Until it's banned. Then what?!? Back to text on Threads?
In an era where social media is a launchpad for budding artists, TikTok has become a treasure trove for discovering exciting new talent. While big names like Lil Nas X, Doja Cat, and Jack Harlow have skyrocketed to fame through the platform, there's a world of lesser-known, yet equally remarkable musicians waiting to be uncovered.
In this article, we'll introduce you to a handpicked selection of these hidden gems, shining a light on their stories and the innovative ways they've harnessed TikTok to build a loyal fanbase, often overnight. Covering a diverse range of genres, these artists demonstrate that TikTok is a breeding ground for musical creativity.
If you want to go viral as a TikTok musician, taking notes from these overnight sensations can help you develop your own successful TikTok music campaign!
Marketing Without Money
How Independent Musicians are Thriving on TikTok's Budget-Friendly Platform
In contrast to YouTube, where creators invest considerable time and effort scripting and producing content, TikTok has ushered in a new wave of creativity by allowing everyday users to produce engaging content within minutes. This lightning-fast platform caters not only to short, catchy videos but also serves as a stage for both original music and current trending tracks.
The true charm of TikTok lies in its accessibility and budget-friendly nature, opening doors for musicians who no longer need to rely on expensive marketing plans or record label contracts to find success. This democratization of the music industry is revolutionizing the way artists can connect with audiences and build their careers.
In this article, we'll dive into the fascinating stories of a few talented artists who have defied the odds and made it big, all by harnessing the power of TikTok. They are proof that determination and the right platform can propel anyone to stardom.
The band Beach Bunny started off as a solo project by front woman Lili Trifilio, in Chicago in 2015, and is a testament to the transformative power of TikTok. Trifilio spent years honing her craft and refining her sound, but it wasn't until 2019 that Beach Bunny skyrocketed to fame, thanks to the platform's viral nature. Their infectious indie-pop tunes, combined with relatable lyrics and an undeniable stage presence, struck a chord with TikTok users, propelling the band into the spotlight
Their surge to popularity led to increased demand for their music, resulting in sold-out shows and a rapidly expanding fanbase. This meteoric rise on TikTok not only underscores the platform's potential for discovering and promoting talent but also highlights how social media is reshaping the way artists can connect with audiences and build a sustainable career in the music industry.
But how did this 26 year old guitar, lyricist, and songwriter make it happen?
Their EP song “Prom Queen” became popular after being released for a little over a year. Trifilio unaware at the time, found out from a close friend that the song was going viral on TikTok, due to the song’s commentary greatly resonating with TikTok users. The lyrics revolved around the pressures young women have today by having to adhere to impossible beauty standards. The song was heavily duetted and lip synced by content creators, further increasing its reach. The popularity of the track quickly turned into millions of new Spotify streams as well, all while the band worked on their debut album, Honeymoon, which was released in February 2020.
TikTok perhaps wouldn’t be the same place without Jack Stauber’s two hits that we all know and love. Before his viral hits, Stauber was primarily known by his quirky YouTube videos, edited in the style of 80s and 90s VHS videos. Despite all of the work he had put into his initial first two albums, he still hadn't made his way into the spotlight. It wasn’t until the release of his third, experimental pop, lo-fi album, “Pop Flood", that he actually went viral. The album's first two tracks “Buttercup and “Oh Klahoma”, both become staples of TikTok culture, being used widely on the platform for all kinds of skits, memes and TikTok challenges.
As of February 2023, the song boasts 375 million Spotify streams. Despite no official music video being made, the upbeat dramatic pop-song with Panda Bear-esque vocals, has still captured the imaginations of internet users. YouTuber Lisuga used it to make a popular fan-made video with clips from a Japanese anime short film, Kick-Heart, and garnered over 230 million views...
Many popular creators have used the sound as part of their content. If you've spent much time on TikTok, you've likely come across a video with this song as its background.
With one hit song under their belt, the next one, “Oh Klahoma” become famous for being used as the background sound to the #ghostphotoshoot challenge. The challenge had TikTokers dress in white sheets and take photoshoots as ghosts during Halloween, usually paired with sunglasses and other accessories. The challenge also had participants carving pumpkin heads and wearing them while playing the same song, revitalizing it’s popularity even after the Halloween season had past.
Stauber’s success online opened many new doors, most notably the collaboration with Adult Swim on two large, animated projects: "Opal" and “Shop: A Pop Opera”. This is what Stauber was most excited to be part of, having been animating for years on YouTube which is how he originally amassed his loyal following. The most notable aspect of Jack’s songs was the fact that the internet challenges and memes were also produced and practiced outside of TikTok, especially on Twitter.
Stauber's popularity is also an important lesson in how going viral doesn't always work out for the best. Oh Klahoma may have propelled his popularity on the internet, but it also garnered criticism and backlash, as some people commented that the sheets worn in the Oh Klahoma videos resemble those worn by members of the KKK.
Powfu's meteoric rise to fame with his hit song "Death Bed" may seem like a stroke of brilliant timing and serendipity, but behind the scenes lies a story of hard work and determination. The track took the world by storm, amassing an astonishing 4.1 billion plays on TikTok in March 2020 alone and catapulting the young artist into the limelight. With over 1.39 billion Spotify streams to date, Powfu swiftly secured a major record deal, making his mark on the music scene.
However, the road to success wasn't without its challenges. Powfu, whose real name is Isaiah Faber, spent years cultivating a dedicated fanbase on SoundCloud, where he experimented with lo-fi hip-hop beats and introspective lyrics, drawing inspiration from artists like Joji and Billie Eilish. It was this unwavering commitment to his craft that laid the foundation for his eventual triumph on TikTok.
When Powfu finally uploaded "Death Bed" to TikTok, the heartfelt, catchy tune resonated with users worldwide, resulting in an avalanche of creative interpretations and tributes. The song's unique blend of melancholy and vulnerability struck a chord with listeners, propelling Powfu to international stardom. His journey is a testament to the power of perseverance and the ever-evolving landscape of the music industry, where social media platforms like TikTok continue to redefine the rules of the game.
Another on our list is Sub Urban, a rising talent in the alternative music scene, that's managed to captivate audiences with their eerie, yet enthralling sound. Known for their atmospheric beats and haunting lyrics, the artist has quickly carved a niche for themselves within the TikTok community.
Blowing up almost overnight with their creepy track “Cradles”, a song that became a top viral dance track. Thanks to the style of dance that was used, reminiscent of the Fortnight’s emote style jigs, it quickly grabbed the attention of TikTok's younger users. Although their sound doesn’t fit with all TikTok users, Sub Urban was still able to amass a loyal following of alt-fans who dig the dark tone of their songs.
A captivating trio from Illinois, Avenue Beat has been making waves in the music industry with their innovative sound and heartfelt lyrics. Comprised of Sami Bearden, Savana Santos, and Sam Backoff, these lifelong friends have been creating music together since their early teens, blending pop, country, and R&B elements to forge their own distinctive style.
Their big break came when they released “F2020”, a creative song that went viral for giving the year of 2020 a big fat middle finger. Their song encapsulated the world’s feeling about the COVID lockdown, having no money, and hoping 2021 will be a better year.
Curtis Waters, a talented and charismatic artist, has been captivating listeners with his genre-defying sound and relatable lyrics. His journey as a musician began at a young age, and he continued to experiment with various styles, ultimately creating a unique fusion of pop, hip-hop, and indie elements. Despite facing challenges along the way, Curtis persevered, honing his craft and developing a distinct sound that would eventually lead to his breakout moment.
This young artist's rise to fame is a testament to the power of creativity and determination. With humble beginnings and a DIY approach, Curtis Waters managed to create a viral sensation that would catapult him to TikTok stardom.
It started off as just a song with a green screen in his garage. And yet Curtis Waters has become a hit on TikTok with the song “Stunnin”. It blew up on TikTok for the “What I’d Wear if…” challenge, where TikTokers would share their quarantine outfits.
Fun Fact: Curtis Waters is the first Nepal-born musician to attain international success.
Ricky Montgomery, a talented singer-songwriter, has faced his fair share of challenges on the road to success. With an unwavering passion for music, he started The Honeysticks as a platform to explore new sounds and styles. Despite his dedication, Montgomery's journey was not without its struggles.
He founded The Honeysticks primarily to experiment musically. With a solo album already under his belt in 2016, and very little profit to show for it, he then took 2018 off from making music to try to generate more income. By 2020, he was ready to throw in the towel when to his surprise, during the COVID-19 pandemic, his two singles “Mr Loverman” and “Line Without a Hook” went viral on TikTok. This explosion in popularity had him being hounded by essentially every major label that year. He finally cut a deal with Warner Records. The songs reflect the traumas he's experienced in his own life, and he believes their popularity are largely due to listeners being able to relate to them, being released during such a traumatizing year.
Montgomery's story is a testament to the power of resilience and the impact of social media on the music industry. His ability to connect with listeners during a difficult time highlights the importance of authenticity and vulnerability in art. With a newfound following and a record deal in hand, Ricky Montgomery has emerged as a rising star, ready to share his unique voice with the world.
How to Go Viral on TikTok
If you're a musician considering using TikTok as a platform to try to garner success. It's important to remember that songs don’t become trendy with ease. It takes collaboration, planning, strategy, and a lot of effort to get there. Here are a important few steps to help you get started:
1. Craft Your Unique Sound
As a musician, it's essential to develop your distinct style that sets you apart from the crowd. Experiment with different genres and sounds, and don't be afraid to push the boundaries of your creativity.
2. Engage with Your Audience
TikTok is all about interaction and building connections with your followers. Respond to comments, collaborate with other artists, and participate in trending challenges to foster a sense of community around your music.
3. Optimize Your Content
Pay attention to the platform's algorithms and preferences. Use relevant hashtags, select the right music categories, and post during peak engagement hours to maximize your content's visibility.
4. Be Consistent and Persistent
Consistency is key to building a loyal fanbase on TikTok. Post regularly, stay true to your artistic vision, and continue refining your craft. Remember, going viral often requires patience and persistence, so don't give up on your dream.
It may sound daunting, but try to reach out to some successful influencers, ask to collaborate with them, and pitch your ideas to possibly create a new trend of your own. Appearing alongside others that have already gained popularity on the platform can help propel you fast!
And keep in mind that even well known names like Drake, have to form some kind of marketing plan to get their songs popular on TikTok. Drake did just that with his song “Do You Love Me”, creating the Keke Challenge, where TikTokers would dance along to a moving car, while filming a passenger from the side door. The trend was immensely popular, but it did unfortunately receive a huge backlash from the police, warning participants about multiple people being injured from attempting the viral dance.
Achieving viral status takes a combination of hard work, determination, and a touch of serendipity. The key to success for these viral sensations lies in their unwavering commitment to their artistic vision. Despite the challenges they faced, these musicians persevered, ultimately making their dreams a reality. So, whether you're a budding artist or pursuing other passions, remember to stay tenacious and resilient in the face of obstacles, because you never know when your moment to shine will come.
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somehow i know all of these songs but none of the names
wasnt bieber on tiktok or was that you tube? and what about jax??
Yep Bieber got noticed on YouTube. Jax has done well on TikTok, but I believe started on American Idol.
Powfu is FIRE!!!!!!! it gets cold sometimes ay yea ya :D