Can an artist be successful today without TikTok?

For this, just a video posted by a TikTok user was enough to remove a song over ten years old: “Bloody Mary”, the eighth title of the album Born on This Road by Lady Gaga. In 2011, it was not released as a single, then it was ignored by the general public. However, it’s this music that’s a new hit on the platform, thanks to a montage video of him dancing to a sped-up version of his character from the Tim Burton-directed series of the same name, which hit Netflix on Wednesday. bloody mary.

Like Kim Kardashian with her 9-year-old daughter, this dance, which has become a new element of pop culture, is now being tried by everyone. Counters have been panicking over Lady Gaga’s song ever since this TikTok secret buzz. More than 2 million listens on Spotify just counted. The title was also the most searched for on Shazam. The icing on the cake was that radio stations decided to broadcast it on their antennas.

“This is one of the biggest positives of TikTok: some old songs can return to the charts with purely organic success”, explains Khal Ali, a content creator and keen observer of the music industry. “All it takes is one edit, one video and the song goes viral. We had many such examples. What happened with Kate Bush’s Running Up that Hill was pretty crazy. It’s a song that’s almost forty years old and still manages to get back to number one on the charts!”

A (almost) mandatory pass for artists

The viral power of TikTok is undeniable. It seems like a must for artists to be present on this social network. Sometimes, despite themselves, they have to follow the game of this platform with more than a billion users. “I wouldn’t say it’s impossible for an artist to work without TikTok, but it can be very difficult to establish yourself in the music industry without using it.”, Aunt Ali says. “Some artists, like Charlie Puth, for example, have clearly used it to boost their careers.”

Can artists afford not to play a Chinese platformer? “If you’re an artist and you’re not on TikTok, tags will definitely encourage you to sign up and post videos”Sarah Gaessler of the Guild of Music Artists (GAM), which supports artists in their digital strategy, explains.

“Before we sign you, we’ll see if you have subscribers or if you’ve already created a talked about title on the platform.”

Sarah Gaessler, a member of the Music Artists Guild

Today, labels are well aware of the incredible power of TikTok and do not hesitate to let their artists know about it. “They’ll generally try to build a whole story around their artist, often with videos that are ‘heavy’ shot, but the aesthetic is eventually refined enough.”Khal underlines Ali.

Already established artists are thus encouraged to produce more videos on a regular basis. Ed Sheeran or Florence Welch did not hesitate to express their wishes in the face of the insistence of their respective labels. On the other hand, for those who have yet to introduce themselves, TikTok has become almost mandatory.

“Before we sign you today, we’ll clearly see if you have subscribers or if you’ve already created a talked about title on the platform,” Sarah Gaessler explains. “We will finally judge artists not by their art, but by statistics. It also becomes a way for labels to minimize the risk they take on an artist.

An undisputed power over the music industry

In many cases, the platform has demonstrated its power by topping the charts. For emerging artists, TikTok becomes a great opportunity to find a place in the music industry without going through traditional structures.

“Me, I’m very comfortable with networks and I know it’s a chance”, explains St. Grail, an artist whose career exploded with the social network. During his incarceration, he regularly posted content on the social network until one of his songs, “Les Dauphins,” suddenly caused a stir. “I got a million views in one day! It was crazy because I didn’t plan on releasing this music. There was a lot of interest around this title. The enthusiasm is such that several music labels are contacting him in the process.

“For me, after this success, I had to choose a label that wasn’t just looking for someone who worked on TikTok.” St. Graal now has nearly 6 million views and over 200,000 subscribers on the platform. “It was important for me to continue to produce my videos on my own so as not to damage the relationship with my subscribers.”

Spontaneity 2.0

If spontaneity is the key word in TikTok, the social network is no stranger to marketing, its strings are sometimes so visible that some users do not hesitate to point the finger at them. In one of her videos, Sarah Gaessler, for example, breaks down her communication around one of the singer Angela’s titles.

In less than a month, the Belgian artist posted a video revealing his desire to create a title, then wrote the track, directed the music video… and even developed a merch around the song. “Angèle plays closely with her subscribers and makes them think that she wants to include them in the creative process. But for me it’s just a marketing strategy.”, comments by Sarah Gaessler.“It’s quite complicated for me to do all this in such a short period of time, and when it’s shown to the fans, like me, it can sometimes hurt them.”

Even when success knocks on TikTok, the work is just getting started.

The Chinese platform will also affect the formatting of music. “The artist in the studio is clearly influenced by TikTok, which adjusts and improves the structure of the songs that work”, Khal Ali explains. “A user’s attention span on TikTok is estimated to be eight seconds, compared to other platforms where it can be thirteen seconds.”

Many titles – like Lady Gaga – have thus been remixed into “speeded-up” versions of music that users love, where the BPMs go crazy. “We will have shorter and shorter songs – two and a half minutes maximum on TikTok – and artists who are no longer afraid to release albums under thirty minutes.

From success on TikTok to success in theaters

In the TikTok game, artists have to be smart not to lock themselves into their image and bring their artistic creations back to the fore. “I was once considered an influencer”, The Holy Grail explains. “At first I was doing a lot of humor and I left it to do more serious things and showcase my music.”

According to Khal Ali, the pressure of labels also explains the need for artists to sell their image. “Due to their desire to create success organically, labels no longer create artists, but influencers.” For artists, the workload of posting on TikTok can sometimes become so heavy that it takes precedence over creation.

“When you’re an artist, it’s recommended to post one TikTok a day”Sarah Gaesser explains. “It can slow down your creativity at some point because it’s a lot of work… Artists playing the game, posting regularly, and not being able to cope also has a bad effect. It can give them the impression that we don’t understand their art or that their music isn’t good enough. “They can really destabilize.”

Despite the very low revenue generated by the number of views on the social network, artists still jump on it in hopes of becoming the next “trend” that users engage with. But even when success knocks on TikTok, the work is just getting started. Because social network virality doesn’t always translate into listening on streaming platforms, much less concert ticket sales.

“Success from my side was felt in the auditions that were broadcast afterwards, which is a great luck”, The Holy Grail explains. “But now I hope to fill the hall for my next concert!” For the artist, his transition, scheduled for January 17 at the Boule Noire in Paris, will be a baptism of fire. And the first meeting with the audience, this time without a screen.

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