When it comes to social media, your follower count often means everything. You can use social platforms without a following, but at a certain point, it starts to feel like you’re yelling into the wind. Whether it’s your friends list on Facebook, your followers on Twitter, or the friends you add through Instagram, the value of social media comes not just from who you follow, but from the people who follow you back. Creating content, whether it’s photos, videos, or posts, that gets you noticed online can be an incredibly fulfilling quest, but it also takes a lot of hard work, talent, and sometimes some pure luck to make it big on any social media platform. Having a previously-established audience can help—it’s why almost every top Instagram account is owned by a celebrity, not some random photographer who puts out good work—but in general, you can reach some modest level of success if you try your hand hard enough.
One of the newer, more popular social networks online today—especially among younger users—is Musical.ly, the video-based social network that allows users to create and broadcast short video clips ranging from 15 seconds to a full minute to their fans and followers, racking up an audience as they publish to the platform. Though Musical.ly hasn’t quite hit the same level of mainstream success as something like Instagram or Twitter, teenagers and twenty-somethings have been attracted to the site thanks to its younger demographic, the ability to create content based around or set to popular media (including music, stand-up, television clips, and more), and the service’s replacement as a video-sharing network that exists in the void created by the death of Vine.
Unlike Instagram or Twitter, the users with the most followers on Musical.ly have been made up of self-starters. While some celebrities, including Selena Gomez, Ariana Grande, and Demi Lovato have joined the site, the majority of users that feature the most followers are unique to Musical.ly itself. Some of the site’s more prominent users, including folks like Baby Ariel (with more than 25 million followers) and Jacob Sartorius (more than 14 million followers) have managed to grow large accounts on the site while eventually gaining way to scoring record deals of their own.
Thanks to the nature and the young age of Musical.ly, it’s possible to gain a large following of fans and followers on the site as long as you’re willing to put in some work along the way. Like many things in life, creating excellent, popular videos on Musical.ly is something that is easy to start, but difficult to master. Looking through the site’s most popular videos at any given time may give you the impression that mastering Musical.ly is impossible, but never fear: we’re here to help. We’ve come up with the definitive list of ways to master your fan count on Musical.ly, racking up the highest numbers possible while simultaneously expanding your talent, skill, and scope for your videos. If you’re ready to enter the big leagues on Musical.ly, you’ve come to the right place. Let’s jump in.
Learn the App—and Learn the Techniques
Some readers may have spent months learning the best ways to use the Musical.ly app, but other users may need to learn as they go. If you’re new to Musical.ly, it’s important that you get a strong grasp on how the application works before you start trying to build up an audience. Musical.ly isn’t nearly as complicated of an application as something like Snapchat, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need to study up on how the application works. If you have any prior experience working with video production, you’ll know it’s a complex art for that requires some serious study.
While you can absolutely get famous on Musical.ly while ignoring the basic rules of videography, you’ll be setting yourself off on the wrong foot. By learning some basic concepts about basic video composition, you can make your videos look great while also using the app’s tools to add effects and other stylistic options.
The App’s Tools
First, let’s look at the app’s own video tools, because there are a lot of them. Once you’ve selected a song, you gain access to the app’s viewfinder. For this exercise, you can really select any of the songs in Musical.ly. If you’re looking to practice your skills, try to select an audio clip you know well enough to not have to look up. It’s not a requirement, but knowing your content ahead of time will make recording a whole lot easier. Once you’ve selected a song, you can enter the viewfinder to start getting a grasp on the controls offered by the app. Let’s quickly summarize the controls inside the app:
- Along the top of the display, you’ll find a back button (allowing you to select a different song to record with), an icon to toggle your phone’s flash on and off, and a button that allows you to switch between the camera on the back of your phone and the camera on the front of your phone. It’s worth noting that the flash toggle will disappear if you switch to your front-facing camera. Finally, there’s a “Next” button that leads you to the editing stages of your clip before you post it; it’s greyed out until you’ve recorded enough content to create with.
- On the right side of your phone, you’ll find some of the tools you can use when creating your song. First, there’s a cutting tool that allows you to trim your clip before you start recording. You’ll need to use this prior to actually recording, however, because it will become inaccessible once you begin collecting footage. Below that is a magic wand tool, which toggles beauty mode on and off. By default, it’s enabled. Below this is the stopwatch tool, and that happens to be one of the most important tools in the entire app. By using the stopwatch, you can set Musical.ly to record on its own and record a specific amount of music before it pauses recording. This is perfect if you don’t have someone to help you record, because it means you can get exactly what you want from the clip as you record your footage. We’ll talk a little more about this tool later on in our guide. Finally, below that is the filter tool.
- At the bottom of the display, you have your time manipulation tools which allow you to slow down or speed up your video content. We have a full guide that will help you use those speed settings to your advantage, which you can check out here.
- Finally, at the very bottom of the display, we have three icons. The first is an effects tool, which allows you to add augmented reality content into your videos, similar to Snapchat or Instagram. The second is your record button, which works like Snapchat—you hold down the icon to record, and release to pause recording. Unlike Snapchat, you can use the record button to create different clips and takes, which you can identify by looking at the top of the screen at the yellow progress bar. The white lines on that bar will display where and when the app is starting and stopping your new clips. And if you mess up a take, don’t worry. Musical.ly makes it easy to start a small section of the song over without having to redo the entire project. Click on the backspace button to the right of the record icon to erase the last thing you recorded and start over.
Those are the main tools you’re dealing with when creating a video in Musical.ly, and it’s important to be familiar with them. Practicing with them and playing around with the tools makes for a great way to test out your skills, and since you don’t necessarily have to publish a video you create within the app, it’s important to remember that you can erase your progress as much as you want. There are a few additional effects you can add to your video after you’ve recorded your content, but it’s important to remember that the best videos come from users who focus most of their time on the actual video itself, not the effects you add in post.
Now that you have a basic understanding of how Musical.ly’s camera display allows you to record and manipulate your footage, it’s important to also have a strong sense of how composition works within videography. Don’t worry if you didn’t go to film school—we’re only talking the basics here. Like when you take a photo, your videos come out better when you have a strong sense of framing within your work. That isn’t to say you can’t make quality content without knowing how composition works when shooting videos, but if you’re trying to get the most followers on Musical.ly, you’ll want to understand how framing works in a general sense. So, here are four tips to follow when creating videos in Musical.ly:
- The Rule of Thirds: Anyone who has spent any time in film school can tell you that there’s nothing more important to study up on than the rule of thirds. Just like in photography, the rule of thirds is a basic idea of composition that is identified by two vertical and two horizontal lines placed on the image, creating nine equal-sized boxes. Often referred to as the golden rule of shot composition, the rule of thirds asks that you place the interesting parts of your shot on the lines of the grid, rather than the center. For newcomers to video and shot composition, this might seem like an odd tool, but anyone who’s spent time creating video or studying film will tell you this: shots are far more interesting when following the rule of thirds rather than centering everything in a shot. Now, that said, Musical.ly’s vertical video orientation makes it a bit harder to follow the rule of thirds than a traditional video style. Still, you should keep the grid in mind when creating your content—it can go a long way in helping your video have a sense of style and professionalism.
- Balance and Symmetry: The next most important step in creating your videos is one your fifth-grade math teacher will likely thank you for remembering. While following the rule of thirds is the best bet for creating interesting, successful videos, the next-best step is to focus on shooting your videos with a focus on symmetry and balance in your shot. Try getting a friend to mirror you in the video, or shoot a dining room table so that it shows up as though the shot was mirrored. Balance is incredibly pleasing to the eye, and using it to your advantage will have more people looking at your videos for longer.
- Using Lines: Just like with symmetry, using natural or unnatural lines in your video’s layout can be used to trick the viewer’s eye into looking at specific parts of a shot. In cinematography, these are called leading lines, which allows your viewer’s eyes to fall through the frame while simultaneously creating a sense of depth in a 2D image. If you want to shoot like the pros, using lines to create your content is a must-do.
- Check Your Backdrop: All too often, Musical.lys are created with someone laying in bed, or in front of a mirror in their room. While it’s acceptable for a social video network, if you want to hit some major success creating your content on Musical.ly, you need to put in the work. Find somewhere to shoot that features a diverse setting, an area where it’s easy to create content, or somewhere with a plain, nondescript background. At best, clean up the room you’re about to shoot in—make your bed, pick up your dishes, throw your clothes in a laundry basket, etc. No one wants to see a gross-looking room when they’re flipping through Musical.ly.
These four tips won’t perfect your videos, but they’re a great way to start thinking about how a shot should look, how your composition should affect the viewer, and an entryway into creating classic videos that any viewer will enjoy.
Connect Your Social Accounts
It sounds simple, but the act of connecting your social accounts can make it easy for users to find your Musical.ly profiles on other accounts online. Whether it’s sharing your content to your Facebook feed for your friends from high school or college to see, sharing to Twitter for your followers to take note of, or sharing to Instagram in order to display your best work among your various photos and videos, connecting your social accounts is the obvious trick to getting additional views on your account.
Study the Pros
Grab your phone and open Musical.ly. Instead of jumping to the camera display or choosing a song to shoot with, pause for a moment on the main “For You” feed. Scroll through it a bit; refresh the feed a few times and focus on what you’re seeing from the videos in that feed. Check out how popular the videos are; you’ll likely see anywhere from 100,000 favorites to over 3 or 4 million, with thousands of comments and shares. Pay attention to how the videos in this feed are framed, how they’re shot, and how the creator acts in the video. Are they holding the video in their hand, or is the video steady and still? How much work (seemingly) went into this video. Note the background, foreground, any props used in the creation of the shot, and anything else you can see in the frame.
One of the best ways to learn how to film Musical.ly content is to watch those who are already successful. Just like studying films (where you can note the actors, the direction, and the editing all from the movie, while listening to director’s commentaries for notes on the set and reading the screenplay to get a lock on how a traditional script is formatted and published), looking at hundreds of successful, popular Musical.ly videos will allow you to “study” the content of their videos and how they’re made. Think about each individual piece and how it works or doesn’t work. Don’t just watch good ones either; watch any successful Musical.ly, no matter whether you think the content on the video is good.
Focus Your Energies
At this point, if you’ve done the research and put the work in, you’re on the right path. The next step is simple: focus on making your Musical.lys the best they can be. If that sounds simple, that’s a good sign—it means you’re likely dedicated to the craft and are willing to put in the work for what you want in life. Like any art form, creating top-tier Musical.lys requires you to be completely focused on your art form, with a sense of dedication and pride in your work. We aren’t saying you should quit your job or drop out of school to become an artist on Musical.ly, but plan on devoting a good chunk of your (possibly limited) free time to practicing or creating your own Musical.ly content.
Equipping Yourself with the Right Gear
Take a look at some of the top Musical.lys on the platform right now and focus on how they’re filmed. You’ll notice that a large percentage of Musical.lys on the platform aren’t shot handheld, either by the person in the content or by a friend. Instead, you’ll probably notice that the app’s videos are often created by using a tripod to film the content. While it might seem unexpected, plenty of Musical.ly’s most famous and most successful creators use tripods or monopods with their smartphones in order to get the shot, just like you might see on a film set. If you’re curious to try it yourself, here are some tripods you can get for your smartphone, no matter what brand, at different price ranges.
If you’re interested, you might want to invest in some other smartphone gear, including removable lens mounts for your phone. If you have the means to do it, you can even go in and buy some inexpensive light kits to help brighten your area, but for the most part, anyone looking to create videos for a smartphone audience can skip this. The most important part is getting a tripod to hold your phone, which can really help with the stability of your shot and greatly improve the professionalism of the shot.
Once you have your tripod, it’s important to use the timer setting on your phone within Musical.ly, which will auto-record a specific part of the song once you hit start. It’s a great way to auto-record on your own, especially if you don’t have someone around to help out.
Choose the Right Songs
You might have a specific sense of what music you love, but Musical.ly is a trend-based service, which means more than you might think it does. You don’t just want to make sure you’re making your videos well, but you want to make sure you’re looking through the content on the service, seeing what’s trendy and popular, and using that to your advantage. Sure, you might love Led Zeppelin or Prince more than any of the meme-based songs that often appear in the top feed on Musical.ly, but those songs aren’t always what’s popular among users. The more willing you are to work towards songs that are popular or have made a huge splash on the service, the more likely you are to hit Musical.ly gold.
If you’re looking for suggestions, flip through the top listing of videos a few times to notice what tracks keep repeating. When you notice a song being used often by creators on the platform, you can tap on an icon in the lower-right corner of the display to automatically use that song. And don’t worry if the clip is an original song—you can use original clips straight from their source to create your own magic.
A Follow for a Follow
Once you’ve built up a collection of Musical.ly videos, it’s time to start marketing yourself and your collection. Musical.ly has a fairly large community, but in the world of Facebooks and Instagrams, it’s a relatively young, small group of people. This means most users aren’t just hungry for followers and fans—they’re also looking for new people to follow all the time. So, what’s the best way to gain some quick followers with attention? Start following people on the platform to get some attention. You’ll be surprised how quickly people will begin to follow you back within the app, and your follower collection will increase faster than you can believe.
But who do you follow exactly? Here’s our recommended way of doing it:
- Head back to the feed of top and trending Musical.ly clips on your account, where you can find some popular pieces of work to choose from. Refresh the feed if you need to in order to get some fresh Musical.lys.
- Look through the comments on popular videos to find accounts of people who are really enjoying the content posted from that user.
- Select a profile from a recent comment (try to find one posted within a few hours; the fresher the better) and follow their profile.
- Do this repeatedly, and watch the follow-backs come faster than you could ever believe.
The key here is to have an account with a fair amount of content already loaded; we recommend not using this method until you have around 10-12 Musical.ly videos on your profile that you feel proud of displaying. The idea here is that your account isn’t just a blank account, but something that people will want to take notice with. You need content that looks, feels, and breathes professionalism in order to make a good impression. If someone sees your account and takes a look at your videos, they’ll likely find that you’re putting a lot of effort into what you’re making and follow you right back.
This is essentially the final step in the process, as you’ve become rewarded for your hard work, your dedication, and your commitment to working towards your goal. That doesn’t mean you should stop, though…
Practice, Practice, Practice
This is it: you’ve studied, you’ve researched, and you’ve gained the equipment and the know-how necessary to succeed on Musical.ly. You’ve practiced adding new fans and you’ve promoted yourself on social media. All you need to do now to finish your quest to gain more fans on Musical.ly is simple: practice, practice, practice. Like with any art form, the key to gaining popularity and success on Musical.ly is to work towards perfection, and to always continue to push yourself and your art. Try new sounds and new clips, work with your friends to add new ideas and new people into your shots, and practice using the effects avail;able within the editor inside Musical.ly before you upload your clip.
If it sounds like a lot of work, it is. But, with that work comes the obvious benefit: the more effort you put into your Musical.ly videos, the more you learn. Musical.ly is not just a great way to make fans and followers—similar to something like Guitar Hero or Rock Band, creating and editing the simple video clips that Musical.ly is so well-known for can help you learn actual video skills. Even if your hobby never becomes more than that, it’s still worth gaining an additional skill (and some additional attention) from the content.
Musical.ly is a great platform for naturally-creative people to express their talent, sampling content and pulling inspiration from one piece of content and transforming it into something else entirely. Using the tips we outlined above, you too can gain a massive fan following, with attention and adoration that comes with online sensations. That said, you’ll also want to make sure you keep practicing your video skills over time. That’s the true key to gaining new fans on Musical.ly: practice, practice, practice.
So, did our guide help improve your Musical.ly follower count? Have you put the tips to work yet? Let us know in the comments below!