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Why Are Cats on TikTok Getting Really Into Mid-2000s Ambient Music?

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When a fan told Jimmy Lavalle that a song he wrote about 18 years ago had become really popular with cats on TikTok, he was shocked. He wrote the track in Reykjavík, Iceland, gazing at the Esjan mountains across Kollafjörður bay — now, cats were prancing across their living rooms to the tune.

Last December, the ambient and electronic musician (also known as Album Leaf) received a video in which the serene opening strains of “Window” — the first song on 2004’s In a Safe Place — unexpectedly piqued the attention of a cat and seemed to lure the often aloof animal to its owner for a few good pets. “I saw it and just thought, ‘Oh, that’s funny,’” Lavalle tells Rolling Stone. “Then a friend sent it to me, then another friend sent it to me. People were sending it to my wife, my family was sending it to me, and people were saying they were trying it out on their cats. It’s just like, ‘What the heck?’”

Chad Kamenshine*

Two months later, and the trend is still chugging along, and Lavelle — who just released his score for the 2020 sci-fi flick Synchronic — says the only other comparable moment he’s experienced was when fans of the TV show Scandal latched onto his song “The Light” after it was featured in an episode. I know of songs that were popular based on commercials and stuff like that,” he says with a laugh, “but nothing like what I’ve seen now, which is user-generated content that is easily uploadable to the internet. It’s a really great thing.”

Although far from the kind of blockbuster viral trends we’re used to seeing on TikTok (i.e. the “Old Town Road”-scored “Yeehaw Challenge” and the recent “Buss It” challenge), the “See If Your Cat Will Come Cuddle With You Challenge” (for lack of a more succinct term) has been consistently entertaining those who’ve taught their TikTok algorithm to serve up quality cat content for the past two months. Its origins seem to be a December 3rd, 2020 post from a user named jennimorose, who just happened to have the Album Leaf’s “Window” on a playlist and kept noticing that whenever the song came up on shuffle her cat would stop whatever she was doing and come looking for pets.

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Jennimorose urged other cat owners to try it, and as the meme spread, it took on a basic format: The robotic text-to-speech AI voice says, “They say if you play this sound your cat will come cuddle with you,” after which cat owners eagerly wait to see whether their cats respond or not. Scroll through the videos on TikTok, and the results are decisively mixed — some cats quickly trot over to the source of the sound, others poke their heads up, and some, in typical feline fashion, simply cannot be bothered. (An unofficial survey conducted in the Rolling Stone staff’s pet-centric Slack channel yielded similar results.)

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That mix of reactions speaks to the open-ended nature of the question: What kinds of music will a cat respond to? As cat behavior and wellness expert Jackson Galaxy — host of the long-running Animal Planet series, My Cat From Hell, and a former musician — says, “I’ve heard everything. Literally. ‘Cats will respond to Verdi, but they won’t respond to Wagner.’ Or, ‘They’ll respond to EDM,’ or, ‘They’ll respond to white noise.’”

In 2015, the musician David Teie took a stab at answering that question with his album, Music for Cats, which came out of a study he did with researchers at the University of Wisconsin. Teie was already interested in how music affects human emotion, and he carried some of his theories over to other animals, first working with cotton-top tamarin monkeys, then house cats. Teie’s work was rooted in the notion of “species-specific music” — essentially taking sounds that certain species would be innately familiar with and turning them into music.

The theory certainly holds for humans, Teie explains. For instance, it’s no surprise that after gestating in the womb for nine months, hearing nothing but a mother’s heartbeat, humans seem preternaturally attracted to music that falls within the same 60 to 100 beats-per-minute pulse range as an adult heart. Because cats have a shorter gestation period, Teie focused instead on other sounds kittens would hear, such as suckling and purring. But rather than just set recordings of purrs to music, Teie crafted purr-like sounds using production software; should the sound be too recognizable, he figured, a cat would just habituate to it and ignore it.

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“When we create musical instruments that have a rough approximation of the emotions that it’s designed to trigger, but it’s not the real thing, we don’t habituate to it,” he says. “We can’t really identify it, so the mystery of the sound is something that keeps it affecting us.”

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Teie thinks that mix of mystery and familiarity is at the heart of what some cats are responding to when they hear Album Leaf’s “Window.” The key sound is that dual synth tone that arrives about 16 seconds into the song: “That synth sound has two components,” Teie says. “The lower one, with a frequency of, let’s say, 440 hertz, it’s like the middle of the treble clef, but it’s a relatively vocal kind of sound. And then the second component that’s a major-tenth above, that’s like a whistle. But it goes together in the same instrument. Well, mice are capable of biphonation, so they can create two pitches at the same time. And they basically have that signature — the lower one is a vocal sound, and the upper one is a very pure whistle sound, and they are about that far apart, about a tenth apart. So it does have the signature, in the sense, of a mouse singing.”

(“Oh my gosh, that is incredible!” Lavalle replied after being told Teie’s theory. “He’s talking about all the harmonics that are happening just in the overtone, which is… Wow! That’s so cool.”)

Teie is quick to add that he doesn’t think cats responding to “Window” think there’s a mouse in the room. Rather, he compares it to the way a violin sounds like a female singing voice or an electric guitar with some gain on it sounds like a human scream. “It’s not as if we’re thinking, ‘Oh, that’s the human scream. I need to respond with an adrenal rush,’” he says. “It’s just a feeling, and I think that would be the same with the cats. It’s like, ‘I feel like going toward that sound.’”

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This also helps explain the variety of responses among cats to, not just “Window,” but also Teie’s Music for Cats. Cats, like humans, are individuals, and like humans, they can have different tastes in music. To that end, when Galaxy tried playing “Window” for his cats, he said he got just one taker: “Three slept through it, one left the room, one poked his head up and one came toward the sound.”

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Still, sound and music can have practical purposes when working with cats. A softer, higher human voice can make a cat more trusting of a human, Galaxy says. And last year, Louisiana State University researchers found that cat-specific music like Teie’s could be used to calm cats down during otherwise stressful vet visits. Still, Galaxy says he’s wary of music as a one-size-fits-all fix: “If you’re in a shelter and there are a dozen cats in there, and you impose a sound on them, you’re risking three or four of them being miserable from it.”

He continues: “This is sort of the real underpinning of my own work — trying to stop the generalization of any species. At some point, I hope that folks will accept that their cats are just like us — they’re animals whose preferences are formed over the course of their lifetime. And I think that that’s just what gets glossed over in sort of viral trends like this.”

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TIKTOK

TikTok Expands Creator Tipping and Video Gifts, Providing More Monetization and Marketing Options

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TikTok continues to expand its creator monetization tools with the addition of video tipping and virtual gifts for regular uploads, in addition to live-streams in the app.

To be clear, live tipping and digital gifts have been available for selected live-stream creators via its Creator Next program since last year. This new expansion brings the same functionality to regular TikTok videos, which will add another way for users to generate direct income from their TikTok videos.

TikTok Creator Next

As you can see in these screenshots, shared by social media expert Matt Navarra (via Dan Schenker), to be eligible for the new Creator Next program, users will need to have at least 1,000 followers, and will need to have generated more than 1,000 video views in the previous 30 days.

Though TikTok does note that these requirements vary by region – TechCrunch has reported that creators need to have at least 100k followers to qualify in some cases.

As explained by TikTok:

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The new Tips feature allows people to directly show gratitude to creators for their content, much like recognizing exceptional service or giving a standing ovation. As is standard for tipping in person, with Tips creators will receive 100% of the tip value.”

Tip payments will be processed by Stripe, with creators required to sign up to manage their earnings in the app.

“With Video Gifts, also available today, creators can now collect Diamonds not only by going LIVE but also by posting videos. This also gives people an all-new way to interact and engage with content they love.”

TikTok live gifts

That will provide expanded capacity to generate real money from posting, without having to go live, which will open new doors to many TikTok creators.

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In addition to this, TikTok’s also lowering the threshold for those who can list their profiles in its Creator Marketplace brand collaboration platform, which enables businesses to find TikTok influencers to partner with on in-app campaigns.

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TikTok Creator marketplace

Up till now, creators have required 100k followers to qualify for these listings, but now, TikTok is reducing that number to 10k, which will further expand available opportunities for both users and brands.

That could make it much easier to find relevant creators to partner with, in a lot more niches, which will add more considerations into your TikTok posting and engagement process.

As noted, these are the latest in TikTok’s broader efforts to provide comparable monetization opportunities, in order to keep its top stars posting to the platform, as opposed to drifting off to YouTube or Instagram instead, which have more established monetization systems.

The advantage that other apps have in this respect is that longer videos can include pre-roll and mid-roll ads, facilitating direct monetization, which TikTok can’t utilize given the shorter nature of its clips. As such, it needs to look to alternate funding methods, which will also include eCommerce listings, with direct product displays now the primary source of income for the Chinese version of the app.

The platform’s continued growth facilitates even more opportunities in this respect, with more brands looking to tap into the various opportunities of the platform, and partner with creators to maximize their presence.

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How popular, and valuable, direct tipping and gifting can be is more variable, as some dedicated fan bases will pay, while others will see no reason to donate for what they can already access for free.

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But even so, it adds more opportunity, and the lower thresholds for monetization will see many more opportunities across the board in the app.

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Shorter Videos Are In Demand. Here’s How Different Social Media Platforms Are Reacting.

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Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

With TikTok and Instagram Reels slowly conquering social media marketing, there’s no mistake: Short videos are in demand.

The average length for most, if not all, business videos is only six minutes long. And that number is set to decrease as consumers look for shorter videos.

With that in mind, why are short videos in demand? What platforms are implementing short-form videos the best? And most importantly, how can they benefit your business?

TikTok – Changing consumerism, one video at a time

Where shorter videos are concerned, TikTok has always led the industry. What started as a merger with Musical.ly quickly became one of the world’s most powerful social media platforms. And what made it so famous? The same concept that made Vine viral short videos.

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TikTok has over 1 billion active users, twice as many as Snapchat and Pinterest. For reference, Twitter only has 397 million users. With such a massive user-base, the only thing keeping the platform alive are the 15-second-long videos.

But why are short videos so popular? Simple – people don’t have time on their hands. When they open apps like TikTok and Instagram, they’re more likely to spend time watching shorter videos.  And businesses are already catching up.

The impact of Instagram Reels

With the invention of Stories by Snapchat, other platforms like Instagram caught up on short videos. Instagram Reels presents adults and young users with a more straightforward way to tell others about their day. It employs quick photos and videos that are only available for 24 hours instead of being permanently posted. Now engagement is encouraged, especially after Instagram included the “Swipe” option. This has allowed e-commerce sites to both advertise their products and make instant messaging easier.

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Youtube has joined the bandwagon

While YouTube is more or less a platform for long-form videos, its recent update offers shorter vertical videos. Known as YouTube Shorts, the feature allows creators to engage with their audience in under 60 seconds.

But YouTube has another trick up its sleeve, and this one is mainly towards advertisers. It is “YouTube TrueView” and is the primary advertising technology for YouTube. Through this, advertisers can promote long or short videos, with some being skippable after five seconds.

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However, since most people are unlikely to click on longer ads, YouTube now offers 6-second non-skippable ads. The clickthrough rate for shorter 15 and 30-second ads is around 70%, a whopping number for any business.

It’s time to say goodbye to IGTV

With Instagram’s IGTV coming off as less captivating than its Reels and video posts, it has decided to remove IGTV. Instead, it has a separate section for videos. These videos will appear on a person’s profile and can be viewed from the Instagram app.

The change they made here is that videos posted to the Instagram feed can be up to 60 minutes long. The exact reason for doing this is not confirmed. But it seems like Instagram wants a seamless platform where short and long videos co-exist.

This makes long videos more accessible to users using the Instagram app. And it helps promote video tutorials that people typically do not consume on social media apps.

Another significant change is that Instagram videos that are longer can be monetized, a feature not available on Reels. This significantly shifts the focus towards creators who don’t sell a service and want to gain cash through Instagram.

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Does this mean long-form videos are out of the picture?

With short-form videos becoming more popular among consumers, will long-form videos die out? While it’s highly recommended for any business to create videos as short as possible, the answer isn’t that black and white.

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While short-form videos will drive traffic from new users, long-form videos are better for brand loyalty. Shorter videos will get more engagement and show up on new users’ feeds. But longer videos will be the backbone of your business.

Of course, that depends on what service you’re offering. Ecommerce companies will want to direct their attention towards short-form videos and ads. However, long-form videos are better suited for when you want to go in-depth about product details. That is, of course, only after you’ve grabbed the user’s attention with a short-form video.

Companies that offer webinars will benefit from longer videos. And so will companies that post interviews. However, promos and how-to videos should remain under a minute or two, depending on how long the tutorial needs to be.

Essentially, ask yourself two questions:

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  • First, can the video content be summarized in a short-form video?
  • Do you want to merely catch the attention of the consumer or develop brand loyalty?

The correct formula is neither short nor long, but a mix of both.

What this all means for an entrepreneur

Short-form videos hold substantial market value, especially for new businesses. Take the example of the Dollar Shave Club. What started as a viral video on YouTube grew to become a behemoth of a brand.

And that’s not where the examples end. There are countless success stories like this one that prove the value of short videos.

Short videos have a higher clickthrough rate, and for entrepreneurs, that’s all you need. Short videos are of particular interest to people with ecommerce businesses. For example, 84% of people say they are more compelled to buy a product by watching a video. And the statistics keep on showing a friendlier short-video market.

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There is no doubt that short-form videos are gradually creeping up the graph. And while long-form videos are great for information and brand loyalty, shorter videos are better for PR.

This begs one last question: Are videos beneficial for you? The answer is – yes!

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How to Make a TikTok Video: Beginners Start Here

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Let’s face it, TikTok is the moment.

And with 1 billion monthly active users, it’s time to join the action and get your brand out there to a wider audience!

Want to learn how to make a TikTok Video but don’t know where to start? Don’t sweat it! We broke down all the steps and tools you’ll need to make a viral-worthy first video and make sure your debut is anything but cringe.

Download the full Social Trends report to get an in-depth analysis of the data you need to prioritize and plan your social strategy in 2022.

How to create a TikTok account

First things first, you’ll need to create a TikTok account.

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There are different ways to sign up for one: you can use your phone number, email address or social media account. Here’s how to do it using your phone number.

1. Download TikTok from Google Play or the App Store.

2. Open the TikTok App on your iPhone or Android.

3. Click the “Me” or “Profile” icon at the bottom-right of your screen.

profile icon on TikTok

4. Choose a method to sign up (we’re choosing “use phone or email”)

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sign up for TikTok using phone or email

5. Enter your birth date and phone number (make sure this is accurate because it’s how you’ll retrieve passwords and confirm your account).

enter birthday when signing up on TikTok

6. Enter the 6-digit code sent to that phone number (see, told ya!)

7. You did it! Celebrate by scrolling TikTok for too many hours.

How to make a TikTok video

Here’s how to get started on your very first TikTok video. Luckily for you, it’s way easier than learning this TikTok Shuffle dance.

1. Hit the + sign at the bottom of your screen.

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2. You can upload photos and videos from your phone’s library or make a video directly using the TikTok camera.

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3. If recording directly, hit the Record button at the bottom of the screen. Hit it again when you’re done recording. The default video mode is “Quick” which is for 15 second videos but you can switch it to “Camera” for more editing options and longer videos (15s, 60s and 3 mins), or “Templates” to create a specific style of video.

record button on the bottom of TikTok screen

4. Tap the check mark when you’re done shooting all your footage.

tap checkmark after shooting footage

5. Make any edits or changes on the post page. All your edits are on the right sidebar of the screen. Also, add music or sounds by hitting “Add sound” at the top of the screen.

add sound on TikTok

6. Post that video and share it everywhere! Make sure to include a description with some hashtags so it finds its way to your audience.

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post video on TikTok with description

How to make a TikTok with multiple videos

Instead of taking one long video, why not capture shorter videos and edit them together to make your TikTok video? Here’s how to do that (and you don’t need a film degree).

1. Hit that “+” sign to start your video

2. You can either shoot multiple videos directly by hitting that record button after each clip, building up your video with different shots. Or, you can hit the “Upload” button next to the record button and add multiple videos and photos you have stored on your phone.

3. Select all your media and tap Next.

4. You can now sync sound across your videos and make adjustments (or try “Auto sync” which will do the syncing up for you.)

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sync sound on TikTok

automatically sync clips

5. Hit Next when done. You’ll be brought to a preview screen where you can further add sounds, more effects, text, and stickers.

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hit next and add suggested sounds

6. Tap Next when you’re done editing your video and proceed to the Post screen.

7. Remember to throw in a description and some hashtags and bingo-bango-bongo you’re the Steven Spielberg of TikTok!

5 things to know before creating your first TikTok

TikTok style is less polished than other types of video

Don’t worry about being too precious with your videos. On TikTok, videos are meant to be candid, and natural—and they should show off your personality. Things like perfect edits, smooth transitions or flawless lighting shouldn’t get in the way of your idea and your own charisma.

Sure, there are lots of editing options, effects and filters to choose from (what the heck is the difference between B3 and G4 filters anyways?) but the real star is you —or, at least all 6 of these friends belting out Lady Gaga for the #caughtinabadromance challenge at this bachelorette. If that’s not candid, I don’t know what is.

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@ariellehartford

That finger stole the show! 😂😂😂 #bachelorettetrip #gatlinburg #caughtinabadromamce

♬ original sound – Arielle Hartford

You don’t have to dance

Good news! You don’t have to spend 2 hours trying to perfect the LaLisa dance tutorial to make sure your video stands out (unless you want to, then no judgment over here!).

There are so many different ways to engage your followers that don’t involve you popping and locking in your living room in front of a ring light (but again, no judgement if you do, except maybe from your pet and their adorable judging eyes).

You also don’t have to attempt whatever this is.

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@sdavidrodriguez

♬ Grab Da Wall & Rock Da Boat – 504 Boyz & Weebie

Hashtags can help more people see your post

It’s no secret a good hashtag can go a long way on TikTok. Strategic use of hashtags will help people find your videos who don’t already follow you, and maybe even see it on their For You Page (FYP).

Find the best hashtags to grow your views and help get your content recognized by the algorithm. You worked so hard on it, might as well show it off to as many people as possible.

The right song can go a long way

Attaching a trending song to your video or audio from a popular TikTok video can help it get seen by more people. This app has a big music following (lots of new songs are intentionally promoted through the app to help them climb the music charts) so lassoing your video to one of these shooting stars is only going to help you get on more FYP and in front of new audiences.

@suzyjonesmusic

♬ original sound – Suzy Jones

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Your greatest asset is you

Don’t overthink it, just come up with a simple idea and let your personality shine through. The sense of intimacy and community that TikTok brings is why people love this app—it feels personal.

Even if you’re doing a TikTok challenge or trend that’s popular, the thing that will make you stand out is your unique take on it. It’s not about gimmicks but about putting your best self out there. Nothing should feel too staged or self-aware (that’s cringe territory). Pretend your audience are your good friends and approach it with that energy!

@janikon_No, I can’t re-record this, I’m laughing too hard #fyp♬ original sound – Stu (he/him)

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