We caught up with Coventry-based wedding pianist Nicole Reynolds to hear about how she managed to double her number of bookings using TikTok.
When lockdown hit, Nicole tried a number of social media marketing techniques before eventually launching a TikTok video which received over 7 million videos, sky-rocketing social media accounts.
If you were ever unsure about the power of emerging social media platforms as a way of getting real bookings this article is for you! We talk about her story as a musician, how she struggled with mental health at the beginning of the pandemic and how TikTok became an amazing tool to reach more fans.
You can use these links to skip to the section that you’re most interested in (but I can assure you she had lots of great advise throughout):
- Nicole’s musical background
- Facing lockdown: a 10-hour Facebook livestream
- Getting started on TikTok and the viral breakthrough
- How to make TikTok videos: advice, setup, equipment
- Numbers: how many bookings can you actually get?
- The future of TikTok
I wasn’t from a musical family at all. My first musical memories were when my parents bought me a Barbie keyboard for Christmas, and I learnt to play Chopsticks and Heart and Soul on it!
I eventually started getting lessons and then did music at City College Coventry. I got my first gig at a piano bar in Lemington when I was 17. It taught a lot about what people want to hear, which songs are popular and which aren’t.
Then I went to London College of Music and studied music composition. Not a degree I’ve used that much yet! But the skills I learnt have been handy for the mash-ups and arrangements that I do now.
I had my first breakthrough aged 21, when I got a gig playing at the Savoy 6 days a week and work started to flow from there. Since then I’ve played at many venues around London like Ritz, Dorchester, and Harrods.
Hotel playing is a great education! You learn so much about how to vary your playing style depending on the energy level in the room.
Wow, the Savoy isn’t a bad first hotel to start playing at!
I was full-time performance – 6 days a week gigging at hotels and weddings, sometimes even 8 a week.
It went from that to nothing. It was really hard! For a few weeks I was just watching TV – I think as musicians we all felt like we were grieving the loss of these jobs we were used to.
I was really down and it was affecting my mental health, so I knew I had to throw myself into something new.
One day, I took the plunge and organised a 10 hour Facebook livestream from my living room for charity. We raised £2000 for the NHS and it was one of the best things I’ve ever done! For me, that was the start of my online journey.
That’s incredible! What did you play?
Just repertoire! I didn’t repeat a song! I’ll tell ya, hotel work – best experience you can get!
I’m used to playing by ear, so I took requests and would get the chords up and make up (sometimes questionable!) arrangements on the spot. My only breaks were 2 loo stops and my boyfriend made me some brownies to get me through it! The next day my arms hurt a lot but it was worth it!
Sounds like a brilliant project. So at what point did you become interested in TikTok?
I joined in December 2020 – I was actually really late to TikTok – which is why I want other musicians to know about it!
Before I joined I’d already explored a few Facebook and Instagram projects. For instance, in the lead up to Christmas I made an advent calendar with a song video recording for every day.
Nicole started her journey towards TikTok with short advent calendar videos on Facebook and Instagram.
Then I started noticing the TikTok logo on videos. I started posting a few things on there. I watched some other videos. I saw other musicians doing “Duet Me”s (where you post a video accompaniment for others to sing along to) – so I did a few of those.
Then I started sharing other videos, like comparisons of songs that sounded similar. Then I just kept going!
A Duet Me style video Nicole made encouraging other TikTokkers to create videos singing along to her accompaniment.
Looking at your TikTok profile, I can see you have over 330,000 followers which is incredible! Was there a big moment when it blew up and you suddenly got more followers?
I had a few little ones which did well. And then I did a few wedding entrance mash-ups, where I’d take a tune like “Hear Comes the Bride” or “Canon in D” and mix it into a pop tune or theme music.
I made one mixing in the Greatest Showman theme music into Canon in D and that got 7 million views on TikTok and 1 million on Instagram. That one really blew my profile up! But I’ve done some that I’m more proud of that haven’t done a fraction as well! I did a Jurassic Park aisle entrance – you can kind of imagine a dinosaur walking down the aisle.
If you keep putting out good stuff you’ll get views eventually.
One concern some people have is that TikTok is just a platform for young Gen-Zers. It’s often quite high octane, with lots of text overlays, and very short clips. Do you think producing this kind of content is in any way dumbing down the art of music making?
I remember the first time I downloaded it, the screen jumped out at me!
But to be honest, I’ve never taken the approach of telling people to stop scrolling or trying to be aggressive in grabbing people’s attention. Ultimately, if you’re doing something entertaining and interesting, you don’t need to be intense. Just can just tell people what you do and then do it.
You don’t have to do lip-syncing, dance or makeup tutorials! Don’t be swayed to be like everyone else, just do what you do best.
What would be your advice for anyone considering starting a TikTok account?
I like to add text to explain what I’ll do in a video. For instance, in a Disney mashup video I’ll either start by talking to the camera or adding text explaining what I’m about to do.
People then know what to expect and it’s great for the algorithm because people watch for longer!
Taking requests from your followers is also a good idea. Nearly every video I post is a request now.
The amazing thing about music is it has the power to trigger people’s memories. I had one request from someone saying that their father recently passed away and they wanted to hear his favourite song combined with Canon in D, so they could imagine him walking down the aisle at their wedding.
Read your comments, see what your followers want, and then create it.
A request video Nicole made for a follower.
And do you have a regular routine for creating the videos?
I try to do most of my recording on either 1 or 2 days in a week so I can sit down and get it all done. I’ll have 4 hours free one day when I can sit down, have lots of coffee, and create my 6 videos for the week (and then schedule them for about 1 per day).
If that feels overwhelming, you can definitely start with just 1 a week.
I often edit my videos on my commute and I know my followers are most active in the evening so I’ll often post then.
Once you get to 1000 followers you can also do TikTok livestreams – which are really fun and great for engaging with your fans. It feels like being back at work!
Which equipment do you use?
To improve my sound quality I have a couple of mics which I run through my audio interface into Logic on my laptop.
I then have an iRig plugged into my interface which passes the sound signal from Logic into my phone. I can do it and I’m not very good at technology so I reckon you can too!
But to be honest, my sound isn’t great all the time. Don’t get swept up on making it perfect, it’s just a 30 seconds video.
What about the visuals?
Well, my piano faces the garden, so that provides a good backdrop (my boyfriend’s been doing some gardening) and it provides lots of natural light. I sometimes add props like my Pikachu teddy!
For the camera, I put my phone on a £15 tripod and a cheap ring light. I just use my phone camera. If you focus on it being 100% perfect all the time then it might be difficult to get regular content out.
Let’s talk about bookings. Do you have a sense of where your enquiries are coming from at the moment?
I’d say for the last 3-4 months I’ve received a lot of messages from people who’ve seen me on TikTok and messaged asking for live bookings or commissions. I link at the top of my TikTok to Instagram, so people message me there.
People have seen me on TikTok and it’s led to a boom in enquiries. I get enquiries through Instagram and email (I have TikTok DMs turned off) but I’d say 8/10 enquiries begin with “we saw you on TikTok and we would like you to play for us”.
For me, it’s completely changed everything. I didn’t think this would happen at all – so I think more musicians should try this out!
How many enquiries have you got from TikTok?
I would say my enquiry rate has doubled as a result of TikTok! I probably used to get 1 a week and now get 1 every few days.
People looking for wedding musicians today aren’t likely to find you in a magazine, they’ll search on TikTok or Instagram – so I’d recommend it to anyone who wants more bookings!
Who follows you on TikTok? Is there a decent UK following?
Yeh I’d say it’s probably 70% women, 30% men. And about 40% from the USA, 25% the UK, 6% from the Philippines.
But I’m aiming to get a following on Spotify, so where people follow from doesn’t matter so much to me.
That’s really interesting, I thought it would be all in the US! Do you have a sense of which types of musicians would do well on Encore?
I think it would work for everyone – everyone’s got different tastes in music. I’ve seen lots of classical musicians. There’s a guy I follow who’s a jazz pianist and singer who’s doing well.
I’d stress that it’s a free marketing platform. We pay for ads, wedding fairs, brochures – you can do this for free. I just woke up to 200,000 views one day – and that could easily be you. If you’re already making content, why not chuck it up there as well!
Where do you see your TikToking going? Is it just something for lockdown?
I think it’s likely to become more educational. I’m seeing lots of tutorials, it’s not just dances anymore. For instance, I’m the proud owner of a rescue dog – and now even the rescue centre I got the dog from has got Tiktok to encourage people to share videos of their dogs. I’m not a TikTok god, but I think it’s now become a very popular marketing tool!
And finally, what’s on the horizon for you? Anything people listening in should be looking out for?
I want to get music on Spotify and Amazon Music, so TikTok’s given me the opportunity to share arrangements I’ve been working on with real people before going to a streaming service.
Cover photo by Ade Holbrook