How to promote your music on TikTok.
TikTok is not only a social media phenomenon, it’s also a platform driving massive music success.
In fact, major labels are now looking at TikTok metrics to gauge the potential of a new artist or upcoming release.
In the case of artists like Lil Nas X, Lizzy McAlpine, Joji, Lawrence, and Billianne, music promotion on TikTok has also lead to huge boosts on other platforms like Spotify and YouTube, as well as success in traditional media.
Contrary to what you might’ve thought back in 2020, TikTok isn’t all dance challenges, funny skits, and lip-sync videos. There’s educational content, heartfelt moments, live performances, and much more.
Lots of younger people are even turning to TikTok for search purposes, surprising many SEO marketers who’ve focused only on Google and YouTube.
It’s really a platform for ANY kind of video content, as long as the videos are helpful, entertaining, or otherwise capture the attention of some slice of users. And thanks to TikTok’s powerful algorithm, it’s a platform where niche content CAN find loyal audiences.
So TikTok is a great place for independent musicians to put in effort, build community, and share new songs.
Lear how country singer Britnee Kellogg went from 0 to 1,000,000 TikTok followers with zero industry help.
What makes TikTok unique for music promotion?
You’re probably quite familiar with TikTok, but for those who arent:
- Videos are short, usually around 15-60 seconds (but can go up to ten minutes)
- There’s an emphasis on “authentic” versus “perfect”
- Video is vertical, displayed in 1080×1920
- It’s more about participation than one-to-many broadcasting
- The comment section can be its own form of entertainment
- Because you can record in increments, even short videos feel narrative
- Bad lighting? One person acting as multiple characters? Talking in a mirror? All good.
- You can easily use your song’s audio to either add new live audio over the top, or straight up lip-sync
@giorgioaustinIf you’re into music, watch this #foryou #trending♬ original sound – giorgioaustin
The For You Page and “viral” songs
TikTok algorithmically generates a feed of content for each user, which is displayed on the #FYP (or “For You Page”). The more a user engages with content, the smarter TikTok gets at guessing what kind of videos the viewer wants to watch.
Imagine your song is used in a video that appears on someone’s For You Page. That video inspires the viewer and they want to make a similar video. Well, there’s a simple way in TikTok to use that same audio clip when creating a new video. THIS is what drives the viral success of music on TikTok and makes music promotion on the platform so interesting. If a dance challenge or crazy lip-sync inspires one person, there’s a good chance it’ll inspire many people to make their own videos. Suddenly the algorithm is reenforcing that musical hook, surfacing your song to more and more viewers in more and more contexts (via user-generated content).
Because a song can go viral in this way, there are quite a few instances of artists who have meager followings on other social platforms gaining huge exposure on TikTok. In this guide, you’ll learn how about TikTok music promotion to help you grow your audience and get people sharing your songs.
Learn more about how TikTok’s algorithm works.
TikTok’s functions at a glance
Shoot video in increments — Yes, you could do a single-take video if you want, but TikTok lets you shoot video in bits and pieces, almost like real-time editing. Capture a little bit of video, stop, and then pick up the next shot when you’re ready. This way you can change scenes, characters, costumes, etc.
Shoot video to the song — All these lip-syncs and dance videos would be a lot harder to create if you couldn’t record video TO the song. In TikTok, you can start by finding a song, swiping to the snippet you want, and then shooting the video. If you do cuts, the audio will stop at the appropriate part and then play from where you left off when you hit record again.
Produce in TikTok, or upload from elsewhere — You can use the above process to capture and post videos within the TikTok app, or create vertical videos using other tools (such as Adobe Premiere Pro) and then upload to TikTok.
Quick TikTok promo tips for musicians
1. Put your music on TikTok
CD Baby can deliver your music to TikTok for usage in short-form videos on the platform. Your songs will be available in TikTok’s music library, where any user can pull it into one of their own videos. When one of your tracks gets used, you earn money.
Getting your music on TikTok is included with all CD Baby distribution.
2. Follow other musicians on TikTok
The best way to learn about TikTok is to get on there and start using it. Be sure to follow at least a few active musicians on the platform, too. Even if you don’t love their music or genre, you’ll learn what works for musicians who are willing to be creative on TikTok.
To get you started, check out the Jonas Brothers…
@jonasbrothersDon’t be rude!♬ ThE JONAs BROTHerS USED MY SOUnd – crustyegirl
@lizzoIS THIS WHAT HE MEANT WHEN SAID BOX?! arielleseverywher #fyp #thebox♬ The Box – Roddy Ricch
3. Keep it light
TikTok is a fun platform. If you’re an artist who takes yourself super seriously, you might have a hard time creating content that connects with TikTok users.
If giant popstars can be silly and endearing, so can you. Lighten up!
4. Don’t stress about being perfect
TikTok isn’t about polish.
Flaws, quirkiness, awkwardness, sometimes even things that are offensive get the most traction on the platform. So don’t be afraid to be you, and don’t feel the pressure to look 100% before you hit record. Get silly. Be weird. Stay true.
5. TikTok skews young… but is trending otherwise
Once upon a time Facebook was for only college kids. Now it has a reputation as the boomer app. Well, TikTok started with the 16-24 year old demographic, but is attracting people of all age groups. In the first few years, TikTok was the go-to app for younger audiences who are breaking ground and shaping new trends in music, comedy, and culture. If you’re in that age range, you’re probably not wondering if you need to be there. You already are.
If you’re older, you probably ARE asking if you need to be on TikTok. The strict answer (for any social media platform) is NO. You need to be wherever you can communicate with your fans most effectively.
But if you’re in that “older” demographic, don’t discount the platform; with a billion users around the world, some portion of your audience IS there.
6. It’s not about your song; it’s about a musical moment
Familiarity. It’s what makes a radio hit, a playlist hit, and a TikTok hit.
TikTok gives you a chance to share a HOOK, over and over again.
Find the 15 seconds within your song that will inspire people to come up with their own crazy dances or lip-sync videos.
7. Think visual: become a meme!
You may have seen videos where questions are posed in text while the people on screen lip-sync along to a track, saying “Nope” and “Yup.”
That song is “Choices (Yup)” by E-40, and it’s a great example of how one song can be used in numerous contexts to bring the personality of the creators to the forefront. The song is basically an audio meme.
@daviddobrikHaving a girl best friend♬ Choices (Yup) – E-40
Lizzo’s song “Truth Hurts” inspired a ton of videos where the person swabs the inside of their mouth during the lyric “I just took a DNA test…” (tagging the video #TruthHurts).
@rominagafurYour battery % tells u how much of a tiktoker u have in your DNA 😂 #dnatest #foryou #tiktoker♬ original sound – tiktokzikzok
Of course it’s tough to make a musical meme on purpose. But what makes for good viral audio on TikTok? Something with an instantly quotable lyric, something that suggests a visual stunt, or just a hook so undeniable that total strangers will want to drop everything and dance.
Choreograph something. Come up with a fun dance to one of your songs. If it’s a LITTLE bit challenging, but still realistic enough for your fans to imitate the moves with minimal effort, post it!
Then post the tutorial. Dare your audience to make their own videos.
Do you dance on stage? Preview the moves ahead of time on TikTok so fans can dance along at the show.
9. Don’t ignore your back catalog
The perfect 15-second snippet might not be in your latest single; it could be from a song you put out years ago (this happened with Lizzo, and her career skyrocketed).
So be sure you’re thinking about your whole catalog in terms of what song contains the most catchy, viral audio snippet.
10. It’s not about you, it’s about them
TikTok is a platform that thrives on community engagement.
This isn’t a place where you put yourself on a pedestal and everyone bows to your brilliance. It’s about what your music can inspire in others, getting them to shape moments of their own.
11. Use TikTok as much or as little as you like
Because you can hit big on TikTok with one video or audio craze, you don’t necessarily have to “feed the beast” the way you might with other social platforms. No need to keep up a frenzied pace of content creation in order to build a following.
Some popular artists on the platform only have a handful of videos they’ve posted themselves, but their music has inspired hundreds or thousands of other people to create their own videos using the artist’s song.
TikTok’s algorithm doesn’t seem to (overly) penalize content creators who take breaks from the platform either. Videos seemed to be judged (to some degree) on their own merits.
12. Explore TikTok’s built-in collaboration tools
TikTok gives you a number of ways to either encourage your fans to make videos, or to create your own videos based on existing TikTok content, such as:
- Duets – A duet is a TikTok video that lives alongside another video; they both get played simultaneously. You can either create a video and then encourage fans to #duet with you, or create your own duet with any video that’s already on TikTok (unless the duet function has been disbaled for that video or account). Folks use Duets to add visuals or audio, or react to a video as it plays.
- Stitches – Take a piece of the beginning of someone else’s video and react to it, continue the conversation, or respond to their prompt.
- Run your own challenge/contest – Want people to create their own videos on TikTok using your music? Prompt them with a fun contest:
- best original dance
- best lip-sync
- most creative location
- best costumes
- funniest video
- or something like the “ice bucket challenge”
Be sure to offer a cool reward for the winners (signed vinyl, free concert tickets, etc.). Also, create a unique hashtag for the contest so you can easily track engagement and spread the word.
Keep in mind that contests on TikTok CAN play out as duets or reactions as well, but they don’t need to be limited to those formats.
13. Don’t go crazy with hashtags
You can get some mileage out of a good hashtag or two, but don’t think you’re going to game the system like everyone did on Instagram 10 years ago. They don’t help you on TikTok THAT much.
14. Treat TikTok like a community
Follow other users. Thank people who engage with your contests. Respond to comments. Don’t be a hermit.
You’ll probably find that TikTok is a friendlier platform than others you’re used to.
15. Share TikTok videos on other platforms
TikTok makes this easy. For instance, with just a couple clicks your TikTok videos can be posted to Instagram. And you should, especially when you’re just starting on TikTok and your followers elsewhere don’t know you’re on the platform yet.
Instagram claims to downgrade videos that have the TikTok watermark, but… have you looked on Instagram lately? It’s half TikTok videos, so I’m not sure how true those claims are.
All the same, there are apps you can use to remove the TikTok watermark before uploading to another platform.
TikTok is a platform where larger-than-life, in-your-face content grabs attention and keeps viewers captivated. So supersize your personality.
One artist that does this really well while still seeming “authentic” is Austin Giorgio (who also makes great use of text to give people a deeper look at his songs):
@giorgioaustinIf you still have your grandparents, watch this #foryou #trending♬ original sound – giorgioaustin
17. Collaborate with other artists
Duets and reactions don’t have to just be between you and your fans (or haters). You can use these same tools with other artists too, and create short video content together that helps each of you reach the other artist’s followers.
You’ve got a chance to seed a conversation (“Hey, #duetthis beat; add your own verse!”) or to join an existing conversation started by another creator.
18. Go hyper-local
Once you start using the app for a while, you might notice that content related to your region populates your feed. TikTok loves localized content. That gives you a great way to reach new listeners — and no town is too small.
Go for local humor, show the landmarks, and be sure to post location information on you videos. When you’re touring through a city, tag that town! If you have trash to talk about your hometown or some tour stop you can’t stand, go for it. Viewers will agree or argue, but either way you’ve started a conversation.
19. Worried about getting verified?
Like other platforms, TikTok grants verified badges to accounts that it confirms are authentic (if the account holder warrants verification).
Do you qualify? You can answer that question HERE. But don’t stress yourself out trying to get verified early on. Put your energy into making good videos.
The perks will follow.
20. Be prolific (if you want)
Because TikTok videos are short, unpolished, and focus on a hook and not a whole song, you can produce TikTok content quicker. When you take chances with your content AND produce videos more often, you’ll improve every time you post something on TikTok.
21. Promote your music from multiple angles
On TikTok there’s no need to create professional, long-form music videos. Use that time instead to explore multiple ways you could pair your hook with video concepts.
In the age of short-form video, there’s no such thing as too much content. The more you share your hook, the more familiar that music becomes — which can lead to more activity both on and off the TikTok platform.
22. A video’s success is not dependent on your prior engagement
TikTok’s algorithm, more than other platforms, judges your videos as individual pieces of content. Whether something gets shared with a TikTok user is less dependent on external clout, the size of your following, or even the success of previous videos.
Yes, a bigger following will help you gain some early views for a video, but beyond that point, the momentum is determined by true engagement such as:
- Repeat views
- Likes, comments, shares, follows
This is good news, because it means it’s not too late for you to hop onto TikTok!
25. Get them to watch it all… and then watch again
Suspense is key. If you want someone to watch the whole video, they need to feel invested, a sense of mystery, risk, or deep connection. They need to wait for the punchline, or to see if the stunt ends in disaster.
Consider watch-time when you storyboard ideas. Have a great payoff.
Once the video is over, draw them back in! You can do this through:
- Subtle edits that make the video loop seamlessly
- Lots of activity or information (including on-screen text) so someone needs multiple views to catch it all
It’s easy to get your music on TikTok
TikTok is a place where songs, videos, and personality collide in really strange and interesting ways. CD Baby is excited to deliver your songs to TikTok, Spotify, Instagram, Apple Music, Deezer, Facebook, Pandora, Amazon Music, Oculus, YouTube Music, and more. We want to help you connect with listeners all around the world.