A parent’s guide to musical.ly, the music video app your teen is probably using

Worried about what your teen is doing on a cellphone? Don't know how to use the apps they use? Here's a step-by-step guide on how to use a music video app many teens are obsessed with.
Jun 22, 2016

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  • TODAY IS MY BDAY & THANKSGIVING🦃✨🙏🏽🍴 I'm so thankful for you guys!!

    A video posted by Alana✨👸🏾 (@thunthun_skittles) on

  • It doesn't take a scientific study to tell parents that teenagers are always finding new ways to interact with their friends. And while there are horror stories about teens getting stalked and harassed online, one thing parents can do to avoid their children getting hurt is be on the social media that their kids are using so they can see what they are doing online.

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  • We'll explain musical.ly, an app that teens love.

  • "Musical.ly is a DIY music-video making app, where users (or 'musers,' as they're called) create 15-second videos of themselves lip-syncing and dancing along to popular music," Tech Insider reports. "You can 'heart' videos and create digital duets with your 'BFFs,' or people you follow and who follow you back."

  • But musical.ly isn't just for music videos. As their tumblr account explains, "Every day, millions of people use musical.ly as an outlet to express themselves through singing, dancing, comedy, and lip-syncing. The app celebrates creativity with videos recorded in 15 seconds or less and shared across the musical.ly community."

  • According to their tumblr, musical.ly was first made available in October 2014 and is available in both the iOS App Store and in the Google Play store. Musical.ly users are known as "musers" and and the app allows musers to share their videos not only on musical.ly but also on other social media platforms like Instagram and Vine.

  • In an interview with Forbes magazine, the app's co-founder, Alex Zhu, said he "spent 16 years in design and product management for enterprise computing. But what really interested him was building a community; bringing people together."

  • According to Zhu, musical.ly started out of the ashes of a different project where users created three-to-five-minute videos explaining a variety of topics. The project failed after six months because the videos just weren't engaging enough, especially where young people are concerned Zhu explained.

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  • "It's always young people who are early adopters in new communities and new tech in general," Zhu told Forbes. "They are curious and looking for new apps and social media, and also very willing to spread ideas word of mouth, so you don't have to spend a lot on marketing - they will come to you if you can make your app compelling to this group of users."

  • Because, as Zhu said, young people are most likely to be early adopters of new communities and technology, musical.ly is marketed specifically to teens and has a clean, hip interface with a handful of options, but not so many it becomes overwhelming.

  • "More than 80 million people have registered, mostly teens," Tech Insider reports. "If the target demographic isn't abundantly clear from scrolling through the featured videos, the app also reminds you during sign-up, when it enters 2000 as the default birth year."

  • So instead of minutes long videos on educational subjects, the videos are seconds long and feature music and video taken by the user. Musical.ly looks a lot like Vine and Snapchat, but with a few other features.

  • ‼️💥⚡️#musicallyapp @marcusdobre @lucas_dobre

    A video posted by musical.ly (@musical.ly) on

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  • "The app allows users to easily record themselves lip-synching to their favorite songs, but sets itself apart with the addition of unique video effects like time lapse, which makes everyone's dance moves look as fast as Looney Toons," W magazine reports.

  • According to The Daily Dot, musical.ly is "fairly intuitive" and easy to use. These are the steps they outline for becoming a master muser.

  • Download the app

  • As stated above, musical.ly can be found in both the iOS App Store and in Google Play. Once downloaded, you'll need to make an account, using either an email address, Facebook or Twitter.

  • Musical.ly admits on its tumblr page that there are some issues with the app for some Android users, but says it is working on fixing any bugs.

  • Tap around

  • One of the best ways to get familiar with any app is to just tap around in it and explore for a minute. OneHowTo, a tech tutorial site, explains the options musers will find on the app's home screen.

  • "At the top, you can see three options: follow, which shows you videos from friends and other people you follow; featured, which shows you the most popular and trending videos, and my city, which shows you videos from other users located nearby," OneHowTo wrote. "You can follow a user at any time by clicking on their name and accessing their profile. Along the bottom of the screen there are further options to explore the different features of musical.ly."

  • The other buttons include options that allow musers to search videos, create their own, view notifications on their posts, and visit their own profile, according to OneHowTo.

  • Try it out

  • "Once you're ready to make your musical.ly debut, tap the plus sign on the yellow button, which will bring up the option to pick music for your video, shoot your video, or import a video from your media library," The Daily Dot said. "While a majority of musers create lip sync videos, you can also shoot GIFs and set them to music by tapping 'shoot first' then 'live moment.' You can also dub scenes from movies or television. To do so, find tracks in the app's online library, or upload the video file to your phone's library."

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  • The Daily Dot said that once you've picked your music, you pick how fast you want the finished video to play.

  • "This part is a little confusing once you start filming, but think of it as an inverse: The faster you want your video to appear on settings 'fast' and 'lapse,' the slower your track will play back while you're filming," The Daily Dot reports. "Similarly, the slower you want the video to appear on settings 'slow' or 'epic,' the faster your track will play while filming."

  • Daily Dot suggests playing with the speed of a video, reporting that some interesting videos can be achieved through speeding up and slowing down the movement.

  • When you Drake af @jakepaul @alissaviolet

    A video posted by musical.ly (@musical.ly) on

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  • Action!

  • Now that the video settings are set, it's time to start filming. Daily Dot reports that users simply "tap and hold the video camera icon on the pink circle to start filming. To stop filming, take your finger off the icon. ... When you're done, click the green arrow that will appear in the top-right corner and view your musical. If you're satisfied with the product, go onto editing, or tap the back arrow in the top-left corner to either reshoot the musical or delete it entirely."

  • However, advanced musers can choose to select their music first before filming or to edit pre-recorded videos from their phone's library to set to music on the app.

  • "You can pick music, which gives you the option to select the track first, so that it plays while you record the video," OneHowTo reports. "If you choose this option you will be prompted with a menu where you can find the song you want. Alternatively you can shoot first (and ask questions later?) As the name suggests, this option allows you to make a video first and then select the track to sync with afterwards. Lastly, you can import existing videos from your device and sync them up the track of your choice."

  • . ☼ instagram : @lizzzak ✎ musical.ly : lizzza ♫ song : i took a pill in ibiza ↯ tag friends !❗️🔝 #mixmusically

    A video posted by Musical.ly | [0.5k] (@mixmusically) on

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  • The cutting room floor

  • After the video has been shot, there's the option to edit your video visually before posting it. The Daily Dot cautions readers when using this function since it can screw up a video entirely if musers aren't careful.

  • "After you're done shooting, you can choose to add a visual filter to your musical. You can also choose to play the video backwards, add a "time trap" (a selected point in the video that loops), or move the segment of music that's playing in the background," The Daily Dot said. "Be aware: These three options will mess up your video if you lip synced or dubbed a track."

  • And that's it. Once you're happy with your video, add a headline and post your video. If you want your video to share to more than just musical.ly, The Daily Dot has some suggestions.

  • "After you upload the musical to your profile or save it to your phone, you'll be directed to a page from where you can share the musical to other social media platforms, including Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Vine," The Daily Dot reports. "If you want to share a musical later, go to your profile, tap on the musical, then on the three dots on the right of the screen, and then tap 'other share options' to be brought back to that share page."

  • The app even offers challenges for musers to participate in under the app's "search" feature. OneHowTo explains that musers can add hashtags to post their own videos to the challenges and even earn prizes if their videos win.

  • Of course, just as with any other artform, there is much that can be done so that even experienced musers can improve. Searching on YouTube provides musers with many musical.ly tutorials that explain some of the finer points of making videos and expanding your muser community.

  • Some popular musers who've provided instructional tutorials, according to The Daily Dot, are Baby Ariel and TheyLoveArii. Both tutorials, given in the sometimes halting and distracted speech common among teenagers, suggest musers use natural lighting for their videos by sitting in front of or near a brightly lit window. Musers also suggest using music with a heavy beat and that has lyrics that are easy to dance with your hands to.

  • Abigail Payne is an intern with Deseret Digital Media and a recent graduate of Weber State University. Abby can be reached at apayne@deseretdigital.com.

  • Me every time this song come on 😂🐼🐼🐼

    A video posted by Alana✨👸🏾 (@thunthun_skittles) on

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