TikTok: The Way Forward For Independent Artists?

TikTok (formally known as Musical.ly) was established in 2016 and took over the number one spot in short form video after Vine shut down in early 2017. TikTok contains all sorts of short videos such as days in the life, short video lessons and life hacks, song covers and funny dances; the aim of the game is to gain enough popularity to end up on everyone’s “for you” pages and then go viral with the popularity of a video primarily measured by the amount of interactions such as comments, likes and shares instead of the standard watch time like previous apps.

Since it’s surge in popularity it has become the go-to place for unsigned artists to showcase their music. If a song becomes popular enough it tends to get used as a sound in other creator’s videos, an example of this is 17 year old former American Idol contestant Lauren Spencer-Smith who went viral with her cover of Olivia Rodrigo’s “All I Want.”

The latest success story is that of Scottish postman Nathan Evans, he recorded a piece of music known as a “Sea Shanty” (think songs like Drunken Sailor) which went so viral that it ended up in the UK charts. Evans has since quit his job as a postie and landed himself a record deal with Universal’s Polydor Records.

Nathan Evans viral sea shanty “The Wellerman”

Seeing all of these super talented artists reach stardom through TikTok made me think that maybe this is the new way of attracting the attention of not only the wider public but of those higher ups in the music industry. Of course this isn’t the first time a talented musician has the internet to thank for their big break — Justin Bieber was discovered on Youtube!

It also makes me wonder whether independent artists will need a label to reach the charts and become successful. With apps like TikTok making access to a large audience so easy, they can reach new heights never seen before if they want it bad enough. I have personally discovered some great musicians and singers on the app by simply scrolling through my for you page!

Another great element of TikTok is the duet or react feature that allows you to share and collaborate with other performers or creators on the app. This makes the creation of a virtual project easier than ever which has been perfect whilst we’ve been in lockdown. I’ve seen people duetting well known artists like Ed Sheeran and Nile Rogers recently which is something most hard-working musicians could merely dream of before now.

So, I end this article with a simple question: Is TikTok the way forward for independent artists and the music industry in general? or is it going to be another phenomenon that has its time at the top and dies out? Like a one hit wonder.

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Gary Cunningham

Gary Cunningham

Musician | Music Educator | Brand Founder | Music Education Advocate