for a period of time. 

Most accounts are tailored to one side of TikTok, so they maintain their audience, even if the watchers aren’t following them. If you want to be a musician or a singer on TikTok, start by watching videos of other musicians. This will help the algorithm to be in your favor when putting videos in your feed, and putting your videos in others feeds. You may consider studying other music accounts to get an idea of how to become successful in your venture. 

Four girls dancing in sync outside.
TikTok trends can turn songs into viral sensations overnight. Image courtesy of Unsplash.

Understanding the Algorithm

In order to make your posts go viral, you must understand and utilize the algorithm effectively. A lot of the time, it is up to chance which videos take off. The algorithm has a mind of its own, but there are things you can do to boost your videos. Almost all videos on TikTok are accompanied by music, which was the main idea for the app when it was created. Many popular songs circulate from various artists, even years after the songs were released. For example, recently, a sped-up version of a song by ABBA called Angeleyes went viral. The song was released in 1979, before most people on TikTok were even born. 

Aside from the song being in Mamma Mia 2, it is relatively unfamiliar to Gen Z, which speaks to the power of the TikTok algorithm. The song was mainly used on nostalgic videos, since the song reflects a nostalgic feeling through the lyrics and melody. After it was started by people posting videos to bring a whole generation together through reminiscing about things like old PBS shows and Wannado City, the song took off and became a viral sensation. People would put the sound over their videos just to make it take off, a common method of TikTok users. 

When popular songs are attached to videos, they have a better chance of going viral because the algorithm will put them at the top of everyone's For You Page. The For You Page is the place where all the videos that TikTok thinks you’ll enjoy watching will pop up, based on hashtags, sounds, and content. The algorithm is generated and customized for each user, essentially tailoring it to what you like to watch.

TikTok uses UGC, or user-generated content. This means that it’s up to the preferences of the users on the app whether you go viral or not. Each video posted has a chance of going viral, if it’s up to the standards of the viewers, if it’s interesting, on-trend, and uses a catchy song.

TikTok open on a computer screen.
Each user has a chance to go viral, but it is up to the algorithm which videos get pushed to the top. Image courtesy of Unsplash.

Creating Your Action Plan

  • First, you need to outline your goals, and where you are now. How many followers do you have? What’s your following goal in the next three months? View other accounts that have a large following to point out what characteristics they have versus people with less followers. Make a list of those characteristics. 
  • Next, if you have music recorded, great. You can upload your songs onto the app. If you don’t, record a song or two to get started. On TikTok, songs go viral if they are catchy and can be paired with many different videos. 
  • Decide what image you want to put out. What are your videos going to show? Do you want to be on camera or show something else with your music in the background?
  • Find a TikTok challenge that is going viral, and create a video using your music but do the trend. This will give you a good chance of showing up on other people’s pages.
  • Hashtags. While some videos go viral without hashtags, they help you to show up on other people’s For You Page. Hashtag anything that is relevant to your video: #music, #viral, #songwriter, #fyp, #foryou, and any other hashtag that is going viral or has a lot of views. When you type in a hashtag into the caption, it will bring up how many views it has. 
  • You need to post as often as possible to increase your chances of success. The more you post, the higher your chance of showing up on someone’s FYP is. Also, people will most likely follow you if they see you post content often, so there is always something for them to see. 

After you’ve created an outline of what you hope to accomplish and how, you’re ready to start creating and promoting. 

A microphone for recording music.
Record your music, post it, and let the app do the rest. Image courtesy of Unsplash.

How to Start Promoting Your Music

  • Pick out a snippet of your song, 15 seconds to a minute long, and create a sound to be used in videos. Consider that people may use this in the background of their videos, and possibly in trends or dance videos. 
  • Follow other artists on TikTok, ones that aren’t too popular, but have more of a following than you do. They will be able to help you promote your music. You can even message them and ask them to help you out by sharing your songs or your account. You could create a duet with another artist. A duet is a side-by-side video of you both singing or dancing to the same song. Doing so will create interesting content, and will put you on the pages of people that follow the other account as well as your own.
  • Do your best to create appealing content. You don’t have to be a professional cameraperson, but try to get the lighting and setup as visually appealing as possible to ensure people want to watch your video. 
  • On your first video, provide a bit of a backstory. Tell your audience who you are, and what you hope to accomplish. People will want to support someone who is being open and honest about their experience.
  • If you’re brave, share your TikTok on your other social media. Post to Instagram stories and tag your account so people will check it out. More than likely, people on Instagram will be happy to support a friend.

Promoting yourself on social media can be scary and you may not know where to start – but don’t get discouraged! No one who first starts on TikTok knows exactly what to do, that’s the beauty of it. All you have to do is follow the steps and keep posting your music. The speed at which information and videos are shared on the app is utterly fascinating, which bodes well for those trying to go viral. If someone sits and scrolls for 20 minutes, they could watch 20-45 videos in that time. One of those videos could be yours! All it takes is one person to like what they hear, and the algorithm will do the rest. 

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Emma Saunders

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