TikTok For Artists: 3 Ways TikTok Creators Can Emerge As Superstars

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TikTok For Artists

The music industry in 2021

Coronavirus has shut down a significant income stream for artists: live shows, tours and music festivals have come to a standstill. COVID also impacts how and where we listen to music: we’re listening more casually, without the structure of commutes, road trips or the gym. We’re listening to artists on TikTok, Twitch, and even Minecraft as streaming moves beyond Spotify and Apple Music.

Music has also teamed up with gaming: a very online activity. We’ve seen large-scale online electronic music festivals held in Minecraft, and stars like Travis Scott and Marshmello hold concerts in Fortnite.

Music on TikTok

For artists, social isn’t an extra anymore: it’s crucial. Artists are finding new ways to connect with fans on social networks: pop star Charli XCX held writing sessions with fans over Instagram Live, and there’s even a ‘Zoom club’ called Club Quarantine holding exclusive online gigs capped at 1,000 participants

TikTok for artists has become a key marketing channel: where going viral can catapult virtually unknown musicians into overnight fame. Look no further than Lil Nas X, whose viral ‘Old Town Road’ has broken records by going 14x platinum. Artists like Megan Thee Stallion and Doja Cat have enjoyed weeks on top charts as their songs prompts viral dance challenges. TikTok has made household names of unknown artists like Curtis Waters (of viral hit ‘Stunnin’) and Claire Rosinkranz (singer of ‘Backyard Boy’), as their songs were picked up by users, the algorithm and incorporated into huge trends.

It’s not just new hits: TikTok has revived artists’ back catalogs too: with legends like Fleetwood Mac and Simple Plan enjoying a boost in streams. It’s clear TikTok for artists is a huge player in music marketing. So, we’re sharing three practical tips TikTok creators can use to emerge as music superstars.

#1: Create Your Own Genre on TikTok

Music is becoming more genre-fluid, reflecting Gen Z’s diverse listening tastes. As part of this, we’re seeing the ‘internet musician’ emerge: an artist creating their own unique genre, often rooted in online culture. 

A very literal example is the ‘Internet Song’ by artist Ben Michals. Musician Ben initially posted a video with his own catchy custom audio, singing “I’ve been spending way too long checking my computer on the internet / So I guess I’ll take a break and check the internet on my phone”. This went so viral on TikTok that he’s now releasing the full-length version as a song. Ben’s videos are usually skits with snippets of catchy audio, commenting on pop culture or how online we are these days.

TikTok for artists is the perfect playground to experiment with creating their own genre. We’re seeing rising artists using ‘online culture’ or internet drama as their inspiration, creating songs that go viral because…they’re actually really good!

Another great example is @Lubalin, who creates dramatic videos with original songs entirely based on internet drama. His most viral video garnered 32.8 million views, as he sang through a Facebook marketplace interaction. Fans went wild over how he turned mundane, inconsequential internet drama into a hilarious music video, with many appreciating his musical talent. 

@benmichals

THE INTERNET SONG OUT EVERYWHERE JANUARY 8TH!!! PRESAVE LINK IN BIO 👨‍💻#relatable #comedy #musician #newmusic @denolis777

♬ FULL SONG OUT FRIDAY - Ben Michals

@Lubalin also posts Duets and Stitches with covers of viral music, such as Lil Nas X’s Holiday (2.8 million views), or 21 Savage reimagined as a choir. However, his ‘Internet Drama Series’ has gone truly viral, taking him from 5,000 followers in December 2020 to 2.4 million today. His most viral song, Internet Drama Part 1, inspired 20.9k user-generated videos, earning him coverage in BuzzFeed.

Artists can leverage TikTok’s unique, goofy culture to create their very own genre. When artists are sharing musical content on TikTok anyway, a humorous skit showing off your talent can go a long way towards expanding reach. 

TikTok audiences respond well to genre-bending remixes, covers or funny renditions, so artists have a real opportunity to breakout here. Crucially, leveraging TikTok’s unique quirks, like it’s episodic nature, can turn a viral moment into guaranteed future views. @Lubalin can bring people back not only to his TikTok page, but across networks because people are invested in him, not just a one-off video.

#2: Focus on the Narrative Behind Your Songs

Rising star Olivia Rodrigo broke records with her debut single, Drivers License, released January 8th. Spotify confirmed the song set (and broke) the record for most streams in one day (for a non-holiday song), with over 15.17 million streams on Jan 11, and 17 million on Jan 12th. This song went super viral thanks to relatable songwriting, heartfelt singing and the real-world intrigue surrounding it. Many fans think the song is about 17-year old Rodrigo’s co-star and ex-boyfriend Joshua Bassett, becoming involved with fellow Disney Star Sabrina Carpenter

The Taylor Swift-approved song soon went viral on TikTok, as Gen Z became heavily invested in the emotional meaning of the lyrics. TikTok’s algorithm picked this trend up, throwing viewers into a rabbit hole of ‘Drivers License’ content: with everything from wild fan theories to covers, pranks and ‘fan-fiction’ skits based off the song.

A huge trend based on this song was ‘point of view’ (POV) renditions, where TikTok users changed the lyrics to fit a different perspective, such as that of ‘the blonde girl’, or even the actual drivers license.

These ‘POV’ versions were so popular, they were covered in Teen Vogue, as they ranged from hilarious to heartfelt. 

Additionally, the song’s music video sparked its own trend. @spoiledmel started a trend where people would recreate the mirror transition used in the song, mimicking its music video. Popular accounts did their own versions of this trend, with 3.4 million likes on this video alone. All in all, the song has been used in 1.3 million videos on TikTok (at the time of writing), with a whopping 2.7 billion views on the hashtag #driverslicense. 

TikTok for artists can offer viral engagement like no other network, especially if artists focus on the narrative behind their songs. 

This song was extremely popular because of the strong story around it, enabling others to get creative by layering alternate versions on top. It also came with an eye-catching music video, which spun off its own trends too. 

Artists on TikTok can join the narrative, or drop their own teaser content around it to keep the viral moment going. 

#3: Leverage TikTok Duets

TikTok duets are a great native tool, and they’re wildly popular in the music community. Duets allow you to feature someone’s video side-by-side next to yours. They turn TikTok for artists into an interactive tool, so you can encourage fans to participate or create videos ‘with you’.

Recently, duets have sparked a lot of trends. #popcornduets (3.1 billion views) is a unique trend that started in August 2020: the concept is a challenge where video creators make a singing video, where they each sing separate parts of the song. #popcornkaraoke alone has 530.9 million views and the trend shows no signs of slowing. Artists like @laurabryna have been catapulted into viral fame thanks to the trend: Laura’s popcorn duet of ‘Ashes’ garnered 618k views, and she’s done it again with ‘Line Without a Hook’ (which gained 1.2 million views).

Some of the most popular renditions have focused on a lyric from Katy Perry’s 2013 song ‘Dark Horse’: this one has 3.3 million likes and 14.7k comments. The original sound by JMKO has 21,200+ video recreations, which spawned it’s own #darkhorsechallenge with 119 million views and counting. Duets like this are a great way of getting your song in people’s heads – in this case even years after it’s been released.  

Duets enable discovery: they’ve encouraged TikTok’s audience to follow virtually unknown artists. For example @christian_shelton recently went viral for his duet of a Sam Smith song (his rendition had 5 million views and was duetted nearly 6,000 times). Since then, he’s participated in several popcorn duets to keep riding the wave. 

Interestingly, duets don’t always have to be about trending songs: this Bridgerton musical trend inspired a ton of duets, stitches and more. Fans turned scenes from popular new TV show Bridgerton into short musical-esque videos. The hashtag Bridgerton has over 6.2 billion views, and Hello! Magazine even covered the trend.

Conclusion

In this new landscape, when artists can no longer be discovered at gigs, clubs or festivals, it’s important to harness TikTok and take control of their own ‘persona’. Create your own genre on TikTok, sharing your unique sound or spin on music with fans. Tiktokkers love pop culture, so focusing on ‘online culture’ in your content really helps. 

Secondly, bring in a narrative or story to your music. TikTok is all about narrative and storytelling: so if your heartfelt lyrics tell a story, share some of it. Think of trends that might fit in around your song. 

And finally, get discovered. TikTok for artists is a powerful tool, enabling them to connect with fans in ways other networks can’t offer. Gen Z love interactive participation, so use these features to interact with fans, potentially participating in popcorn duets or creating your very own. 

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