Anyone who has spent even a few minutes on the platform will tell you this: TikTok and music go hand-in-hand. TikTok now rivals YouTube for average watch time and is quickly becoming the foremost social network for Gen Z and Millennial audiences—a group that is especially passionate about music. Original and copyrighted audio are integral to both the creation of, and engagement with TikToks.
TikTok represents a particular opportunity for brands to market to these hyper-engaged audiences. The ubiquitous hashtag among users “#tiktokmademebuyit” is all the proof you need. TikTok’s own research indicates that 67% of users say they’d prefer to see branded TikToks that feature music and 68% better remember a brand that uses music they like. 58% say they feel a stronger connection to a brand that uses music on the platform and are that much more likely to share videos with music.
Making the most of the marketing potential of TikTok means leaning into its musical DNA. But the commercial songs made available on TikTok are cleared for organic, unpaid, unbranded use only. In other words, they are for users to create content with, not for brands to utilize for commercial gain.
The use of copyrighted music in branded advertising is explicitly reserved by the record labels and music publishers who lend their songs to TikTok. Formal music clearances are required for brands that wish to use popular and trending songs in their TikTok advertising.
A music supervision and clearance agency versed in branded TikTok music clearances can arm marketers with strategies to boost brand presence on the platform. And collaborating with that partner to harness the power of TikTok does not need to be costly or cumbersome.
BEN guides its TikTok clients through a few tried-and-true strategies:
1 — Scaling Your Carousel of Cleared & Trending Songs
Social media moves quickly, especially on TikTok. New singles by top artists often trend on the platform, partly because those artists also use TikTok for promotion. But older songs can also trend out of nowhere. Witness the resurgence of Ali and AJ’s 2007 hit “Potential Breakup Song” in 2020 or the more recent trend with The Weeknd’s “Die For You” from his 2016 album Starboy. Emerging artists often break big via TikTok trends: 24KGoldn and The Kid Laroi had massive successes on TikTok before earning Billboard #1 hits.
The trending song game on TikTok moves fast, so brands looking to capitalize on songs and stay ahead of trends must establish a blanket license with an agnostic clearance agency that can surface a high volume of emerging artist songs at once. That agency helps identify opportunities suited to TikTok duets, stitches, and challenges (popular video types that trend) and clear trending songs controlled by multiple rights owners, granting rights to brands quickly with full legal indemnity. Devising a dynamic clearance plan with a partner who knows the space and can tap into any song under the sun positions a brand to be as active as they need to be on the platform.
2 — Partner with Artists on Mutually Beneficial Campaigns
Artists want their songs to trend on TikTok. Labels and artists promote new releases on the platform by making videos themselves and getting influencers involved to help music reach the most devoted fanbase—Gen Z and Millennials—en route to translating into Billboard success.
While partnering with the brand Hewlett-Packard (HP), BEN launched a series of TikToks with music artist Saweetie and animator King Science that promoted the HP Spectre x360, targeting the college-bound audience returning to campus. These pieces were soundtracked by Saweetie’s single “Fast (Motion)” which she also independently promoted. A short time after launch, content amassed over 4 million views (and is still delivering views and results).
3 — TikTok-ify Your Traditional Advertising
We recognize that most brands aren’t deploying a TikTok-only marketing strategy, adopting other social channels and more traditional advertising. BEN client Kate Spade wanted to launch a digital ad campaign that could extend to TikTok, amplifying content on digital TV/OTT services around the world, while feeling native to TikTok specifically.
BEN cleared multiple classic songs—including Judy Garland’s “Get Happy” (1964) and Petula Clark’s “Downtown” (1965)—for Kate Spade’s summer and fall campaigns. This granted the brand worldwide TikTok rights and allowed users to emulate the exuberant dancing in the ad spots through custom hashtags that amassed 1 billion combined TikTok views on day one and over 17 Billion TikTok views total at time of press.
These projects proved that songs unknown to younger Gen Z and Millennial audiences can not only trend but also unlock consumer engagement unachievable through any other platform.
Brands tapping into the power of music through TikTok campaigns are reaching and engaging loyal consumers everywhere. Partnering with established or emerging artists or taking what’s already working across other marketing channels and adding a TikTok component could be the final touch on a successful holiday campaign or a strong start to the new year.