Riding the Wave: How Record Labels Can Navigate an Industry Changed by TikTok

Blog Author
Andrew Kwan
September 14, 2023
1:40 pm

TikTok and the music industry have clashed since the beginning, as the social platform upends traditional music marketing. However, record labels still have buying power and market share—they simply need to channel these resources in ways that are relevant to the younger listeners of today with insatiable appetites for new music. Just keep in mind competition is now much stiffer because it doesn’t take much money to record and post a song on TikTok. To many labels, this is old news; in fact, artists such as Halsey have complained that their singles are being withheld until the tracks trend on TikTok. Certainly, the new paradigm has arrived. 

Record labels connect with fans through music marketing campaigns that could lead to increased album sales and ticket sales.

Case Studies: How Different Use Cases Leverage TikTok to Enjoy & Promote New Music

  1. TikTok has brought democratization to an industry run by promotion power only wealthy labels could afford. Now, labels are struggling to keep up with the might of the word of mouth of the masses, who can simply use their authority and authenticity to turn on their friends to new tunes. 
  1. Artists outside the mainstream, with patience, can build traction for their music through TikTok simply by being themselves. Of course, there is more to it than just that, but this is the heart of TikTok: individuality, authenticity, to the point that your audience finds you. Any whiff of pandering will be found out and you’ll be ostracized as a sort of poser. And this isn’t all just theory—the TikTok algorithm needs to learn about who you are to refer your music to people who will be interested in it. So what this means is for your first few days on the platform, don’t promote, just spend time discovering what you like. Keep your videos short, build momentum, then spread it to other platforms, particularly YouTube, where you can feature full songs for a deeper dive of content for fans looking for more. 
  1. If you want to promote now as a music marketer, you have to be on TikTok. If you think it’s just a promotional tool, you won’t get far because the platform is about personality. Be yourself first and your promos will get the most traction, meaning this is a super soft sell, more about just sharing stuff that vibed with you as a friend would, rather than pushing music on someone to land listens on Spotify. 

Tips for Record Labels to Make it on TikTok

TikTok shapes the Billboard charts, and it shapes Spotify, so you can’t simply ignore it as a record label and expect to exert the same sort of influence you garnered in the past. Networks and money have been traded in for a social platform that has always had its roots in music via

Record labels consider creating branded content for TikTok as one of their music marketing strategies

Keep Up With Trends

Singles are constantly sprouting on TikTok, so if you aren’t up on a daily or weekly basis, you’re lost as a music marketer. But there are clear signs record labels have caught on. As mentioned earlier, musicians such as Halsey have complained that their singles have been held from release until they trend on TikTok. Music labels percentages of future profits have declined every year since 2017; and, per Spotify filings, music labels have slowly lost market share of the streaming service year after year. 

Collaborate With Influencers

The established music industry is fighting back with its buying power by purchasing influence through paying creators to promote certain songs. Music marketers, as in other social media influencer campaigns, first focused on the super creators but are now working their way down to the micro creators. 

These small-time players have relatively tiny followings but big conversion pulls amongst their niche groups, so they can’t be ignored. In fact, paying a lot of influencers less is better than paying the big names a big chunk of your marketing budget because what’s going to be hot next is impossible for anyone to predict. 

Influencers don’t have to be into music per se to get funded. Just playing a song in the background of a video from any popular category gets it to the ears of those who will spread the news about the new musician. When a certain post spikes in streams, a marketing team for each label is there to pick up the data and run with it, pushing the promotion for that artist even more. 

Even TikTok itself has an internal music division that monitors trends in music, so what blows up can be the result of the platform’s own, instead of outside label teams. 

Once they see a sign of popularity, they can promote it in a variety of ways native to the app, such as allowing users to feature the song in their posts.

Stay On-Brand

Your brand should carry through across all your social media, including TikTok. That way there is continuity when content bleeds over, for example from TikTok to YouTube. But staying on brand also means making sure that the TikTok algorithm categorizes your musical efforts correctly each time. 

Sustain momentum

Sustaining momentum on TikTok takes consistency, ideally with posts 3-5 times per day, if you can spare the time. Although this seems overwhelming at first, if you break your posts into different categories, it can be easier to come up with content ideas. 

  • Duets: It’s easy to make a video reply, called a “duet”, to other TikTok posts. So you don’t have to create an original idea, but instead, reply with your thoughts on another. It could be as easy as promoting your musicians while complimenting another musician from the same genre. 
  • Stitches: Similar to duets, stitches are essentially reaction videos. So you can play a video of an amazing singer, for example, and show yourself freaking out in response to their level of skill. Viewers love this because it lets them share their excitement in the same video. 
  • Skits: Who doesn’t like skits? Make them fun, funny, and relatable, and most importantly, don’t take yourself or the musicians you promote too seriously. This also gives you a chance to get outside just music when your ideas start slowing down. 
  • Performing Music: Obviously when you’re promoting music, performing it will be a daily if not weekly component of your content. 
  • Vlog: People want to see a side of your musicians that is not just their music, so let them make vlog posts that show their lives, and their other interests. Remember, being full-bodied people, individuals, on TikTok is what thrives. 


Working on TikTok as a record label can seem like a big shift, but record labels have always been masters of promotion. It’s simply the medium that is changing, not the overall objective. You’ve always needed to bring the music to the people, whether it was on the radio, through MTV, YouTube, or now, TikTok. Keep in mind it gets easier and easier to reach people, even as the competition heats up.

How to find trending music on tiktok is through collaboration with other musicians on social media
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