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Should Legacy Musicians Even Try To Use TikTok For Promotion?

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(Hypebot) — From Fleetwood Mac to Pink Floyd, legacy artists joining Gens Z and Alpha on TikTok have been met with understandable skepticism. But TikTok offers real opportunities for those (like Elton John) who get it right.

Guest post by Corey Crossfield, Director of Client Services at music marketing and analytics platform

With the rise of platforms such as TikTok, YouTube, and Spotify, there’s been a shift in from only focusing on frontline releases as part of an artist’s marketing strategy. These platforms have enabled every artist to utilize their catalogs in new ways that can be leveraged to push their new releases. This type of digital marketing strategy is a tool for many legacy artists whose catalogs are deep and expansive.

The importance of catalog 

According to a Music Business Worldwide analysis based on MRC reporting data, 73.1% of music consumed in the United States market in the second half of 2021 was catalog music (1).  Catalog music is defined as releases older than 18 months. On DSPs such as Spotify, one of the powerful drivers of catalog streaming is music saved to an artist’s library. The most important and underutilized metric for legacy artists is the music their fans have saved to their library. Whether discovered by the songs they listened to with their parents or a TV show on Netflix, many playlists that fans listen to have a nostalgic attachment to their memories.

For legacy artists, leveraging catalog as part of their new releases is a huge asset to building their audience on streaming services that can be built into a strong digital marketing strategy. For example, when creating a pre-save for a new release, artists can utilize tools such as’s Spotify Auto-Follow which allows an artist to include their Spotify profile and playlists for fans to follow when they pre-save a new track. The two playlists legacy artists should use to leverage their catalogs are an entire discography playlist (all their albums chronologically) and music used in film/tv/video games.

Keep it real and don’t try to be the cool Mom

There’s a dissonance between the younger generations (looking at you Gen Z/Millennials) and the Baby Boomers (sorry Mom!) when it comes to content consumption. The younger generations gravitate towards relatable content due to its authentic feel.. You see this trend when brands targeting this demographic integrate influencers with smaller followings (also known as micro-influencers) in their marketing strategies for product promotion. or even in the open verse campaigns running organically on TikTok and breaking artists (ex: Stacey Ryan, Sadie Jean).

The trap legacy artists run into when it comes to reaching not only their targeted demographic (45-65 years olds) but a younger audience is coming across as disingenuous. The content needs to feel genuine and native to the platform. The content should never appear like the videos were made by a 20-year-old social media manager and edited with Final Cut Pro.

Elton John

One of the best examples of a legacy artist utilizing TikTok efficiently is Elton John. Elton John’s TikTok shows off his unique personality and iconic performer persona, resulting in a personable and authentic presence which helps him to connect with his followers in a meaningful way. He’s duetted with Dua Lipa and Charlie Puth who are right in the Gen Z sweet spot. He posts about his tour but makes the tour trailers fun to watch and easy to like with the shortcuts and catalog sounds every legacy artist should use in their posts. Whilst he still posts to promote his work and tours, Elton is still authentic to his persona by keeping content fun and engaging for audiences, whilst also incorporating his catalog music into the content.

A great example of the Elton John TikTok magic is when he shared a post depicting a “group chat” conversation happening in real time with a squad of famous Gen Z and legacy artists that centered on the relatable topic of trying to schedule a Zoom call, something that has become synonymous with pandemic life.It’s playful content like this, that also simultaneously taps into the cultural cornerstones of Gen Z’s era and their parents (or grandparents) that has resulted in Elton John amassing 2M + followers and continuously engaging new and old fans.

Man I feel like a TikTok

Shania Twain. Dolly Parton. Taylor Swift. Lukas Graham. The perfect mixture for a TikTok Trend with lyrics set to Graham’s single, “Mama Said”.  As the popular Lukas Graham sound for “Mama Said” was trending on TikTok in September 2021, Taylor Swift made this video honoring that “country girls can go pop” which highlighted the success of Shania Twain doing just that in the 90s. Twain responded in kind with her own version honoring the queen of country herself, Dolly Parton. This is a great example of how tapping into current social media norms like shouting out contemporaries and showing reciprocity can enable legacy artists to show their relevance in the present day with new audiences. Shania Twain also consistently posts on TikTok with a mix of nostalgic throwbacks to her popular hits and duets with fans dressing in her most popular looks, like the iconic leopard from her 1997 hit music video “That Don’t Impress Me Much”.

When the sun goes down

Brooks and Dunn were an incredibly popular country duo in the 90’s but not someone you’d think would have their own dance trend on TikTok. Australian producer DJ Noiz made a remix of the duo’s song, “Neon Moon”, and uploaded the sound to TikTok. The remix was seen by TikToker Manumalo Moe who then created the #WhenTheSunGoesDown dance trend. And since, there have been over 1.5 million videos created on TikTok using the dance and “Neon Moon” remix sound. Brooks and Dunn even attempted to participate in their dance trend with major Dad vibes. This moment happened organically with a remix from one creator and a dance trend from another creator. The collaboration element on TikTok is one that legacy artists can take advantage of with their catalog to push their music to an entirely new audience and boost their streaming numbers on Spotify.

And so it comes to an end

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