TikTok Music Marketing: How to Promote Music to Gen Z

If you want Gen Z to listen to your songs, TikTok music marketing is your best bet. Here’s all you need to know for a successful music promotion strategy.
Fanbytes | TikTok music marketing

In 30 seconds:

  • TikTok has catapulted artists from the unknown to the top of the Billboard charts – and it’s changing the way Gen Z discovers new tracks.
  • The platform started life with a musical focus, and it’s still where over a billion monthly active users gather to lip sync, dance, and share trending songs.
  • With its “even playing field” format meaning any song has the potential to go viral, TikTok music promotion should be a key consideration for every artist.

Cast your mind back, and you may remember that TikTok, the platform now home to viral videos of all kinds, started life as Musical.ly

Before ByteDance merged it with its own app – Douyin – to create and launch the newly rebranded “TikTok”, lip sync videos were all you’d find on the video-sharing platform. 

Given that TikTok’s younger incarnation had a strictly musical focus, it should come as no surprise that TikTok music marketing is thriving on the platform. 

Without TikTok, Lil Nas X (@lilnasx) probably wouldn’t have his Grammys. He first released Old Town Road to Soundcloud, then to TikTok – where it became the backing track to the “yee yee juice” trend. 

From there, the song went viral. It spent a total of 17 weeks at the number one spot in the U.S. 

The power of TikTok music marketing is such that this is far from a unique case. 75% of TikTok users say they discover artists on the app, and while not all hit the charts, many do. You’ll have heard of Olivia Rodrigo (@livbedumb), Conan Gray (@conangray), Megan Thee Stallion (@theestallion)… 

If you want to follow in their footsteps, you just need to understand how TikTok music marketing works.

Why is TikTok so good for Music marketing?

TikTok is the fastest-growing of all the social media platforms, and it’s the one that has attracted the majority of Gen Z; over half of Gen Z consumers are on the app. So if you want to access a gen Z audience, TikTok is where you should be.

91% of Gen Z report preferring video content to other marketing methods, and they’re watching around an hour every single day on TikTok

Unlike other social media platforms, where trends are mainly discoverable through hashtags alone, TikTok has trending sounds. This is a huge differentiating factor for music marketing.

At the bottom of the screen on every video, you’ll see a musical note to the left, with moving text beside it and a rotating circle on the right. That’s the video’s sound. You can click the quaver, the text or the rotating circle to learn more about the sound, including its originator, and all the videos using it – with the most popular examples at the top.

This, combined with TikTok’s egalitarian algorithm, means it’s possible to get great sounds to go viral as a trend on TikTok. Even if you don’t have a huge following!

You can read more about how to hack the TikTok algorithm in our article here.

How to get your music on TikTok

The first step to getting a viral hit is getting your music on TikTok in the first place. When you do this, you need to make sure the song page is attached to any track you distribute via TikTok.

This page is your link between TikTok and other streaming platforms, and includes a link to Apple Music or Spotify, encouraging users to access the full track. Most importantly, it has a link to your official TikTok account

If you want listeners to become fans, you need to make sure they know who you are when your song hits their feeds. 

How to nail your TikTok music marketing

Once your music is available for TikTokers to use, you need to promote it. Here are some of our favourite ways to approach TikTok music marketing

Fanbytes | TikTok musicians

1. Follow other musicians

One of the best ways to begin your TikTok music promotion is to check out what has been a successful strategy for others. That’s because TikTok revolves around trends that can take over the app as a whole, or affect only some of its famous micro-communities

By following artists in the same niche as you, you’re telling the TikTok algorithm that you’re interested in ways to promote your music. The algorithm for the For You page (fyp) adapts to suit your preferences. It will start to show you videos that can help you.

You’ll see TikTok challenges you can join. Join them! You’ll get inspiration for TikTok content you could make. Have a go – with your own spin. This is great for new artists looking to find their audience.

By doing this, you’ll be much more likely to see the trends that serve you. Additionally, by engaging with the videos via comments on their videos, their fanbase will discover you too.

2. Decide your TikTok personality

If you want your content to stand out among the thousands of other artists trying to attract the 160+ *billion* views of the #Music hashtag, your TikTok music strategy has to be consistent. 

Hang on – didn’t we just say that you need to join trends? How can you be consistent?

The trick is knowing – and showing – who you are.

You want to be instantly recognisable, so think about what kind of look you want to present. You’d think about this onstage, so it makes sense to consider this for your TikTok audience too

Are you a soft-spoken songwriter with a piano and a houseplant-laden backdrop? Or are you a pop princess with a colourful wardrobe and cute stickers? 

Keeping the look of your videos consistent will help fans identify you – and it will help the algorithm place you in front of your key audience. 

Fanbytes | TikTok dance

3. Spot the video hook

Chances are, your song is longer than 8 seconds. But that’s how long Gen Z’s attention span is. In fact, our campaign managers advise our brand partners to stick to the three-second rule to create the best content on TikTok.

How can you get this to work for you on TikTok?

To answer, let’s take a look at Lil Nas X’ first TikTok viral song again. Old Town Road featured 4 bars before a new voice came in, completely changing the vibe. This quick 180-switch made it ripe for memes.

You need to think about what part of your song would make a good cue for a video. It might be that the lyrics are relatable, or the rhythm is perfect for a dance routine. Maybe it loops well. Clue: it’s not always the chorus. 

A good example of this would be George Michael’s Careless Whisper. One verse features the line “we could have been so good together”. Using this, we helped skyrocket the song as a trend. You can read more about how we did it here

Think about how your song would soundtrack videos that many people can make. User-generated content (UGC) trends unlock an exponential number of views, as the videos keep coming – and because TikTok always shows the originator of the sound, all those views will link directly to you.

4. Plan your discovery

67% of TikTokers say they are more likely to seek out songs on music-streaming services, so it’s vital to the success of your TikTok music marketing that you make it easy to find you off-platform *and* on TikTok

Optimise your profile and include any relevant links in your bio to make sure you’re directing TikTok  traffic most effectively. 

But you also need to place yourself right in front of Gen Z’s eyeballs. That’s where TikTok comes in. Once you’ve followed other musicians and determined the content of your videos, you need to make yourself discoverable on the platform.

Hashtags are vital for signposting both users and the algorithm to your content. Make sure you use them! Get involved with trending hashtags for a higher chance of landing on more For You pages, but remember to tag your usual content with relevant hashtags as well. 

The standard #Music is obvious, but some other TikTok music ideas to explore are: #cover #acoustic or genres like #jazz. You can go even more niche: refine by sub-genre, your genre + instrument, or if it’s a song cover, use the song title as a hashtag. If you can prove you’re engaging to these niches on TikTok, the algorithm will make sure you show up on more people’s feeds.

Fanbytes | TikTok song

5. Think outside of the song

TikTok is a visual platform. In the 2020 GlobalWebIndex survey, Gen Z said their main reason for going on TikTok was “to find funny/entertaining content”. Artists such as The Crawlers (@crawlersband) have successfully promoted their music by making it a meme, parodying their own attempts to go viral in a series of TikTok videos that drew attention to their track and new album. 

(It worked, by the way. To the tune of 200K+ views.) 

You may have new music that you’re trying to promote, but it’s the personality behind it that Gen Z will connect with. 

Gen Z loves self-deprecating humour. They trust TikTok users to be their authentic selves on the platform. Use this to your advantage: share your experiences. Talk about your inspirations – musical and otherwise. And don’t be afraid to try TikTok’s duet feature: it’s perfect for harmonising with other musicians to show off your talents.

For more information on how to use TikTok duets feature to your advantage, check out our article here.

6. Work with influencers

If you can involve an influencer in your TikTok music marketing campaign, you’ll reap the benefits of a wider, far more engaged group of followers than you might find organically. Just ask Olivia Rodrigo: her song “Driver’s License” was picked up by influencer Charli D’Amelio, and the track soon went viral. Her album picked up 7 Grammy nominations – and several of the tracks were behind TikTok trends. 

One way to do this is by capitalising on something many TikTokers love: TikTok dance trends. Dance trends inspire UGC, which supercharges song trends. Not all musicians have the knack for making dances that TikTokers love to copy, however. That’s where influencers come in.

Take Dua Lipa’s Love Again for example. Her music video features the singer riding a mechanical bull: not the easiest place to start a dance trend! Instead, we worked with TikTok influencers to develop a choreographed routine that TikTokers could copy.

We collaborated directly with Dua Lipa’s choreographers to create a TikTok dance routine inspired by the western themes in the music video. We ensured the dance was easy to replicate. By working with TikTok’s most successful influencers, we then maximised UGC as millions of Gen Z were exposed to the trend, then iterated the videos for themselves on the platform. You can read more about how we did this here

Working with influencers is an art – but it’s something we love to do. Get in contact with us to find out more about how we can skyrocket your TikTok music marketing!

What you can learn from “viral” songs

The face of the music industry is changing, and record labels are having to take notice of what happens online. Specifically, what happens on TikTok

Spotify might be the best-rated music streaming platform, but even it has recently tested moves to try and capture a little of TikTok’s music promotion magic, introducing a vertical feed of music videos users can scroll through. It’s proof of the influence TikTok has over the music industry, and its potential to disrupt it even further. 

TikTok is undoubtedly the driving force behind a number of viral hits, and if you’re looking to market your music online, you can’t afford to ignore the success of TikTok music marketing at capturing Gen Z audiences. 

Still want to know more? We have additional insights for brands and musicians from major labels to independent artists looking to expand their TikTok reach right here:

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