What Is Musical.ly, And Why Should You Care About It?
It seems like every other year there is a new app or social platform that requires musicians to have a profile and which demands valuable time and attention. Myspace kicked this trend off years ago, quickly blossoming into what would become the first truly global social media network. That outlet initially worked well for many musicians and there are still plenty of artists out there who got their start and developed their first fan clubs on the site.
In the years following, the number of social media sites with user numbers large enough to require attention has grown considerably and depending on who you ask, the list now includes Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Snapchat, and about half a dozen other lesser ones.
This time around, the new program you need to focus on is Musical.ly, which has quickly become one of the most popular apps available. In just three years, the mobile program has been able to collect over 200 million users, which shows a serious following and the kind of devotion anyone looking for an audience would love.
The app, which allows users to record themselves lip-syncing and singing to their own tunes or popular songs, has taken on a life of its own. Yet there are still so many people who have barely heard of it — to say nothing of those who don’t know how to use it or why they should. If you are in the beginning stages of your career, if you’re looking to reach a young, tech smart audience, or even if you’re thinking of applying to college degree programs in popular music and looking for a way to distinguish yourself as a serious, savvy artist, this is the time to sign up and start recording. Let me tell you why.
It’s Important Because…It’s Important!
First and foremost, Musical.ly is important simply because of its scale. With the company coming up on a quarter of a billion users, it would be silly to avoid it. There are plenty of other outlets online that haven’t been able to secure anywhere near so many downloads, but they are treated as far more important to many Managers and Publicists. In some ways, having so many people in one place can make it more difficult for up-and-coming musicians or those with talent who want to one day have a career in music to break through. However, at the end of the day, the population has reached a point where it is simply a smart move to try to connect with its users.
Before we get into how important it is to spend some real time and collect fans on Musical.ly, let me first say you need to start at, well, the beginning. You need to have a profile, and from there you can decide how involved you’d like to be.
Spending time on Musical.ly will allow you to get a better understanding of what is going on in the underground and what younger audiences are interested in.
You Need A Brand
Having a profile and developing a following on Musical.ly is important to those just getting started — especially Singers — and especially those starting to apply to schools, contact record labels, or perhaps even apply for vocalist jobs. If you’re thinking of going to a college to be a professional musician or vocalist, it has become more important than ever to go into the application process with a lot more than just talent and potential. It used to be enough to show up and sing the crap out of whatever you’ve chosen, but things have changed, and now you are a much more attractive candidate if you can show that you have already started to develop as an artist, and more specifically, a brand.
By the time you actually turn in an application packet, you should be able to demonstrate you have more to offer than other candidates. I’m not suggesting you need to walk into the room with a charting hit single or a big award (though of course either of those would be wonderful), but you should be able to prove you’re already well on your way, and you have what it takes to go all the way…once you receive a top-notch education, that is.
Having fans on Musical.ly isn’t going to get you into the Commercial or Contemporary Music program of your dreams but if you use it to show you’re serious about building your career, it’ll be helpful evidence in your admissions application. (Other things that can help prove your commitment to your future career: having reasonable numbers on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, making tracks available — even if you did it yourself, which is fine — on the major streaming services, and showcasing some interesting clips on YouTube.) It should be evident with a quick Google search (which you need to believe somebody considering offering you admission to their program may do) you’re a great talent and somebody who understands what is required to be a true success in today’s new musical economy. Of course, you should also be a solid student. You should still have some good grades in regular classes like math, science, and English, even if you have no intention of pursuing any of those fields.
See What’s Out There
Spending time on Musical.ly will allow you to get a better understanding of what is going on in the underground and what younger audiences are interested in. By the time you hear songs on the radio, there is already a new wave and a new sound building with artists who haven’t yet made it into the mainstream; this is what is important to pay attention to. Don’t try to copy whoever has the number one song in the country, because by the time you do, it will sound dated and old. Instead, listen carefully to what might be next, and consider incorporating certain elements of these tracks into what you create.
Familiarize yourself with the bigger names on Musical.ly and think carefully about who they are, what they are doing, and what has helped them become so successful. You should never replicate what someone else is doing or steal their look, but there is a lot you can learn in terms of business practices, branding, social etiquette and so on. Musical.ly stars might not help you perfect your vocal chops or rock out on a certain instrument — that’s what practice time and music classes are for, after all — but as I’ve stated, more is required these days than just musical prowess to break out as a promising talent.
Millions of kids may be spending hours on Musical.ly for fun, but they aren’t the only ones who have taken an interest in the app. Talent scouts and A&R folks at record labels have done the same, and it is only a matter of time before one of the majors signs somebody based solely on their output on the mobile program.
Build Your Own Career
Many young people assume they will get into a college, complete their degree, and automatically be granted a job. That’s a nice thought, and it may be how things worked at one point, but it’s simply no longer the case, trust me. Personally, I thought just because I finished college and did well, I’d be the kind of candidate every job would be interested in, but sadly, that wasn’t how things turned out. (I try to impart the wisdom I gained through this experience to younger crowds anytime I can.) Of course, it’s even more imperative to take an entrepreneurial approach when you’re pursuing a career in the arts.
I’m not suggesting nobody needs college degrees anymore. In fact, it’s the opposite. The education, experience, and connections you’ll receive from your time at a respected school is wonderful and invaluable (you’ll disagree when you start paying off student loans in a few years), but it isn’t everything. You need to be focused simultaneously on your studies and on building your brand and your career. Don’t stop posting music or keeping your image tightly controlled on social platforms just because you’re busy in class! You never know when something will hit and your moment will arrive, and there are many examples of artists leaving their studies to pursue a career and it working out.
There are some acts on Musical.ly that are already heading out on tours in major cities and making serious money based solely off of their fan base on the site, so while it might not immediately seem like something that can translate to an actual career, there are some performers who are already making it work. These are still early days for artists blowing up on Musical.ly and being able to make money off of their popularity, but it’s better to get in when these things are on the rise than when there are too many superstars and it’s near impossible to stand out. Don’t wait to begin creating the career you’ve always dreamed of!
Everybody Is Looking Here For The Next Big Thing
Millions of kids may be spending hours on Musical.ly for fun, but they aren’t the only ones who have taken an interest in the app. Talent scouts and A&R folks at record labels have done the same, and it is only a matter of time before one of the majors signs somebody based solely on their output on the mobile program. The same thing happened years ago with YouTube. There are dozens of well-known artists who got their start on the video hosting site and who were contacted by those with power in the industry who eventually turned them into stars. People didn’t think much of Singers recording covers on YouTube a decade ago but now they are topping the charts and winning Grammys. Justin Bieber was just a young kid thinking about being in music years ago and now he’s one of the most successful acts of all time.
The same thing happened with Vine after YouTube became too crowded and forward-thinking record executives discovered a handful of talents and signed them to deals. Canadian pop heartthrob Shawn Mendes got his start and accumulated his fan base on the now-defunct platform, and in no time he’d racked up two No. 1 albums in the U.S. and sold millions of singles.
People are currently looking at Musical.ly charts and watching tons of videos looking for what might be special, so keep this in mind as you follow the last piece of advice I dished out, which is to work on creating a career as you study.
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