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Short-form social video app TikTok iscultivating an emerging class of musical artists, chiefly rappers, who are using the platform to promote their music, per The Ringer. When their songs catch on among users, they can go viral across the app, spurring a wave of content creation from among TikTok’s largely teen legion — and even propel the artists to fame.
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TikTok is becoming a promotional and kingmaking vehicle that can surface and boost emerging talent. TikTok has a challenge-driven culture, in which users make videos that attempt the same feat, usually to the same song. Once a trend or song takes hold in the community, thousands of TikTokers will follow suit, which can drive a particular song or theme rapidly to the top of platform mindshare.
That behavior creates a positive feedback loop for creators who manage to strike a nerve: If a creator’s song takes hold, it organically spawns a massive sea of various user-generated iterations, enabling a single piece of content to endlessly proliferate.
The most famous recent instance of this chain reaction has been Lil Nas X, a rapper whose country trap song “Old Town Road” TikTok users sampled in 15-second challenge videos. Excitement around the song eventually spilled over from the app and drove the song to the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Lil Nas X now has 44.1 million monthly listeners on Spotify, and the original “Old Town Road” has racked up 358.4 million total streams on that platform alone, as of yesterday.
This behavior enriches TikTok, but the app is unlikely to retain all — or even a bulk of — the engagement these artists drive, given its limitations as a platform. If more creators start using TikTok as an original launchpad for their music, that would likely make TikTok even more compelling and engaging.
But even if TikTok can help an emerging musical talent to go viral and find audience, it’s unlikely that being a TikTok star is the end game for musical talent. Once they achieve viral fame on TikTok, many are likely to distribute their songs to other platforms like Spotify and YouTube where they can gain greater real-world traction.
And they’ll likely look to other platforms like Twitter and Instagram to engage with fans in more direct ways than TikTok allows: Lil Nas X has 1.56 million Twitter followers as of yesterday, for instance.
Instead, TikTok could drive a wave of attention to a range of other platforms, invigorating the health of the ecosystem as a whole. Although creators may have their origins in one platform, it’s in their best interest to diversify to extend their reach.
As such, if a creator achieves fame via TikTok, their popularity will drive users to other platforms in a way that lifts all boats. TikTok videos are already occupying other social platforms, where users share compilations of favorites on Instagram Stories, Twitter, and YouTube. As a result, any engagement that happens on TikTok could symbiotically drive growth across Spotify, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook.
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