Industry Insight // Is the Rise of TikTok Something New Artists Should be Concerned About?
For anyone going through their early and mid-twenties, you may be beginning to notice the cultural shifts that come with time. The days where you would drink Strongbow dark fruits at Reading festival and tell your friends how excited you are to see The Vaccines are long gone. The wall tapestry from Amazon has been taken down and replaced with shelves (also from Amazon) that function as a home for an array of succulents.
As we reluctantly begin to hand over the reins of cultural progression to the younger generation, we notice the new trends and fads are of less appeal to us than they would have been several years ago.
One of these is TikTok.
First, it confuses and frightens you. What’s the appeal of watching countless videos of people lip-syncing and dancing to songs about Minecraft? Then curiosity gets the best of you. You might as well see what the fuss is about. Everyone else is on it after all. Then it turns out they have other types of videos too. And before you know it you’re scrolling through hours of videos on interior design, unusual pets, and Lord of the Rings trivia.
Like it or not, TikTok isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
If you yourself are an aspiring musician or in a band, you may be asking yourself “should I be concerned about TikTok?” If you’re asking yourself that question that’s a good start. There’s never an answer to the million-pound question that is “how do I become a successful musician?” Because the answer changes too quickly. But, it does pay to keep your eyes and ears open to the new ways in which you can reach out to potential fans.
The media consumed on TikTok is constantly being reshaped to better play by the app’s rules. Music is no exception to that. This isn’t a newfound social phenomenon, it’s happened with every social media giant that has come before it. Many musicians and artists are finding new and inventive ways to put their music into bitesize clips that work well with TikTok’s algorithms to help promote their work. Mash-ups, duets, and covers populate the vast universe of easily digestible media. While it doesn’t actually promote an artist’s original work, it can help bring traction to their account for when they do release original music. Some TikTokers (I had to google that word) have reached new levels of ingenuity for the sake of self-promotion. TikTokers like Natsingsongs and Michael Aldag have taken to focussing on comedy. Either short sketches or catchy -and ultimately funny- jingles about everyday problems have helped attract followers in the tens of thousands. What’s so interesting about TikTokers like these is that the content they generate for the app is essentially part of a marketing tactic to promote their music. They are generating success in one of their online personas, in hopes of it leading to success in another.
Artist’s can find almost overnight success when a song clicks with the TikTok generation and it becomes the soundtrack to every video you see that week. BENEE became a star overnight with her track ‘Supalonely’ almost entirely through TikTok. Users of the app created dance routines that spread like wildfire, quickly being picked up by TikTok megastars like Addison Rae and Charlie D’Amelio.
Big artists it seems are also taking an interest in the app. If you spend enough time aimlessly scrolling, you will notice how common it is for people to add music to their videos that have been slowed down, sped up or shifted in pitch. Perhaps it works as another attention-grabbing tactic by being a perfect balance of the familiar and unfamiliar. Who’s to say. What is interesting is songs like Anderson .Paak’s latest single, ‘JEWELZ’. His vocals have been very noticeably raised in pitch, creating a vocal style both fun and accessible but equally warped and synthetic. It sounds almost as if the song itself was written for TikTok, to try and capitalise on the growing importance the app has on the music industry.
I spoke to Lucy, who plays saxophone and keys in the band Deco. Deco has found notable newfound attention in the last few months because of the mash-up videos they have recently been posting regularly to TikTok. Their Bronski Beat/Oasis mash-up even caught the attention of Liam Gallagher himself. Recently they were also invited to perform on CBBC.
“Since the first one went viral on TikTok, the account started to get a following and the other mashups started doing really well! Short, snappy aesthetics are essential…If you get it right, it’s such a good marketing strategy!” She also offered some advice on what she and the band have learnt from this newfound success on the app. “I think the trick is to really find the right time of day when people are scrolling - evenings are always good.”
An example of where the app can take you if you know how to use it.
Many artists, new and old may find the growing importance of TikTok and social media unnerving. But this doesn’t mean bands are going to have to utilise their skills in sketch comedy just to promote their new EP. Not at all. The music you are looking for will always be in the places you know where to find it. However, it seems to be that if you want to find somewhere to offer your talents and content to the world, TikTok is where you know they’ll be watching from.
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Written by: Lawrie