TikTok For Artists: How To Get Famous In 60 Seconds


Sean McCauley

| Posted:

December 5, 2019

TikTok for artists means making short videos to gain fans, fame, and ultimately money from your music. TikTok may not seem obvious as a tool for musicians. After all, what’s it got to do with music? But the truth is that it has 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!

TikTok for artists means fame practically overnight for musicians including Ambjaay, Y2K and bbno$, Lizzo, and most famously, Lil Nas X.

It 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 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

Making Your TikTok Profile

TikTok for artists requires making a decent profile, of course. 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 of this 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 do 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

TikTok for Artists: What Kind of Videos?

TikTok for artists shouldn’t be all that different from the material other viral TikTockers post. It should connect to your music as often as possible, though.

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. 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 artist 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!

TikTok for artists means 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 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 artist or famous TikTocker is to hook up for a duet. Naturally, that means you sing together. You can either lipsync together or actually sing together. Both will net you some fans.

Here’s how.


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.


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

TikTok for Artists Means You Can Perform Live

TikTok for artists allows that you may 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

TikTok for artists is a thing you’ve got to be on all the time. This is more true for TikTok than it is, say, for 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 hilarious 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 Artists Can Bring Anyone Fame

TikTok for artists 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 musicians might want to get in early.