Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
TikTok is a short-form video hosting service that hosts submitted videos ranging from three seconds to 10 minutes in length. It is also one of the most popular social media apps, with over one billion monthly active users — so when something goes viral on TikTok, it reaches millions of people.
Most TikTok videos use music, and there are a number of songs that have seen major chart success after going viral on TikTok. “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X, “Savage Love” by Jason Derulo and Jawsh 685, and “Say So” by Doja Cat are just a few examples of artists who scored big on the platform.
Ways to get your music on TikTok
Great… so how do you get your music posted to the platform? There are basically two ways to get your music on the TikTok app.
Uploading music manually
The easiest way to get your music on TikTok is to upload it yourself. You can create a video on your phone or with a program like iMovie. Once uploaded, enter a title/artist for your music so others can use it in their videos. You won’t be able to monetize it though, as it won’t be part of the TikTok Audio Library.
Uploading through a distribution channel
If you’d like to have your music in the official TikTok Music Library for others to add and for you to collect royalties, then you’ll need to sign up with a digital distributor. Distrokid, CD Baby, and Tunecore are some of the major digital distributors who will upload your music to TikTok. They will also collect royalties on your behalf.
Music rights on TikTok
TikTok does not offer copyright protection, so you will need to copyright your songs before you upload them. If you work with a digital distributor, you are granting them permission to upload your content to TikTok’s library. Once in the library, all TikTok users have access to it and you receive TikTok royalties if they use it in their video.
If your music is not in the library and you find someone using your music without your permission, you can file a report with TikTok’s intellectual property department.
How to use TikTok for music promotion
If you’re a working indie musician, you need to promote your music and build a fan base. People need to discover and hear your tunes, and as TikTok is built around music, it’s a good place for music promotion.
Creating music that fits TikTok trends
Trends on TikTok drive massive engagement, so catering to a trend can increase the chances that users will find and hear your music.
Identifying TikTok music trends
TikTok makes it easy to identify a music trend — you can simply search “viral sounds” in the search bar in the app. You can also scan the Hashtags tab to see what hashtags related to sounds are currently being used.
The “For You” page and the “TikTok Viral” playlist in the “Audio Library” are other places to seek current trends. TikTok’s “Creative Center” lets users see the most popular songs and filter them by region. You can also check on Spotify and YouTube by searching “trending tiktok songs” (yes, TikTok has a Spotify profile).
Crafting catchy hooks and melodies for a short video
Writing music to hook TikTok viewers is no different from writing pop songs in real life; the only difference is that TikTok users will be selecting a short clip of your song. You’ll need a good beat, distinctive sounds, and a repetitive sing-along chorus (some popular TikTok songs don’t even use real words). Good songs are good in any format, so focus on your craft and, when presenting your music to TikTok, frame the strongest section of your song to put your best foot forward.
Understanding TikTok’s music guidelines
Copyright and licensing considerations
Before posting your music on TikTok, remember to copyright it first. If you are performing a cover song, you will need to get a license — Disc Makers partners with EasySong for cover song licensing, or you can go through your digital distributor.
If you are an artist who uses samples, your best bet is to find royalty-free samples to use on TikTok; sample clearances can be very expensive and probably not worth it for a TikTok video.
Navigating TikTok’s Sound Library
TikTok’s Audio Library has over 600,000 searchable sounds available to use on the app royalty-free. You can search for sounds by theme, genre, and mood. TikTok has also organized the sounds into hundreds of playlists that creators can browse.
Collaborating with TikTok influencers
Once your music is on TikTok, one way to get going is to collaborate with people who are already successfully using the platform, known as influencers.
Finding and reaching out to influencers
You can reach out to influencers directly (DM, comment, or email), but if they don’t know you and they are “TikTok famous,” you might not get a response. TikTok has simplified the process by creating the Creator Marketplace; you make a free account and you can find influencers, brands, and other creators to collaborate with. When you create your “campaign” to find a collaborator, you gain access to data about the other creators, ensuring you match up with exactly the right collaborator.
Creating TikTok challenges with influencers
Once you have developed a relationship with an influencer, consider creating a TikTok challenge together. TikTok hashtag challenges take many forms but are always a call to action like a dance, a basketball trick shot, or lip synching to a song.
Having access to an influencer’s audience can really boost a song; this is why the big influencers charge money and brands are willing to pay. So, this strategy may not be accessible to the beginner, but the more relationships you develop on TikTok, the more chance you have of connecting with a larger audience.
Engaging with TikTok challenges
It can be tough to keep up with TikTok trends because of how quickly content moves on the platform. Still, hitching a ride on trends is a great way to enlarge your TikTok audience.
Participating in viral challenges
Trending challenges create a sense of immediacy as participants all jockey to have their video capture people’s attention. You’ll want to research the popular challenges and trends to figure out which one would be the best fit. Move quickly, though! The challenges disappear as fast as they come up.
Creating your own branded challenges
After you have participated in several challenges to see how they work, you may want to run your own TikTok challenge. Since your brand is your music, you’ll want to incorporate a short clip of your catchiest song, cross-promote your challenge on other platforms, provide incentives for participation, and, if possible, engage influencers to participate. You’ll need to find a way for your challenge to stand out, though, so do your research and plan thoroughly before launching.
Utilizing TikTok Ads for music promotion
If you have the budget for it, TikTok Ads can be a way to get your music on TikTok while targeting it toward the right audience.
Targeting options for TikTok ads
You can target your ads by demographics, devices used, interests, and even behaviors. There are also built-in smart targeting features which will tweak your preferences for maximum efficiency without your hands-on involvement.
Best practices for running TikTok Ad campaigns
You’ll want to make sure your ads feel seamless to the platform; TikTok encourages advertisers to think “TikTok-first.” They encourage a high standard of audio/video production for your ad, paying attention to storytelling that links to current TikTok trends. 90 percent of ad recall happens in the first six seconds, so you’ll need to get to the point quickly. Creative editing can help your ad stand out and, of course, the right music makes all the difference!
Building a TikTok community
Congratulations! You’ve figured out how to get your music on TikTok and have begun posting your own videos and music. Possibly your music is even now in the TikTok Audio Library. People are starting to follow you as they are excited by your content.
Engaging with your TikTok followers
To keep your base invested, make sure that in addition to consistently creating new and interesting videos, you are also engaging by responding to comments and liking and commenting on your followers’ posts. Consistent two-way interaction with your followers will boost your TikTok engagement rates, which can be measured through the analytics under your “Creator Tools.”
Growing your TikTok fanbase
Once you’ve gained some familiarity with TikTok as a platform — you have made videos, contacted collaborators, engaged with followers, and hopped on to a couple of challenges — then you can strategize about growing your TikTok fanbase.
Jeremy Bongiorno of Studio Frequencies talks about the “Hook and Lead Method” which, boiled down, amounts to this: hook them with your TikTok videos, lead them to your streaming/sales funnel.