There’s no doubt that artists nowadays have very different challenges than they did 50 years ago. With the emergence of social media and constant innovations in technology, there’s no longer a need for a fancy recording studio to create high-quality, amazing-sounding music. What’s more, you can now have your music heard and enjoyed by millions of people without ever signing a deal with a record label. That’s the beauty of this digital age we’re living in, there’s no doubt about it. But with great opportunities also come great challenges.
Because the digital landscape provides unique opportunities for artists, it’s also extremely competitive. There’s a good chance that every aspiring musician is active on social media and platforms like Spotify or Apple Music these days, which makes standing out from the crowd a real challenge. It’s even more challenging to get noticed on TikTok, because you basically have only a short, 15-second window to capture someone’s attention.
How does TikTok work?
By now, everyone is already familiar with TikTok, arguably the social media/entertainment of the modern generation. Even people who’ve never had a TikTok account are familiar with the type of content that it promotes, because it’s now being replicated everywhere - think Instagram reels or YouTube shorts, which follow the same recipe.
TikTok is an interactive social media platform that mirrors the way people digest information online nowadays. Attention spans are short, time is of the essence, and there’s a zero tolerance policy for boring content. Videos on TikTok are usually just 15 seconds long, with a vertical aspect ratio that’s best-suited for mobile.
You can find all kinds of interactive content on the platform, from music and comedy to motivational content, practical tips, and loads of funny cat videos. Every user has a ‘For You Page’ that showcases content based on preferences, previous likes and dislikes. The more you scroll and like videos, the more the TikTok algorithm can get to know you and tailor content based on what you engage with.
How do songs go viral on TikTok?
The more views, comments, likes and shares a video gets, the more popular it becomes, and the algorithm starts to favor it and push it towards a wider audience. Eventually, some videos can get millions of views on TikTok, making them viral. This benefits both the user who originally posted the video and started the chain reaction, and the artist whose music is featured in that video.
That’s because every TikTok video is usually backed with an audio snippet, usually a few seconds from a song, either original or remixed. If someone enjoys the music, they can reuse that audio snippet to create their own video, and that’s why a lot of TikTok videos have the same recognizable ‘soundtrack.’ The audio can inspire more users to create their own content on TikTok, and the more the algorithm sees people using a certain song, the more it will feed it to new viewers. This is how songs become viral on TikTok, and this chain reaction phenomenon has helped many artists get noticed.
A cost-effective way to build your fanbase
According to an extensive report by Contrabrand, artist-generated content was the most common method for new artists to go viral in 2022. More than 74 artists launched their music careers by posting organic content on TikTok in 2022, 23 of which managed to gain more than 1 million additional monthly Spotify listeners. Moreover, of the 208 artists analyzed in the report, 117 were unsigned, and accumulated more than 1 million Spotify streams after going viral on TikTok. More than 63% of these artists went viral and built a huge audience without spending any money on marketing or advertising.
It’s easy to see why TikTok is a great platform for aspiring artists or newcomers in the music industry, who don’t have a label to back them or a huge budget for aggressive marketing campaigns or music promotion. It’s the best way to connect directly with your audience, get feedback, get your music in rotation, and go viral.
But going viral on TikTok requires perseverance, dedication, and time. Contrabrand’s analysis showed that 50% of the artists that went viral through artist-generated content on TikTok had been actively posting and engaging with the platform for at least 18 months.
What kind of music is trending on TikTok?
There is no clear-cut recipe for achieving viral success on TikTok. It takes a lot of work, posting regularly, engaging with followers, creating original content, and always keeping an eye on what’s trending.
One trend that’s been helping newcomers in the music business make their way into the limelight has to do with remixes. You’ve probably noticed that there are countless TikTok videos featuring sped-up, high-pitched audio snippets, or bass-heavy, slowed-down versions of original songs. These remixes have been blowing up lately, gaining millions of listeners on Spotify and even catapulting songs into Billboard charts.
TikTok videos using the hashtag #spedup have already raked up close to 16 billion views, while #spedupsounds has surpassed 10 billion views. SZA’s song ‘Kill Bill’ was used in more than 100,000 TikTok videos, while an unofficial, sped-up remix was used in over 1.1 million videos. The viral success of the song on TikTok pushed it to the #2 spot on Billboard’s Hot 100, and inspired SZA to launch an official sped-up version of the song.
Steve Lacy’s single ‘Bad Habit’ climbed the charts after several sped-up remixes were used as audio on TikTok, including one remix that was used in more than 430,000 videos. Lady Gaga’s 2011 deep cut ‘Bloody Mary’ landed in the Billboard Hot 100 chart for the first time in January 2023, after millions of TikTok users recreated the viral Wednesday dance, replacing the song used in the Netflix series with Lady Gaga’s song.
Besides remixes and sped-up or slowed-down versions of popular songs, TikTok is also famous for its challenges. A user can create a challenge, like a dance sequence, and encourage other users to try to replicate it, fueling a chain reaction that can capture the attention of millions.
There have been many popular TikTok dance challenges that saw celebrities like Jennifer Lopez, Selena Gomez, Shawn Mendes, and Justin Bieber join in on the fun, raking in millions and millions of views. For the artist whose song is featured in the original challenge, it can be a career-boosting opportunity, millions of Spotify streams, and a place on the charts. The question is, what steps can you take to get there?
10 Ways to make a song go viral on TikTok
Like we said, there’s no magical recipe to get your songs to become viral on TikTok overnight. But there are certain steps you can take to try to capture the attention of users on the platform and get visibility and exposure for your work without spending all your money on advertising.
1. Upload your music on the platform
First thing’s first, create your TikTok account and start uploading music on the platform. There are two ways to go about this. One is to create a new video and upload an audio snippet to go with it, and then other people can reuse it for their own videos. Or, you can enlist the help of a digital music distributor to upload music to the TikTok Sounds library. Make sure that the songs you upload are ‘TikTok-friendly,’ meaning that they’re fast-paced and catchy enough to capture someone’s attention in 15 seconds.
2. Make the best of hashtags
Just like any other social media platform, TikTok is all about hashtags. Using hashtags is the best way to ensure that your content is seen by your target audience on TikTok, and that your videos reach the people that they’re intended for. Some of the top hashtags on TikTok are #duet, #tiktokchallenge, #viral, #comedy, and #funny, but you can do some research to find more specific hashtags that are relevant to your videos.
3. Build and grow your following
It’s not enough to upload music on TikTok and wait for people to discover it and use it in their videos. The platform is all about engagement, so it’s crucial that you build a network of followers, by actively engaging with videos, following other people, liking, commenting and sharing, and constantly creating new original content. Follow people who follow you back, respond to comments and shares, and just be active as much as you can.
4. Keep up with what’s trending
It can be hard to predict what challenge or what type of video will go viral next, but once you spot a trend happening, you should jump on it right away to boost your exposure on TikTok. Check out what hashtags are trending and what kind of challenges or videos are gaining traction, and join in on the fun. Create new content, like and share videos, and participate in trending challenges to get your name and your work out there.
Another great way to boost your visibility and gain views and followers on TikTok is to collaborate with other musicians or influencers. Duets are very popular on TikTok, so why not work on one with another artist? This way you’ll both double your exposure on the platform and get your videos and your work seen by more people. It’s a great way to build a following, especially if you’re a newcomer to the platform.
6. Create remixes of your own songs
We know that sped-up or slowed-down remixes of original songs are super popular on TikTok nowadays. So why wait for someone else to take your songs and create remixes that have the potential to go viral on TikTok? Be proactive and create ‘TikTok-friendly’ remixes of your work, based on what people are enjoying at the moment. That can lead users to check out the original version of the song and give it a major boost.
7. Create a TikTok challenge
TikTok challenges are the most popular type of content on the platform, and they have the potential to go viral and even reach A-list artists and celebrities. They usually involve a dance routine that users have to try to recreate, backed by a catchy song. So, why not create your own challenge on TikTok, backed by your own song? If you don’t have a lot of followers, you can ask your friends or family or other artists on TikTok to share your video and join in on the challenge to get it going. The more people share and join in on the fun, the more exposure for you and your music.
8.Check TikTok analytics
While it’s important to constantly create new content and engage with other people on TikTok, you should also make sure that the content you’re creating is right for your target audience. TikTok analytics allows you to see your follower growth, the number of video views, profile views, likes, comments, and shares over the past week, past month, three months, or a custom date range of your choice. The analytics tool provided by TikTok enables you to see whether what you’ve been doing is working, and helps you identify other ways of growing your visibility on the platform.
9. Connect with other platforms
Think of it this way: your TikTok followers have the potential to become your fans, so make sure your TikTok profile is connected to your other channels. Use your TikTok profile to link to your website, your Spotify and Apple Music accounts, Instagram, Facebook, and other platforms you use. TikTok users who enjoy the songs you use on videos might be interested to check out the original song, and maybe explore more of your work, so make sure they have a way to do that directly from the platform.
10. Don’t give up
As Contrabrand’s report shows, it can take at least 18 months of being active and engaging with followers on TikTok to go viral, so it’s important to keep trying. Don’t get disappointed if the first song you upload to the platform doesn’t gain traction; instead, follow what’s trending, check out what people are interested in, what they’re sharing, and keep uploading music and creating content. Sure, going viral on TikTok also requires a bit of luck, but it also takes a lot of perseverance and creativity.
How to boost your chances with Xposure Music
TikTok is a great tool and resource to use to promote your music and build a following without churning out a lot of money on marketing and advertising. By actively engaging with others on the platform, and always coming out with new music, new content, and new challenges, new artists have a chance to get their music heard by millions of people. But it does take a lot of work, and a lot of time, so it’s crucial that you are confident that your music has potential, and that you trust in yourself and your talent.
If you’ve already been active on TikTok for months and haven’t really achieved the results you were hoping for, that can take a toll on your confidence. So, why not get the validation and the feedback you need from real experts in the music industry? That’s our goal at Xposure Music, to connect emerging, talented new artists to experts from major companies like Sony or Columbia Records who can share invaluable advice and help you explore your full potential.
All you need to do is set up a free artist profile, find an expert who seems like a good fit, send them your work, and choose how you’d like to receive feedback from them. The fees for each professional are transparent and shown on their profile. If you’re not ready for direct feedback just yet, you can submit music for free onto the platform, but you won’t get a guaranteed response.