How do you use TikTok to promote music for record labels and artists? TikTok can't be ignored. It's one of the top three platforms I recommend you need to be on in 2023.

And because of this I want to share with you some of the history of the platform. The reasons why TikTok is unique to other social media platforms. The four ways a label can use TikTok to promote its music. And finally, a case study on how RCA Records is using a platform to promote songs on TikTok.

TikTok History:

TikTok was first launched in 2017 as the international version of an app called Douyin by ByteDance, a Chinese startup. Douyin was the fastest growing app in China due to its algorithm that allowed it to offer hyper personalized content to its users based on the user's behavior. ByteDance then bought emerging, another short video maker app with TikTok, and within months, TikTok's active audience grew to over 150 million users.

Then a little-known indie rapper from Atlanta uploaded an eccentric song that ended up breaking the Billboard record for the longest #1 song on The Hot 100 chart, the artist was Lil Nas X and his single Old Town Road.

What makes TikTok so good for artist discovery over other platforms?

1. Artificial intelligence:

TikTok was one of the first applications that relies entirely on artificial intelligence to deliver content to the user.

Even though the user can watch content from other creators they follow, users have little power over the content they consume. It all depends on the algorithm that gets to know them over time on the platform.

2. Its algorithm is unique:

Due to the high number of videos posted on the platform, the algorithm is built so it process all user generated data, which results in every video uploading getting a chance of discovery.

The primary goal of TikTok's recommendation engine is to make the user generated content appear as interesting as possible. Regardless of the creator's audience size.

So while a video is likely to be viewed more if it is posted by a creator that has loads of followers, it is neither the number of followers nor the fact that the account has previously had high performing videos that factors into the recommendation system.

This allows TikTok to take a video uploaded by a creator who does not have a huge following and distribute it to thousands or even millions of users, which is a massive benefit for new artists and musicians using the platform to find and grow an audience.

Every TikTok creator has the same opportunity for their video to be broadcasted to millions of people.

3. Most of its users are creators

Over 55% of all active TikTok users don't just watch videos on the platform. They regularly upload their own videos. The platform is designed to go from an idea to a final cut with filters, effects and a soundtrack in just 10 minutes.

What makes TikTok so good for artist discovery over other platforms?

1. Exposure to new fans

Due to the algorithm we mentioned, instead of promoting your videos to just your followers, the videos you are posting are being pushed to unique viewers as soon as they're uploaded to the platform.

Every time an artist posts, they are more likely to rack up new viewers instead of people who've already heard you or enjoyed your content.

So your music is going to be seen by more people and audiences than you currently find on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

2. Allows you to encourage fan interaction

Videos with high interaction rates and do better and are pushed to more viewers. So this gives artists an excuse to request likes and shares, and this activity is encouraged on the platform.

You'll often see if I get 100,000 views or releases tomorrow or watch this three times to support my music. It's built to be blatantly promotional.

3. Test out new material

Because you're getting a mix of new and existing viewers, your artist content is going to be seen by fans that know your material as well as new people who are just discovering it.

So you can get feedback on what works from new and existing fans, which can help decide on things like deciding which tunes to put on an album, what lyrics to use, or merch you want to sell.

Artists can ask fans what to write about in their next songs. They can get fans to tell them stories and comments that they can use. This allows a fresh perspective and connection with fans in a unique way.

Ask for what material you should create, for instance, what cover songs should they perform live? Or for DJ producers, what DJ mashup or bootleg should they create? What lyrics should you use in the tracks?

Ask fans to comment on a word to use in your next song and integrate this, or ask the track name that should be used in the next album - so many ways. Now let's look at ways that you can use TikTok for your record label.

How Labels Actually Use TikTok

The first way you can use TikTok for your Record Label is to make sure music is on the platform

There are TWO ways to upload to Tiktok:
  • You can manually upload the video with sound directly to TikTok, and then anyone can use the sound in their own video. This is available to everyone with a TikTok account.
  • The second way you can do this is by using your music distributor.

If you want your music to be able to be searched and found by users and influencers, then it needs to be officially indexed on TikTok. To do that, you need to use a music distributor. Most music distributors now distribute to TikTok and the following platforms that are popular with indie label and artists that will do the job for you are: 

You want to make sure you give yourself four weeks in advance to ensure it's available on a key date, such as the release date or at the start of a promotion campaign.

Top Tip here - upload which part of the song you want to be used. If your track has a slow or long intro, you need to create a special TikTok version of the song that starts with the most impactful place and upload that as a separate version and release through your distributor.

The second way labels can use TikTok is to use influencers

Music marketing on TikTok is huge, that's how labels have built artists into the spotlight the last couple of years, and it's how creators have made a lot of money too.

It's the most popular way right now record labels are using TikTok to promote music. Let's look at the numbers. Please note these were valid at the time of this recording, but may have changed.

Influencers will charge between 200 and $300 for every million followers they have so creator with 5 million followers could charge between a thousand and $1,500 for a song promotion.

But check on engagement because there's plenty of TikTokers that had half a million followers that have incredible engagement and other TikTokers that have 5 million but have low engagement. Do a little bit of research.

The influencer with the name Sarati charges between 1750 and $2,500 for self-promotion but also gets offers from independent artists and record labels that start around $500 a post that they sometimes accept.

The threesome TikTokers ‘Taylor Red’ find labels to work with on Fiverr and the group's rates are around 750 for a single video. 1400 for two videos and two grand for three videos promoting a song.

Medium-sized creators with 200,000 to 300,000 followers that gets between about 20 to 30,000 likes on a video will charge around $200 for a song promotion.

And for Micro-influencers who have around 50,000 to 150,000 followers rates are more variable, but can fall anywhere between 20 to $120.

And micro-influencers that can be a good place to start for labels to test the water.

You can find influencers by spending time on the platform yourself and looking out for influencers that fit your vision or you can use one of the many influencer networks to find a booking influencer too.

Some of the popular platforms are: 

I'll put links in the description below. Before we crack on. If you like what you're seeing here in the video, make sure you click on the "like" button and if you want to see more videos like this on how to start, run and grow your own independent record label, hit that "subscribe" button too.

The third way you can use TikTok for marketing is to encourage your artists to use the platform.

One of the best things you can do as a label is to help your artist create and share content on TikTok. This will grow the artist, which in turn will grow your label too.

Note: a TikTok viral video will always have a positive effect on Spotify and YouTube plays of an artist. So make sure YouTube accounts are set up for the artist and that music is available on both YouTube and Spotify before launching a campaign.

So what can your artist do to increase followers and the play count of videos with the aim of going viral?

Optimize the TikTok profile

Make sure you include any relevant links in the profile to make sure you're directing traffic most effectively.

You can put your Instagram and YouTube links in the profile, and there's a description section to post a website name too.

Find the best 15 second hook of the music

Average time someone decides to keep watching a video on TikTok is 8 seconds, so you'll need your music to hit before that time is up. You want to use an upbeat or energetic part of the track, which is most likely the main hook of the song.

You don't have to use new music either. Look at your catalog music too, especially if there's something that fits with a current trend and is going to inspire people to sing along, dance or do something unique with it.

Use hashtags

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

Using #music is obvious, but other music ideas to explore are #mashup, #cover, #acoustic or music genres like #hiphop or #synthpop.

The more niche you go, the more likely you are to find your ideal fan refined by subgenre or genre plus instrument. Or if it's a song, cover or bootleg, use the song title as the hashtag when you engage with these niches, the algorithm will make sure you show up in more people's feeds.

Decide the artist TikTok's personality, universe or theme

Just like most platforms, your artist wants to figure out their voice and personality. Help them find this and then be consistent with the content and tone. By helping the look of your videos be consistent, you will help fans identify you and will help the algorithm place you in front of your key audience.

So pick a theme that works and stick with it. This has been key to the success of many TikTok viral artists.

For example, the Australian artist Aston decided to do songs with the female point of view on male dominated songs. She called them remixes and she created new lyrics for the songs with a unique view. Her follower count exploded in less than six months.

The artist Alvin Chris decided to do ten second freestyles every day for four weeks. Again, his account followers and video count skyrocketed.

Run a contest or your own challenges

The app is made for syncing to music, so think of what prizes you can offer TikTokers that engage with your challenges. You could offer prizes such as merch tickets to online in-store shows or unreleased or acoustic music, or even simply a shout out on the platform. Use your imagination and create innovative and fun challenges which feature your 15 second music piece and encourage others to try it.

You want to make sure your challenge is engaging and easy to understand. The video that will launch the challenge should clearly express the subject of the challenge and what the creators will get out of participating in the challenge too.

Follow the trends and engage in the TikTok challenges

If a new challenge appears on the For You page, TikTok fans are more likely to be interested in this type of content. And the algorithm picks up on this, too. If you see a trend you are interested in, then create and share a video that day.

Don't wait. Trends move quickly and don't forget to use the hashtags as well. There must be at least one attached to the trend when you post.

Follow other musicians

One of the best ways to begin 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 niches, you're telling the TikTok algorithm that you are interested in ways to promote your music. The algorithm on the "For You" page adapts to suit your preferences. It will start to show you videos that can help you promote your music, too.

You'll see TikTok challenges you can join. You'll get inspiration for TikTok content you could make. And this is great for new artists looking to find their audience. You'll be much more likely to see the trends that serve you. Collaborate with other artists. TikTok has a great feature that allows two or more artists to work together and collaborate.

The best use of this for music is the "Duet" button that allows one person to sing or perform over the other video. Artists can make a new collaborative video and some popular ones by having one create it laying down beats and keys and the other create a singing over the top. The great thing about collabs is that you are going to reach the other artist unique fanbase and thus grow your followers too.

Cross-promote your videos

When you have your vertical format TikTok video finished, you can download it to use on Instagram reels and YouTube shorts, which along with TikTok are the top three platforms you should be promoting.

Top tip: you need to remove the TikTok logo. Instagram has algorithm that detects the logo and penalizes videos. So either create the video and native format on your mobile device or use an app called Snaptik to remove the logo before sharing to reels and YouTube shorts.

Use TikTok Pro Analytics

There is an analytics dashboard available for free to all content creators on the platform, but if you use TikTok Pro, you can track your follower count, your video views and your audience demographics. To switch to a pro account, go to the Manage My Account tab and click switch to TikTok Pro.

Ensure you are following the rules

Don't get penalized or worse banned for breaking rules. These are similar to other platforms, so don't use prohibited hashtags.

Don't delete large volume of content on one go.

Don't use the short-term subscribing/unsubscribing of users to grow an account.

The final way a label can use TikTok is to run advertising promotion campaigns

Now TikTok has an advertising platform just like Facebook and Instagram. It's primarily focused on promoting traditional businesses to an audience in a creative way.

However, because there are so many other ways of using TikTok to promote music, including using paid influencer promotion, I don't really know that many artists or labels are using the built-in advertising platform to promote music directly to an audience.

Not that it's not possible, but I know that Andrew Southworth did some comparison tests against Facebook and Instagram ads and found that TikTok sponsored ads performed a lot worse against Facebook and Instagram ads, especially for promoting Spotify plays and followers.

If you do want to sign up, go to

TikTok Case Study ft. RCA Records

Let's look at a case study on the three strategies record label RCA uses to promote songs on TikTok.

1. Hire micro-influencers in a scattershot approach.

They use an influencer agency to find somewhere between ten and 30 lower following account influencers to promote a new track and videos.

They allow the content creators to come up and post a flurry of creative concepts and then invest in whichever trend works. They can then find those bigger influencers and get them on board with the trend. Hopefully, the micro trend is so successful that the bigger influencers join and organically.

2. Getting mega-influencers with millions of TikTok fans to promote the music.

They go for someone big to start the ball rolling in a big way.
It's costly, though. As mentioned earlier, the top ten to 30 creators on TikTok will cost anything from 8000 to $50,000 for a post.

3. Encourage their artist to post TikTok videos themselves.

They regularly encourage artists to purchase their own TikTok videos. There are no artists ever forced to do so.

They recommend doing duets to post Side-By-Side video with a fan of fellow RCA artists or performers.

Being an established label, RCA does have a direct link to TikTok's own music division, which is focused on working with the label and helps getting things moving quickly along.

So that's a wrap; I know we've covered quite a bit. So you can download the cheat sheet with main tips and links via the button below.

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