TikTok For Musicians 101

What is TikTok?

One of the most downloaded apps in the world, TikTok allows users to upload 15-second videos to a scrollable feed, using background music from their diverse library of songs. TikTok has quickly become a major social media platform for independent artists both in terms of discovery and promotion.

As social continues to be an essential element of any artist’s marketing mix, exploration and experimentation become must-dos. Figuring out which social media channels your fans spend time on and how other fans of your genre interact with each channel is important research you’ll want to conduct, too.

If you’re an artist who is interested in getting TikTok into your promotional plan, this TuneCore Survival Guide will review some of the best practices, key formatting specs, and some tips for how to be successful on the platform.

Getting Started

If you haven’t already, begin by signing up for TuneCore and distributing your song(s) to TikTok. You’ll have the opportunity to send your music to over 150 other digital music platforms like Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon. TuneCore was one of the first independent distributors to partner with TikTok.

When uploading songs, be sure to select the time clip you want to be featured when fans use your music in their videos.

Once your songs are approved by TuneCore’s Content Review team, they’ll be live in TikTok within five days.

Next, it’s time to set up your artist profile – you’ll need to come up with an original username, (if your desired username is taken, try something that is close to your other handles). You can follow the general guidelines of any other social channel here – in fact, as you build your brand, having a cohesive look across all profiles you exist on is a great idea. Update your photo, bio, and make sure to highlight anything new or upcoming.

Be sure to highlight your other social handles in your bio. You can also add a video or photo to showcase your style/personality, too. Give users an idea of what kind of content you plan to share on TikTok – behind the scenes or in the studio? Trying out new songs or covers? Funny or topical commentary? Remember, as you begin to get more comfortable and figure out what kind of video content both suits your brand and resonates with fans, you can adjust accordingly.

While we’re talking about other social media platforms, once you’ve set up your profile, hit Instagram/Facebook/Twitter or even your email list to let your fans know that they can find you (and your music) on TikTok now.

Using TikTok

Take some time to navigate the app! Like anything else you’ve ever downloaded, it’s going to look and feel a bit foreign at first. Remember the first time you opened Instagram? Within a week, you’ll be navigating like a pro, but remember: with TikTok, the videos you engage with and watch are part of an algorithm that will continue to suggest similar content.

As you browse the ‘For You’ and ‘Discovery’ sections of the app, be sure to also start following artists and creators that you feel are both in line with your brand and could see yourself sharing a stage with. Much like Instagram, it’s advantageous to know what your peers are doing on the channel. With TikTok, trends move fast, but have the potential to get you noticed by a lot of new fans.

Video Sharing: Best Practices

Ready to start sharing videos on TikTok? Great! Below is a list of important notes to keep in mind for a high quality clip:

  • Aspect ratio: Full-screen vertical (9:16).

  • Quality: Videos taken in good lighting often perform well.

  • Length: 11-15 seconds is the sweet spot as your audience is more likely to watch the whole video.

  • Captions: The best captions are personable and relevant to the video. Non-promo as well, it could be viewed as spam if so, and restricted or taken down as a result. TikTok recommends a maximum of three hashtags. (No need to use #foryou or #fyp.)

  • Vertical Capture: Videos on TikTok should be full-screen vertical.

  • Captions: Use the caption to clearly describe your video – try to be personable and include relevant information.

  • Features: Play around with TikTok’s filters, stickers and effects to capture attention.

What to Share on TikTok

Ok so admittedly, this one is a little bit subjective.

Based on your genre, your fan base (or the fan base you’re looking to build on TikTok), your overall social ‘voice’, and generally how comfortable you feel on camera, it may take a little bit of time to develop your go-to style of content. As mentioned above: experimentation is a good thing! Read more on TuneCore Artists who’ve gone through trial and error as they began to share their music on TikTok.

As you begin to get acquainted with the app, you’ll find that some of the most successful videos shared by TikTok users (artists and amateurs alike) involve dancing, lip synching, participation in popular ‘challenges’ or contributing content pertaining to a trending hashtag, and ‘story’ style skits/scenes.

Additionally, the ability to collaborate with other users and artists — specifically, the ‘Duet’ feature — is a popular choice that you can look into as you build your base. If you’re a little late to the party, try connecting with artists you know and see if a collaboration would be a fun idea for both audiences.

How Often to Share on TikTok

TikTok is just like any other social media platform in that you should always be thinking about the cadence and frequency of your sharing habits. Additionally, as an artist, it’s important to acknowledge your ‘fun, engaging content’ : ‘promotional content’ ratio.

Generally speaking, as you experiment and get comfortable with the app, posting 3-5 videos per week is recommended. You may get to the point where you’ve found your TikTok groove and feel confident in posting daily. This is another opportunity to research other artists in your genre and get a sense of how much is ‘too much’.

Final Thoughts

Have fun! With each new hot social media app that emerges, as an artist you can truly use it twofold: to promote your music and showcase your personality. Both of these actions can help you build a fanbase, and when you make your songs available on TikTok, you increase the chances of being heard, discovered, and even going viral.

Stay consistent, provide quality content, and find your voice.