Are you a musician? Do you have no money? Are you illogical and passionate? Great. I mean, not great, obviously. But it means you’re in the right place. You can take solace in at least one part of the music industry, that you’re not alone.
Okay, so you’re here because you want some tips on how to market your music on TikTok but you don’t have the cash for paid promotion. It just so happens that I am frequently asked by SoundSmith clients about what they can do without spending any excruciatingly hard earned dollars, so this blog will explain the most common answers I give from what I’ve seen and experienced from watching the music industry collide with the creator economy.
1. Post Post Post
Sadly the trade off for cash investment is time and effort. Many people say that artists these days have to be content creators too. Who has the time? To some it comes naturally and to some it doesn’t. It’s fine either way, but in this attention economy, the overexposure to music has created an enormous passive listenership.
The playlist and algorithm based model of DSPs ensure that you listen to lots of artists and care about few of them. That’s the reason why content creation and especially short form media is so popular (and some would argue necessary) among musicians. It’s because you’re engaging your fans and giving them some more personality which is now near invisible on DSPs. It’s also more effective because content creation is a 2 way street - you can gather traction for songs by having viral moments on short form media platforms like TikTok, but you can also re-market to you current fans and turn them into super fans. This also keeps your super fans happy and engaged.
If you’re down to play ball with content creation, consistency is key (often promoted by industry) but I will counter by arguing that authenticity trumps all else on short form media.
Now that you’re a certified TikTok creator, it’s time to post your music. How do you do this? It doesn’t matter just post. Don’t overthink it. Or do. Start posting whatever feels right. Or start making really quality scripted skits. Make a campaign specifically for your track. What does it remind you of? Feel like laying in a field and lip syncing your track. Do it! Feel like performing your track in. your local park? Perfect. Do things related to your music and shamelessly plug yourself.
The algorithm sends you people you don’t know and that means it’s your opportunity to remind them that the cool person they just followed is a human being and releases cracking music. When you release a song, creating a TikTok campaign should now be a part of your strategy. If you don’t want a strategy thats cool too. Post what you like and if something sticks, double down on it.
If you’re brave enough you can even try starting a trend yourself. Do some challenge your fans can replicate, and NO, it doesn’t have to be a dance. Here’s an idea, move your couch to a park, film yourself falling asleep on it at home and then waking up in the park. Ridiculous but eye catching and strange.
3. Use Trending Sounds
Okay so now you’re making vids with your own sounds, its time to up your game. Find trending sounds or challenges you like and do you very own version of them. Get creative again. Do what feels right. Using trending sounds and participating in trending challenges is a great way to get into the swing of things and break the content barricade, but it’s also a great way to gain new fans.
Videos using trending sounds and challenges are more likely to be pushed to more people. Some of these new people will like the authentic stuff you make and will follow. That’s when the self-promotion comes back into play. Do both strategies interchangeably.
That way you’re letting your new followers know that you make music, because without you self-promoting, how would they know? Plug yourself because you’re worth it and so is your music. Let’s go.
4. Have Fun
If you treat making and posting content like a chore, it will be one. Take the time to sit down and think about what you would enjoy making. You can watch others’ content and gain new ideas that way. Make it a good habit to enjoy yourself and what you’re doing.
Incorporate your craft into your content - this way if you’re pressed for time or ideas you can just film what you’re already doing. You already make content you just don’t know it yet. Try using footage from gigs, rehearsals and music videos. Make sure it’s something you love doing - or else you wouldn’t be here!
5. Be Yourself / Be Authentic
Leading off the last point, if you’re not having fun your fans will notice and be less engaged (unless that’s the vibe you’re going for). The same goes for authenticity. A pillar of short form media has been that authenticity trumps all. If you are not authentic, your audience usually tell. This is why it’s important to be yourself, make content that is fun to create, and remain authentic through it all.
The era of over-produced and fake insta-beauty content is at an end. What is popular right now and on short form media platforms like TikTok is raw and un edited content. Seeing behind the scenes of people’s lives has been a breath of fresh air for everyone, and it seems to engage fans on another level.
Try showing them things they may have never seen before, like behind the scenes of your writing or recording process. There’s no need to expose your ‘secret sauce’ or private life, but just drip feed some more interesting parts of your life that non-musicians may find interesting.
6. Try something crazy
I don’t mean Jackass level crazy, just something outside your comfort zone. Consider approaching content making with an experimental and open mind. Try everything. Try making 3 second videos. Try making 3 minute videos. Try things you don’t expect to work. Try things that you do.
You never know if something will work unless you try. You should also try posting on new platforms. Rising platforms like Youtube Shorts will be pushing content to many more people than well-established platforms like TikTok & Reels to draw in people to their platforms, so it’s worth experimenting on not just the content you make but the places you post as well.
7. Get The Basics
This may seem counter intuitive, but hear me out before writing-off this idea. If you want to play ball, then go all in. Get a ring light. Post daily. try posting daily for 2 months and see what happens. You may be thinking, ‘hold on. I’m here for free advice, now you’re asking me to buy a ring light and put time I don’t have into this’, and you’d be right. It’s a bit backwards, but here’s my argument. This is a small investment for free self promotion vs paid marketing for your music.
Also if you’re looking for a record deal or any cash investment moving forward in your music career, you may want to seriously consider creating content. This is you proving you are open-minded, and have the capacity to self-promote. In an increasingly competitive landscape, this is a factor record labels now take into consideration when signing new talent. It may also be a pivotal aspect of an independent career. Not that you should jeopardise your musical career for content creation, but keeping in mind what is going on around you is important.
Be yourself, do as much or as little as you’re comfortable with, and most of all, have fun!