How to Make Money on TikTok as a Rapper (or Other Musician)

By:

Sean McCauley

| Posted:

October 14, 2020

How to make money on TikTok as a rapper depends on two things:

1) Getting your music on TikTok

and

2) Getting your videos noticed on TikTok

We're going to teach you everything about both.

It's a pretty broad topic, though, and we’ve got a lot to talk about, so let’s do it.

Make Money on TikTok as a Rapper: but first, should I bother?

(Skip this section if you already use TikTok)

Make money on TikTok as a rapper by making short videos to gain fans, fame, and ultimately money from your music. TikTok may not seem obvious as a tool for rappers — after all, what’s it got to do with music? But the truth is, it's got lots to do with music.

In fact, TikTok is the new host of Musical.ly, which originally was like Vine but specifically for lip-syncing videos. According to Rolling Stone, TikTok differs from Musical.ly by adding “an algorithm that enhances social mobility” and “targeted outreach efforts that ensure popular users are up on the latest trends.” That means there’s technology at work specifically to get you famous.

And the videos are only 60 seconds long. Hence, the title!

Rappers make money on TikTok by getting famous practically overnight, which is what's happened to rap and pop artists including Ambjaay, Y2K and bbno$, Lizzo, and most famously, Lil Nas X.

TikTok was downloaded more than 750 million times from Nov. 2018 to Nov. 2019, compared to Facebook’s 715m, Instagram’s 450m, YouTube’s 300m and Snapchat’s 275m. Clearly, it’s the next big thing. Buzzfeed posted a test in summer 2019 to see if you “have what it takes” to be TikTok famous. (They also had one to see if you’re better for YouTube or TikTok, but serious music pros will use both).

Note also that while 66% of TikTok users are under thirty, 68% of people who listen to music every day are also in that age group. In other words, TikTok is the way to reach the music fanatics.

So now that we know this is something today’s independent music artists should know how to put to work for themselves, let’s take a look at how to do that. Right? Right.

TikTok for artists can help you reach listeners 13-30
You wanna reach the real music fans? TikTok is the way. – WaPo

Make Money on TikTok as a Rapper by Making your Music Available

How to make money on TikTok as a rapper depends first on getting your music on TikTok. Is that too obvious?

Still, lots of music artists aren't sure how to make this happen. That's partially because it's not real clear from the TikTok app, and part because it's changed. You used to be able to just upload the music from your phone. They don't let you, anymore. Anyhow, there are two ways to do this:

Real music distribution

Today, you'll need to distribute your music through a legit music distro company, but that's not as big a deal as it sounds. Octiive.com will set you up and get your music available on TikTok for use in videos for just a little cash. Everyone can afford it.

This is the best option because once your music is there, anyone on TikTok can use your music in their videos, and you'll make royalty money with each use of your material.

It's also the best option because Octiive (and some other distributors) will distribute your music to all the most important digital music stores, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and more.

It's also much quicker and easier than than option No. 2, which is...

• Add music to your video with an editor

You can make money on TikTok as a rapper — kinda sorta not really — by adding your music to a video with an editor. The reason we say "kinda not really" is that you haven't made your music available for everyone else to use in TikTok. That means the only way your music is going to get traction is if your video goes viral and people start wondering about the background music on their own. Then they have to go looking for it outside TikTok. Then they have to find it. Then they have to use it themselves in TikTok by adding it to one of their videos with an editor. Then that video needs to go viral. And then those people need to ... sigh. Yeah.

Obviously, this isn't the best option for lots of reasons, but we're going to show you how, anyway, just in case you really want to use one of your tracks but don't want to distribute it for some reason. Npnp.

Make Money on TikTok as a Rapper by Using InShot for Android

Make money on TikTok as a rapper by using a video editor to add your music to videos. You can then upload those videos to TikTok with the music already in them, rather than finding the music in TikTok's music library (which would be easier, but isn't possible unless you distributed through Octiive or maybe another company).

If you use iPhone, well, sorry, but we don't have time to do one of these for more than one app. It's not even the best option. (Just distribute your track!).

Download InShot Video Editor from Google Play and open it up. Start your video by selecting video from the home screen. Tap the checkmark at bottom right.

All InShot photos by — Nerdschalk

Go to the bottom toolbar and tap the ‘Music’ tab. Tap on the ‘Tracks’ button on the next screen.

add background music using InShot-3-b
add background music using InShot-5-a

Select 'My Music' tab from the top.

add background music using InShot-7-a

Select your original rap track and tap on the Use button next to the song.

add background music using InShot-10-a

Your music shows up in the editor now. Use the seek bar's Start and End points to define a clip for your 30-sec. TikTok video. You can loop a small bit if you want by choosing a small clip and a long duration.

You can change the volume of the original audio by tapping the audio tab at the bottom. When you're done, tap on the checkmark tap Save in the top right corner.

add background music using InShot-12-a
add background music using InShot-13-a
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Check it out! you've got a video with your music behind it ready to upload to TikTok.

Make Money on TikTok as a Rapper: Make Your Profile Cool

Making money on TikTok as a rapper means making a decent profile. Even if you distributed through Octiive or someone else so your music is available on TikTok, you'll still want to advertise that music with original TikTok videos.

All the things we recommended for your Facebook and Instagram profiles are also in play here. Specifically, today’s TikTok professionals recommend you make your profile approachable and charming, in that order.

Nathan Olson writes for YrCharisma,  

If you want to go viral on Tik Tok, one of the essential things is to ensure that your profile is attractive. When it comes to optimizing your profile, every information is vital and useful. Your username, profile picture, and personal information can all leave a powerful impression on anyone that visits your profile.

Olson goes on to suggest that long usernames don’t help. You want something people will remember — you know, like your band or stage name. He also notes, of course, that your profile is the first thing your fans will see. That makes the creation of your profile, and keeping it updated, too, a crucial part of making TikTok work for your music.

Pay careful attention when describing the kinds of videos you’ll be making for TikTok. This should include your music genre somehow, but most importantly it should describe the kind of video your fans can expect to see. Don’t say you’re going to be funny if you’re not going to make comedy a regular thing.

Oh, and whenever you’re doing anything on TikTok, use decent grammar! You don’t have to quibble over Oxford commas, but try not to look like you ditched English every day.

High-school student and TikTocker Samantha Austin writes for Quora:

Have good grammar, not like me. Grammar gives people an impression, even in this ignorant day and age. People will choose not to look at your video if they read and it is incorrect.

So if you think it’s super-cool to come off as someone who doesn’t know their there from their they’re — sorry, but you’re super wrong.

Some people think grammar doesn't matter. Some people are wrong.
You might think grammar is for books and not the Internet, but you’d be wrong. – National Post

Make Money on TikTok as a Rapper: Make the Right Videos

Making money on TikTok as a rapper depends on making videos like what viral TikTockers post. So long as you're using your own, quality music, your vids don't have to be about your brand all the time.

Brittany Spanos says,

The videos are a mix of comedy and music: people can monologue about what’s on their mind, dance to a budding hit song or play pranks. It’s the Wild West of internet content.

That means there’s a variety of options, and you shouldn’t feel like these are your only ones. Get creative! But these should probably be what you do most often. And what you do most often of all should be what you do best — which is probably music, anyway. When you see you’re getting a great response from a certain vid, you know, do that more. Simple stuff.

The Atlantic said back when it first started gaining popularity,

The category most people on the broader internet use to describe TikTok is ‘cringe:’ It’s so painful and embarrassing that a viewer can’t help but laugh.

A professional rapper obviously shouldn’t invite people to cringe at you, but it does mean you shouldn’t take yourself too seriously. That’s not the culture here.

And no matter what you do, always…

Be Entertaining!

Make money on TikTok as a rapper by first being an entertainer. As long as you’re entertaining, you’re going to be popular. That’s the start and the end of it.

You don’t even have to be good, let alone great — just entertaining.

People are tired of “great.” Perfect is over. Culture is purposefully moving towards authenticity and away from the Instagram model. Even the pitch-perfect American Idol can’t pull an audience anymore. Maybe if they’d let a stylist win, like Tom Waits for example, rather than an impressive karaoke star, they’d stay relevant.

You don’t need to make that mistake. Entertain your audience and gain fans.

TikTok for artists is filling the gap Instagram has started to leave behind
The “Instagram look” based on impossible perfection is so 2017. – Atlantic

Lip Syncing

Having come from Musical.ly, lots of people still lip sync to popular songs. If you can work it out so you really stand out from the crowd, this is a pretty easy way to gain some fans. Simply choose a hot song in your genre, learn it well, and record 20-60 secs of you low-key pretending to perform that song.

In case you missed the emphasis, you need to truly memorize the song you’re lip syncing, at least the part you’re going to video. If you try to read lyrics taped to the wall or scrolling on a laptop screen, people will know, and they will make fun of you. And you will deserve it because you’re supposed to be a professional, for crying out loud. Make eye contact with the camera. Smile and laugh straight into the lens.

TikTok Duets

One of the best ways to collaborate with a fellow rapper or famous TikTocker is to hook up for a duet. Usually, that means you sing together. You can either lipsync together or actually sing together. Both will net you some fans.

Here’s how.

Android

To make a duet video in TikTok using your Android phone, simply:

  1. Open the Tik Tok app on your Android. The icon is black with a white music note in it.
  2. Go to the video of the person with whom you want to create a duet.
  3. Tap the Share button.
  4. Select Duet on the Share menu.
  5. Create your duet video.
  6. Tap the Next button.
  7. Tap the red Post button.

iPhone

And if you want to do it using your iPhone, just:

  1. Open TikTok on your iPhone or iPad. It’s the black icon with a white music note inside.
  2. Go to the video of the person with whom you want to create a duet.
  3. Tap the curved “Share” arrow.
  4. Tap Duet.
  5. Record your video and tap the checkmark.
  6. Edit the video and tap Next.
  7. Add a caption and tap Post.

And keep in mind, if you do a duet, you don’t have to sing in harmony like Boyz II Men. But you do need to work together in an interesting way so that the collaboration is fun and entertaining. For bonus points, make a duet with someone with a following outside your usual genre. As we predicted recently, 2020 is all about crossing cultures.

TikTok for artists is a great opportunity to collaborate with a large diversity of musicians
2020 is all about crossing genres, cultures, genders … basically everything. – Vibe

Make Money on TikTok as a Rapper and Perform Live

TikTok for rappers means you can legit record and release as much as 60 seconds of yourself performing live. You’ll be tempted to play your original music right off the bat, but it’s smarter to do covers, at least at first. Once you get some people really liking your renditions of songs they’re already into, then maybe lay into them with an original. Then go right back to covers for a while more.

Until your fans are straight-up asking you for more originals, don’t play them often: one a month, tops.

TikTok is super good at making you famous if you use it the way other people have gotten famous using it. Famous TikTockers don’t do original music very often, if at all. They have fun entertaining people by enjoying music people already like.

When it does come time to let them have it with an original, make sure your original stands out from your usual cover stuff and lip syncing videos. Nevermind how it stands out — just make sure that it does. And that people are entertained.

How Often to Post on TikTok

Make money on TikTok as a rapper by being on pretty much all the time. This is more true for TikTok than Instagram, even, and definitely more true than it is for Facebook.

The population of TikTok is almost entirely under the age of 20, as may be seen by this ridiculous graph.

TikTok users are young, but they listen to a ton of music.

It’s true, TikTok has a lot of catching up to do in the adult world. – Marketing Charts

This means most famous TikTockers are kids. Don’t forget, though, as aforementioned, these people listen to the most music by far. So don’t fail to take them seriously as a demographic.

But as you take them seriously as music fans, remember not to take yourself too seriously in interacting with them. Popular TikTockers are often hyperactive, often super silly, and almost always having fun. And they have a healthy serious side.

But for sure, they post all the time.

Not only do they post all the time — at least daily — but they post loud, bright, bouncy exclamation points of videos that jump right out of your phone and make old people feel tired.

If this ^^^ isn’t you, then you’ll need to find some other way to compete with that energy. Otherwise, the 750 million youths who downloaded the app last year (see section 1) won’t ever hear you. You’ll just be drowned out.

If you can hang, though, you might just gain a following in an almost totally untapped market.

Bonus: Keep an Eye on Jamiphy

Also of note is Jamiphy. Jamiphy is basically TikTok specifically for music artists and hasn’t rolled out yet as of winter 2019. But they have said they will provide a TikTok-style platform for artists to showcase their craft and even collaborate with AI musicians! And as we pointed out recently, collaboration with AI is a goal artists should take great interest in for 2020 and beyond.

Jamiphy currently describe themselves on their About page as “the leading destination for short-form music videos.​ Our mission is to inspire creativity and bring joy.”

Sounds like something any independent artist can get behind.

TikTok for Rappers Can Bring Anyone Fame

TikTok for rappers has already made hundreds of people (mostly kids) more famous than they could have been without it in a very short amount of time. The adult market is still waking up, but with so much inertia moving this app forward, it’s just a matter of time. Smart rappers might want to get in early.