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TikTok for Musicians (The Ultimate Guide)

In Guides for Musicians, Guides for Singers by Jake LLeave a Comment

Last updated on November 3rd, 2020 at 11:56 am

November 3, 2020: I’ve updated this guide after months of growing my TikTok account. I hope my new-found knowledge can help you achieve the goals and successes you are striving for. 

The world of music has completely changed thanks to the internet and social media. With all of these technological advances, the opportunities for musicians and artists to make a career out of their music is everywhere.

There is one social media platform that stands out from the rest right now that every musician/artist should consider being on. It’s an app called TikTok, you’ve probably heard of it before. Nowadays, there are many people on TikTok blowing up because of their videos. This makes it possible for anyone to make a name of themselves and establish a following online. While this is great,  how can musicians and artists also use TikTok to grow their music career and brand? Well, you better be ready to learn because we are diving right in.

My Story on TikTok

I’ve been working hard on growing my TikTok account with plans on expanding my content to showcase my musical side. Five months later, after hundreds of hours of content creating for TikTok, I’ve managed to hit 100K followers. The best part is, that I am now able to share my musical talents with an audience that is genuinely interested. This gives me the opportunity to build my music career further while increasing my Social Media presence in an industry where your “follower count” can be an important factor to success.

While I’m still early on in my journey, I want to share what I’ve learned so far. Here’s everything you need to know if you’re a musician or artist who wants to be successful on TikTok.

What I Did for 5 Months on TikTok to Reach 100K Followers

It’s important to keep in mind that while this article is for musicians and artists, the advice I talk about can be applied to any type of creator on TikTok.

1. Focused on a Specific Niche

One of the most important pieces of advice I can give to anyone trying to grow on TikTok is to niche down to specific topics. For me, it took a couple of months to finally find a niche on the app that works for me. That niche is Anime and “Weeb Culture.” Once I found that this type of content was working for me, I worked hard in establishing myself within this community on TikTok.

As an aspiring musician and artist that is trying to use TikTok to create a platform for my music, I had to make sure to approach this niche with a game plan. Long story short, I made sure to constantly try different things that allowed me to stay within this niche while also slowly introducing my followers to my musical side. I go over how I do this in more detail throughout this article, so make sure to keep reading.

2. Post Consistently (3-5 posts per day)

GIF Create, connect, consistency. Important things to remember if you want to succeed on TikTok.

If you want any type of success on TikTok, you’re going to need to upload content consistently. I found that for creators who are just getting started on the app, 3 to 5 posts per day was a nice sweet spot to aim for. Many TikTok gurus recommend posting as much as you can every day (10+posts). This can be draining and discouraging, especially for someone who doesn’t have a following yet since chances are in the beginning, your videos might not be getting a lot of views and engagement.

It can be overwhelming at first, but here’s a rundown on the types of content that I post that have given me amazing results in growing on TikTok.

Types of Content to Upload

Trends

TikTok Discover Page on the app

TikTok is a social media platform that is heavily influenced by trends. On the app, you will find that there is a discovery tab that allows you to see what sounds and hashtags are currently trending. While this is a great place to start, the best advice I can give to aspiring content creators on TikTok is to catch the trends early. To do this, you will need to scroll through your For You Page (FYP) and in a sense, find these trends before TikTok does.

Think of this process as a way to research types of content that you can upload for the best chances of success. Even though a lot of trends revolve around dances, songs/sounds, and “relatable” styled videos, many musicians and artists have found creative ways to join in on them. For example, if there is a song/sound that is trending, I’ve seen musicians and artists create remixes/covers to partake in these trends.

This is great, especially since other users can use your “original sound” in their own videos. Creating your own original version of a trending sound can be an excellent way to ride the trend as a musician or music artist. Having users use your sound gives you more exposure overall on the app.

Screenshot of people using my sound on TikTok

Duets/Video Replies

Two very important features you need to be aware of on TikTok is Duets and Video replies to comments.

Duets are when you make “video responses” to other people’s TikToks. A lot of users on the app utilize this feature to upload their reactions to videos while others like adding their own creative twist in their duets. Making duets are great for growth on the app and an easy way to have something extra to post for the day. It’s also a great way to get the attention of the original creator of the video, which opens up opportunities for future “official collaborations.”

There’s also a new type of Duet called Stitches, allowing you to create a reaction after a clip of the TikTok you are dueting is played.

Video Replies to Comments is probably one of the best features to utilize for growth on TikTok. You can only make video replies to comments on your own TikToks so this might not be as easy for creators who don’t have a lot of people commenting on their posts.

Screenshot of my TikTok music video reply series

I was able to successfully utilize this feature by creating a series where I create songs based on “Anime Characters and Themes” that are being requested in the comment sections of my posts. This allows me to upload original sounds that showcase my musical side while also engaging with my audience. My followers love this series as they are able to contribute to the content creation process.

 

 

Performing Music

Female guitarist playing acoustic guitar with sun setting in the background

Just like other platforms where you can upload videos, TikTok is a great place for musicians and artists to showcase their musical talents on.  You can record yourself and edit the video right on the app, or you can upload straight from your library. Just keep in mind that there is a 15-second format and a maximum cap with the 60-second format. I’ll go into more detail about that later on.

I’ve seen a lot of musicians and artists successfully growing their accounts this way. Just don’t forget that you can approach even these types of videos creatively and differently from an ordinary “song cover video.”

Vlog Style/Personal Videos

While showing your talents on TikTok is very important, you should also consider posting more personal content. This could be TikToks that are vlog styled while still keeping a short time format. These types of videos show your followers a more personal side of you. There are creators who consistently post this type of content, and people enjoy watching it on this app. You don’t even need to buy a fancy vlogging camera to start. Your phone is always on you. A lot can happen in a day. Try capturing some of that footage, and putting them together on TikTok or some other video editing app.

If you already have experience vlogging and have the equipment, go for it! Just make sure to shoot video in vertical when using a camera other than your phone.

Fun SkitsJake playing piano at Costco for a TikTok skit

Have a funny side? Try putting together skits and filming it for TikTok. A lot of these skits can be put together using the trending hashtags that show up every day on the app. You could even be fun with music. Put together something with hilarious lyrics that are relatable to certain topics. It’s a great way to target a certain niche of an audience while still posting good content that anyone could enjoy.

Be Original

Guitarist practicing his guitar in his bedroom

Of course, the most important thing to do is be original. Even if you’re getting inspiration from other content creators, put or own originality into the idea. In the long run, people care about genuine creators and they can sense it a mile away if they’re not.

Show the world of TikTok who you are while entertaining them through the videos you post online

How Long Should Your Videos Be?

While the maximum length of a video you can upload to TikTok is 60 seconds, what tends to do good on the app are shorter videos. We’re talking about TikToks that utilize the 15-second format. Users find shorter content easier to consume. This is especially true if you’re just starting out on the app. We’re not saying that longer content will always fail, just consider making shorter videos for now while growing your presence on the platform.

3. Understanding the TikTok Algorithm

If you want any type of success on the app, you’re going to need to cater your posts to the TikTok Algorithm. You have to understand what type of content works the best on this platform. If you can work well with the algorithm, you’ll find more of your videos appearing on the FYP, leading to more followers and higher engagement on your posts.

Stay updated with Algorithm Changes

This definitely takes additional effort, but always stay updated with any new algorithm changes. There are a lot of content creators on TikTok and even YouTube who specialize in talking about changes in the TikTok algorithm as they come. Watching their videos whenever they uploaded helped me stay ahead of the game.

Most Important Key to the Algorithm

While there are so many factors to take into account when it comes to the mysterious TikTok algorithm, the most important thing to keep in mind is audience retention time. How long are people watching your videos? Are they watching them all the way through or are they skipping them altogether?

A look at my TikTok video's analytics showing a high audience retention time

Make sure to always be checking your analytics to see how your videos are performing. You want to aim for at least 85% video retention time for a higher chance of getting onto the For You Page. In the picture above you can see that the average watch time for this 13.67-second video is 14 seconds. This easily shows us that the audience retention on this video was higher than 100%, leading this video to almost exceeding 3 million views and over 370K likes.

Factors to Consider for the Algorithm

Hashtags

Hashtags for TikTok work differently.

On TikTok, hashtags work a little differently from other Social Media platforms. The algorithm utilizes the hashtags you use to categorize what type of video/content you are uploading. This ties in closely with trying to niche down on a specific topic for your account. The more the algorithm sees your videos do good within a certain hashtag, the more authority you obtain within its relatable niche.

Hashtags are also used to categorize videos that are following trends on the app. New trends are showing up every day so try your best to stay up-to-date on what type of videos are being recommended. If you consistently notice videos following the same format (Same hashtags/sounds), that might be an indicator of an emerging trend. That’s a great opportunity for you to jump on that trend early before it gets oversaturated by other TikTokers.

So whenever you use hashtags that you have more authority in, the faster your videos get picked up by the algorithm. This is why creators may notice that when they try to experiment with hashtags that are outside of their niche, it may take longer for their videos to start appearing on people’s FYPs.

Don’t let this discourage you from trying out different hashtags, just keep this in mind if you see that videos aren’t getting views as quickly. While hashtags are great to use, just make sure to not overdo it. I found that between 2-4 hashtags on each post worked best for me.

Time of Post

TikTok for Musicians timing of posts clock GIF

The time you upload to TikTok also plays an important role in your video’s success. Always pay attention to your analytics and see who’s watching your videos. If you a lot of your followers are online at a certain time, it might be best to hold off posting that new video you made until then. You should also consider the people who live within your timezone. If people are in school or at their day jobs, posting too early in the day might not be as effective since there are fewer people on the app. This leads us to the next important factor to consider, your geolocation.

Geolocation

Geolocation display for TikTok

TikTok is a platform that utilizes geolocation as an important factor for its recommendation algorithm. For example, if you live in Los Angeles, you will most likely see a lot of posts from TikTokers living in Southern California. With this in mind, you can plan out our posting strategy to cater more towards the people who live near you.

You can also time your posts more effectively to ensure that you increase your TikTok’s chance of success to go viral on the FYP.

The Sounds You Use

Just like the hashtags you use, sounds also play an important role in staying relevant to what’s trending on TikTok. Like we mentioned earlier if you notice that many creators are starting to use the same sound for their videos, try your best to hop on that trend as early as possible. This gives you a higher chance of ranking higher on that sound before more people make videos.

4. Increase the Quality of my Content

 

Something that I have learned over these past months on TikTok is that the quality of the video is important, but only to a certain extent. In many cases, I have seen that higher quality videos often don’t perform as good as TikToks created right on the app. Just keep in mind that the content that seems to do best on the app is content that looks native to TikTok.

People go to this app to watch TikToks, so make sure your content fits the part. On the other hand, you can always experiment with your videos and see what works and what doesn’t.

Always seek to improve your content. Quality content doesn’t always mean videos full of crazy amounts of editing and the usage of expensive equipment. With that in mind, there are a few items I would highly recommend to musicians, artists, and anyone else trying to grow on TikTok.

Best Ring Lights for TikTok

Lighting makes a big difference! While there are great editing features on the app itself such as filters and effects, putting an effort into improving my lighting situation has helped me so much. Natural lighting is always an option if you want to hold off on spending any money, but if you’re like me, you might find yourself recording videos late into the night. Here are my recommendations for enhancing your TikTok’s lighting quality.

Clip-On Selfie Ring Light (Budget-Friendly) 

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If you’re looking for the most affordable lighting equipment for TikToks, this Auxiwa clip-on selfie ring light does an excellent job. I personally used this light during the early stages of my TikTok growth and have seen great results. Just keep in mind that battery life might not be the best as it is a smaller light so you’ll find yourself recharging it more often during long recording sessions.

Neewer Ring Light (Popular Choice)

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A popular ring light amongst many TikTokers, the Neewer Ring Light is a great choice for those who are trying to achieve the best lighting for their TikTok. At first glance, you can see that Neewer definitely kept TikTokers in mind with their ring light as this package comes with a smartphone holder set right in the middle. This will ensure the best lighting quality from your ring light when filming videos with your smartphones (Androids and iPhones).

This ring light is also lightweight and portable making it easy to move around if you are recording in multiple locations.  It definitely has more of a professional design and with features that the clip-on ring light can’t beat.

  • Includes alight stand (61-inch (155cm))
  • Dimmable 18″/48cm Outer 55W 5500K
  • Soft tube Makes the light rotate freely for the best position
  • White and orange color filters
  • Hot-shoe adapter that’s compatible with most DSLR cameras and smartphone holders

Tripods

Another piece of equipment that every TikToker should have is a reliable and flexible tripod.

Joby GorillaPod (Tripod I Used the Most)

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love using this GorillaPod as it gave me the stability and flexibility that I needed for my TikToks. For a lot of the videos I recorded, space was very tight so having a tripod that could adjust to almost any situation was a lifesaver. This tripod also allowed me to play around with different camera angles that would normally not be possible on other tripods.

If you want to have a tripod that you can use anywhere and everywhere, definitely consider this GorillaPod.

Magnus VT-300 Tripod (My Stable Tripod) 

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This is the tripod that I normally use when recording videos with my DSLR camera, however, I still use this tripod when I’m looking for something more sturdy. It’s got a nice fluid head that allows for smooth panning while recording and built-in tilt locks. The tripod legs have rubber feet that provide grip on hard /slippery surfaces. There’s also an internal bubble level that helps you position your shots evenly.

While this might be overkill for some creators who are primarily on TikTok, it still might be beneficial to have a sturdy reliable tripod like the Magnus VT-300. As you grow on TikTok you might find yourself expanding to other platforms such as YouTube, where video quality is more important. I would definitely trust this tripod more than the GorillaPod in keeping my cameras safer (DSLRs and Smartphones).

5. Go LIVE on TikTok

One of the most important things you need to do if you want to grow on TikTok is going Live and engaging with your followers. This is especially important for musicians and artists who are trying to use TikTok to grow their music careers. Also, it’s great to note down that you can expect an increase in engagement with your videos whenever you’re live.

 How I Used TikTok Live to Introduce my Music

Screenshot of me doing a TikTok Live

Like I mentioned earlier in this article, I found most of my success within the Anime niche on TikTok. While it was great for increasing my follower count and reaching people with similar interests, I still had my main goal in mind. Getting more people interested in my music.

When you go live on TikTok, this gives you the chance to personally connect with the people who are already watching your videos. Since there are so many creators on the app, it’s definitely getting harder every day to stand out. Even more so if you’re a singer, musician, music producer, etc. This is why the interactions you have during TikTok lives are so important.

I slowly introduced my fans to my musical side and got them to genuinely be interested in learning more about it. At the beginning of my TikTok journey, I tried to upload videos that showcased my passion for music. No one really gave me attention as there were so many musicians and artists doing the same. I needed to find a way to get people to genuinely care about my music, or at least give it a chance.

After doing lives and building a relationship with my followers, I started uploading music posts (Song covers & Anime related music) that was received much better than before.

The biggest takeaway from this is to find a way to grow closer with your audience on the app. Show them that you care about them and they’ll most likely do the same.

Bonus Tip: Interact With Others

Probably one of the most important things that people often forget when trying to grow their social media presence on any platform. Interact with other users and content creators. TikTok is a “Social” Media platform, so don’t forget to socialize. Whether it’s commenting on people’s posts or replying to comments on your own, make an effort in interacting with other TikTokers.

This allows you to have the opportunity of forming relationships with them.

 

Musicians & Artists on TikTok

TikTok logo

TikTok, previously known as Musical.ly, is a place where content creators of any genre go to showcase their talents and ideas. It’s also the platform where you will find a bunch of people filming TikTok dances in public. But what I did notice is that I’ve been seeing more and more musicians, singers, and artists on the app.

I’ll see them post a wide variety of content, some being original music and song covers, while others being random videos and different forms of original content (vlog style, trends, comedy, Stories).  I’ve even seen musicians get creative with their TikToks while showcasing their musical talents. It’s fun seeing what creatives/artists are capable of making on this app.

But with so many ways of approaching this app, what should musicians and artists who are new to TikTok do to utilize the platform to the fullest?

What Your Goal is With TikTok

Unlike YouTube where content creators can make money through advertisements being placed on their videos, TikTok doesn’t really have a way for their creators to make money directly on the app. There are ways of making money on the app like going live and receiving gifts or sponsorships with brands, however, these aren’t the most reliable financially, especially when you’re a smaller account.

Try not to set “making money” on TikTok your end goal for this venture. Instead, consider using TikTok as a good way to introduce yourself to a wider audience. Put yourself out there in the digital landscape.

Once you start establishing a following on TikTok, you can begin introducing them to your other projects such as your music and other things you do outside of the app. You can also direct your followers to your other platforms and music streaming services (Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, etc.) and start growing your online presence as a musician, artist, and brand.

Uploading Your Own Music and Sounds

Uploading your own music to TikTok with DistroKid My own song on TikTok, Song title: Madness

For artists and musicians who have their own original music and sounds recorded, you can upload your music onto TikTok. This can be done through music digital distributors like Distrokid.  TikTok will show up as one of the options to upload to when uploading a new track online. Do keep in mind that a 60-second snippet of your song will be uploaded when uploading your music to TikTok.

If you have established a good following, this could be a great way to introduce your own music to them. Maybe you can even create your own hashtag challenge, starting a new trend on TikTok. That would definitely get a lot of attention on your account and music.

You can also upload original sounds right on TikTok in the form of a video. Anytime you upload a video without any added sound from TikTok, it will automatically upload as an “original sound.” You can edit the title of your new soung by tapping the name, however, keep in mind that you can ohly change it once.

Final Thoughts

TikTok is an amazing place for musicians and artists to reach new people and potentially grow their fanbase. The last thing I will say is to never stop trying and just keep uploading. You might find yourself barely getting any views on your TikToks when you first start. Just keeping putting in work and time into making your content and follow the advice I talked about in this post. Sometimes all it takes is one of your posts to go viral, so never stop uploading. Last but not least, don’t forget to be yourself. People will follow genuine real people.

I wish you all the best of luck and I’ll see you on my For You Page!

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