By Jewel Ogungbamigbe
For this generation, social media plays an important role in our lives. Who we choose to interact and engage with on these platforms can influence aspects of our personality ranging from our sense of humor, style and even the friendships we make. Considering this, it’s no surprise that many people also get their music taste from these social media platforms as well. Discovering songs or artists through social media is something that has been popular since well, the beginning of its creation.
From Myspace, to Tumblr, to Instagram, music has always had a significant role in social media throughout the decades and will continue to do so as social media continues to progress. The social media app that I will be focusing on in particular, is one that has quickly risen in popularity over recent years and that’s the app TikTok.
TikTok was first released in 2016 but didn’t gain traction in the United States until 2018. Previously the app was known as “Musical.ly” where users often danced and lip synced to songs which were then edited to be sped up. The app decided to switch over and merge into TikTok in 2018. It has since then dominated the social media market, as the app’s ability to generate short clips or videos ranging from three seconds to ten that show up on a users “for you page”, or “fyp” for short, an algorithm tailored specifically to the user’s interests, makes the app highly addicting. TikTok allows audio to accompany the videos which can be original or uploaded songs from a variety of artists. Due to this, many artists have gained popularity due to TikTok, spreading to a wider audience, especially if one of their songs becomes a trending audio.
A lot of people can discover artists through an edit on their fyp or simply by seeing somebody use it as an audio for something like showing off their outfit of the day. The possibilities on how you discover an artist that you could soon come to love on TikTok are endless. An example of this can be seen with one of my favorite indie artists, Alex G. I personally did not discover Alex G through TikTok, but I know a lot of people have, as a lot of his songs have become popular on there in the past couple years. The first Alex G song that I can recall being popular on there was “Treehouse” back in 2020 or 2021 when the song first began trending. “Treehouse” was one of his unreleased songs, as a lot of his songs that are now popular on there are, which wasn’t made available on Spotify until 2022.
Once available however, it quickly became one of his most streamed songs, with it being his second most played song, currently having a whopping 104 million plays. His first song with the most streams is unsurprisingly another song that was made popular on TikTok which is “Mary” off his album Trick which has 120 million plays. The TikTok audio that includes “Treehouse” has 91 thousand posts and “Mary” has 114 thousand posts. Some of his other songs that are popular on there are “Advice” (Trick), “Sarah” (Trick) and “Pretend” (unreleased). Some of my other favorite artists that have become popular on TikTok but not due to TikTok (that’s important, as they already have established fan bases but have had songs blow up once they reached the app) are Beach House with “Space Song”, Aphex Twin with “QKThr”, Mitski with “Washing Machine Heart” and Duster with “Inside Out”.
Of course, within any artist’s fanbase there’s going to be diehard gatekeepers who will be annoyed at newer fans of their favorite artists whom they claim they’ve been listening to since they were five but that’s to be expected. I will admit new fans can be frustrating sometimes but only when it comes to disrupting concert etiquette which seems to be an issue with younger “TikTok fans”.
I’ve seen a lot of concert footage of people going to see their favorite artists perform only to be bombarded and disrupted by rude proclaimed “fans” who will yell in between sets or when the artist is trying to perform, mosh at inappropriate times or even leave once the most popular songs from the artists have been played. Now the blame for this can’t all be put on TikTok fans as bad concert etiquette has been around long before TikTok was even a concept. But, there has seemed to be a rise in this behavior in past years since TikTok has become popular which has led people to see a correlation between the two. Fortunately, I haven’t witnessed any firsthand experiences of this behavior and I’ve gone to quite a few concerts.
A lot of artists have become famous and popular due to TikTok by self-promoting their music and having it blow up in popularity. An example of this being with PinkPanthress and Hemlocke Springs, both artists being women of color whose music have been used heavily on TikTok leading to their popularity.
Sometimes discovering an artist on TikTok can actually be a really good thing by helping support minorities such as women and people of color get their feet in the music industry which can otherwise be a very difficult thing to do. Overall TikTok has made it easier for new, rising artists to get their music reached through the use of their audios and algorithm.
In conclusion, although discovering an artist through TikTok or being a “Tik-Tok fan” can be deemed as embarrassing – it’s really not as someone always has to start somewhere and becoming a fan of an artist through TikTok doesn’t make you any less of a fan as someone who originally didn’t. I feel like a lot of people discover music through social media whether it’s from an Instagram edit or you saw somebody post about it, but TikTok’s really the only social media app where you get villainized for it, which I find interesting yet strange. Again, some TikTok fans do put a bad name out for the majority but you can’t let that bias take over as some really care about the artists just as much as any other fan, which should be the only thing that matters.
Written by: Preethi Mangadu