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The UltraViolet

Marlborough School Student Newspaper
The Student News Site of Marlborough School

The UltraViolet

The Student News Site of Marlborough School

The UltraViolet

To kill a mocking-book
To kill a mocking-book
February 21, 2024

Finding fame through TikTok

Finding+fame+through+TikTok
Dinah

Whether or not you are an avid social media user, you have probably heard of TikTok, a platform that has recently accrued 1 billion monthly users. Since its creation in 2016, the app has given artists a platform to gain popularity through a specialized algorithm and large amounts of global exposure, resulting in the addition of new artists onto the Billboard charts. 

As stated in a Business Insider article, TikTok is changing the music industry entirely. It has become the go-to platform for people to discover new music and one of the fastest and most successful ways for artists to gain attention from music labels and break into the music scene without any previous experience. Novice artists can record music in a studio or in their own bedrooms, often without needing to copyright it. Artists can gain an initial following by hosting livestream music performances, sharing biographies as a way to connect with audiences from all over the world and reposting user content that engages with their music. They can then curate their own sound with similar rhythms, melodies and lyrics as their first viral song to replicate the original success. 

One of the most noteworthy examples of the sudden rise of musical success through TikTok is Lil Nas X. His song “Old Town Road”  became widely popular in 2019 and he quickly rose to fame due to a viral TikTok dance that was performed to the song. Users participating in this dance used the “Yeehaw Challenge” hashtag to promote their videos, which also helped popularize Lil Nas X’s music and placed him in the longest-held No. 1 spot on the Billboard charts, where he remained for 19 consecutive weeks. The pattern of dance trends and hashtags immensely boosting the careers of artists has continued, as seen by the rise of  Doja Cat’s song 

“Say So,” Olivia Rodrigo’s song “Get Him Back!” and Megan Thee Stallion’s song “Savage.” Many members of TikTok’s diverse audience are involved in the music industry. For example,  some users view videos on the app solely for the musical content, including record labels and industry professionals who monitor videos in search of emerging artists and new talent. Further, when dances and sounds go viral on TikTok, they are featured on many users’ For You Pages. Exposure on the For You Page has led to increased downloads and streams of an artist’s song on other music platforms. As explained by TikTok Newsroom, 67% of TikTok users are more inclined to search for a song on a streaming platform, such as Spotify or Apple Music, after hearing it on TikTok. 

TikTok Newsroom also mentioned that users are helping to generate artist revenue on and off the platform.  On TikTok, royalties are an essential part of the  benefits that come with going viral as a musical artist. As a musician, you are paid royalties based on how many people create videos using your sound, as well as the amount of views these videos get once they are published. To increase views, many artists on TikTok engage with videos that have used their sounds, often reposting or commenting on them using their own accounts. Some artists, such as Olivia Rodrigo, even create dances to go along with their songs to increase user engagement, which has a direct impact on an artist’s success. Outside of the app, 38% of TikTok users attended a live event and 45% bought merchandise for an artist they discovered on the app, compared to 33% and 35% of overall music listeners, respectively. 

TikTok uses an algorithm to specifically curate videos that it thinks the user will be interested in. It assembles these videos on each user’s For You Page, which serves as a source for discovering new content that is similar to videos with which the user has previously interacted. By increasing exposure to creators’ videos, the algorithm allows songs to quickly gain popularity as the number of users who like, view and share the video increases. 

Artist gets a boost on TikTok 

Musician Sheena Melwani has amassed a following of 9.5 million on TikTok, after initially attempting to establish her music career through Facebook. She recently attained 3,600 monthly listeners on her debut album entitled “Find Your Happy” and became a verified Spotify artist in 2022. Her passion for music, however, surfaced long before her online success. 

In 2020, amid the pandemic, Melwani used the time away from her corporate job to explore her love for singing and songwriting.She recorded and posted live covers of songs and comedy segments on Facebook. Melwani described this experience as a way to express herself and connect with her followers by taking their suggestions on her music.

“Music has always been one of those things that made me feel connected,” Melwani said. “I would go on Facebook, I would do these live shows and I was almost like a human jukebox.” 

Melwani’s following began as a group of roughly 12-15 people. As she continued recording renditions of pop songs and posting more content, her audience grew. In May 2020, while filming a video for TikTok, Melwani captured a scene of her and her husband joking around about one of the lyrics of a cover song. Her audience loved the genuineness of this video, which soon went viral on TikTok, leading Melwani’s account to gain exponential popularity. 

“People enjoy laughter,” Melwani said. “People enjoy watching moments of authentic, real, genuine interaction — that’s how we’ve found success online. It’s just being as authentic and real as we possibly can. So, I put [the video] up there, and it went viral, and that’s how I got my start.” 

With her newfound TikTok platform and growing community, Melwani released her first EP, “Find Your Happy,” on Oct. 21, 2022. Similar to the rest of her content, her songs were geared toward sharing her personal experiences and celebrating the little joys of life. 

She posted TikTok videos about her “behind the scenes” music process, furthering this intimate connection with her followers. Additionally, Melwani shared her recording process in the studio, content from her live concerts and snapshots of herself brainstorming lyrics.

“[We] also just shared the essence of the stories behind why I wrote them,” Melwani said. “People really connected with those stories.”

Currently, Melwani has reached a growing number of 239,121 streams on her song “Better” and 129,766 streams on her song “Find Your Happy.” She has been named one of the upcoming “Mainstream Pop Genre Artists” by Spotify.

“I have to say, social media has helped me tremendously,” Melwani said. “[It] has been very welcoming to know more about my journey.”

Now, Melwani is continuing to make music, share her experiences and post comedic content on various social media platforms. She is currently working on a project with Bose, a headphone and speaker company, which will shed light on women in the music industry. Melwani hopes to continue connecting with her followers and sharing a genuine lens into her life through her singing and writing. 

“[Music] is not necessarily about becoming the most famous singer out there,” Melwani said.  “It’s about making the most connections as I possibly can … and so I have this platform, and I love what I get to do. I love that I joke around and that we take things really lightly and that I get to spread joy.”

Marlborough students reflect 

Like Melwani, there are other music artists who have found their fame on online platforms and, specifically, through TikTok. The influx of artists emerging on social media has sparked much conversation about the evolving music landscape, particularly among younger generations.

Because 25% of TikTok users are below the age of 19, TikTok musicians are typically creating content for a young target audience. Thus, the younger generations have been heavily involved in the changing online music atmosphere.

A survey was sent out to the Marlborough student body to evaluate how social media has generally affected younger audiences and their exposure to new music and creators. A majority of students responded with positive feedback. 

78% of the 53 respondents noted that they use TikTok and other social media platforms for the purpose of exploring new music, and 62% of respondents claimed that, because of such platforms, they have discovered some of their favorite artists and songs. 

“I have found artists like Sarah Jung, Olivia Rodrigo, Gayle [and] Sabrina Carpenter,” an anon

now if it wasn’t for social media, I wouldn’t know much about them.”

On the other hand, many students have noted that while social media can offer an avenue to learn about new music and underground artists, it can also take away from the value of some songs. 

“Social media can ruin a song because it gets overplayed,” one student said. “It makes the song less magical and harder to listen to because you constantly hear it.”

Additionally, many respondents discussed accessibility and the opportunity that social media has offered to those interested in music production, such as influencers and emerging artists. Although only 10.2% of students have shared that they have personal experience using social media to share their own music, some students have opinions on social media as a way to gain success in the music industry. 

“[Social media] has introduced more music producers into the world and people who didn’t or were scared to share their music before have more reliable and accessible ways to do so,” an anonymous student said.

Marlborough students have varying opinions as to whether or not artists who have found success on TikTok should be considered real music artists. Many respondents touch on the difficulty of maintaining the success as a newer artist with an initial breakthrough.

“I think they are [real music artists], but it is not as efficient if they only become viral for one song,” a survey respondent said. “They usually struggle to become popular again after their 10 minutes of fame.” 

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