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The Rise of TikTok Artists

TikTok is a form of social media characterised by its short content, endless ‘For You’ page, and revolutionary algorithm that allows anyone to go viral. These traits make it an ideal form of self-promotion for artists. The rise in popularity of the social media platform, reaching over 1 billion users in 2021, creates an enormous pool of potential listeners, much larger than what they might have achieved through promotions on other socials such as Instagram or Twitter. On TikTok, the artists can include snippets of their music videos, create dance trends for their songs and present their content in a creative and appealing manner.


The potential for virality is what pushes these types of content into the spotlight. According to influencermarketinghub.com, the TikTok algorithm is ‘a system that decides which videos to display to users on their For You page depending on their individual preferences’, increasing in specificity as the user continues to engage with the app. Through the use of hashtags, captions, and the general content of the video, TikTok curates the content the users are exposed to meaning no two ‘For You’ pages are the same.


Knowing this, many users try to take advantage of this algorithm and have discovered patterns, through trends, what is included in the captions of the videos, the style of the video, etc. that seem to make a video more likely to go viral. By including these things in their videos, they increase their chances of becoming a viral sensation. We can see the use of these techniques, especially within the music space on TikTok. A common way of pushing their content into the viral algorithm is through making trends with their songs. Whether that be dances or using a specific line to create a skit, using the song for more than the simple pleasure of enjoying the music brings diversity and makes the song and the artist seem more dynamic.



However, it is also worth mentioning that despite TikTok seeming to be an app that organically sources its viral content, it is mostly not that simple. One content creator by the name of @aquisandrax explained in a video that some artists will pay other TikTokers to use their music in the background of their videos as a way of further expanding their audience outreach, partially taking away from the merit of simply being an artist that makes good music and has managed to make it into the industry purely by being good at what they do. Nonetheless, there is no shame in paying others to use their music, it could be seen as any other marketing ploy and a clear wise investment as it tends to work.



Despite not knowing which artists have paid for the sounds to be used, there are many examples of the power influential people have over what becomes viral. TikTok artists such as Leak Kate, who is now on tour as the opening act for Chase Atlantic, is an example of a TikTok artist who became known through TikTok. Her song 10 Things I Hate About You has been used in over 800,000 videos and her original TikTok with the song has over 5 million views. Furthermore, with an increase in popularity or at least notoriety comes dislike. Continuing with Leah Kate, there are multiple videos posted on TikTok of people making fun of her, her songs, and her stage presence while using her sound. Although these comments are hurtful and clearly aimed to express dislike towards the artist, we can quote Oscar Wilde when he says, “The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.” Despite the hate Leah Kate receives online, by using her sound in the video, these creators are further pushing her music and content towards virality due to how the algorithm works. Ultimately, whether good or bad, the more an artist is talked about, the more viral they become.



Moreover, it is not only up-and-coming artists who take advantage of TikTok’s algorithm and popularity. Already established artists also engage with the app to promote their songs and as they are already famous, they already have a following that will most likely engage with their content, use the sounds, and promote the songs for free. Recently Sam Smith has become increasingly popular on the app for their new song Unholy featuring Kim Petras. It has become increasingly common for both established and non-established artists to tease unreleased songs through TikTok as a way of seeing if there is hype around it and then release it. This makes the fans think they are in on the process of selecting the artist’s repertoire and thus forming a bond between them. Sam Smith used this technique when they first teased the chorus of Unholy on their TikTok page. The video currently stands at over 31 million views and the dance video Smith and Petras also posted has almost 3 million likes.



Another artist who also uses TikTok in creative ways to promote his music is Charlie Puth, who makes videos explaining the different parts he includes in a song such as the beats, the base, and the lyrics. By doing this, much like sharing snippets of the songs, he makes his audience feel as though they are in on the creative process and creates a bond with his audience.


These are some examples of how artists use TikTok to promote their music and overall, most of them are successful when doing it. Many new artists have been discovered and signed to labels through their rise in popularity on TikTok. This platform not only helps new artists express themselves and become more known but also keeps older artists within the relevance circle.

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