TikTok Brings Sucess to Young Artists


Maya Karkhanis, Staff Writer

Like many other teenagers in lockdown, I downloaded TikTok in the spring of 2020 as a way to ease the boredom of quarantine. Similar to other forms of social media, TikTok shows you content based on other posts that you have interacted with, an endless stream of videos that are displayed on an aptly-titled “For You Page.” I quickly realized that there were videos for almost everyone on the app, including myself. In particular, I found myself increasingly attracted to the music the platform had to offer. Once I began interacting with musicians and their songs, I soon began to notice more and more music-related posts popping up on my feed. Though a large percentage of these creators were young, some of their videos were getting hundreds of thousands or sometimes millions of likes. I noticed a pattern with the artists I began to follow. A song would do extremely well, the comment section would fill up with fans harassing them to upload it to a streaming service, and the artist, most of the time, was able to oblige. 

In order to better understand how young artists have been using TikTok, I interviewed six different creators on TikTok, all of which who have both gained an impressive amount of attention on the app and have either uploaded or are in the process of uploading their songs on other platforms to reach an audience beyond the For You Page. 

Many of these artists had similar experiences as to how they gained attention on TikTok: a viral video that resulted in them either releasing the featured song on a streaming platform or using the app more consistently as artists and songwriters to continue gaining traction. These artists, despite some of them having been playing and creating music since a young age, still found themselves shocked when they received this burst of attention. Taylor Bickett, a 21-year-old musician and songwriter based in Nashville, Tenn., said that even though some earlier videos of hers had done well on TikTok, the first original song that she had go viral was still a surprise. 

“It was crazy, I never felt anything like that,” Bickett said.

Madeline Malekos, a 16-year-old musician and writer from California, had a similar reaction to her newfound success on the app. 

“I wasn’t putting [music] on [the app] to get viral or anything, I put my music up because it’s something I made and I was proud of,” Malekos said.

After a breakthrough in her music, which she often works on with her father, Malekos uploaded her song “Wanna Go On A Date,” which went viral. “Dating the Villian,” one of her biggest songs on the app, was composed more casually but still received lots of positive attention. While Malekos feels lucky and excited by her newfound fame, she, like many other artists, wants to be proud of all the music she releases on the app so that she feels like she deserves the attention she is getting.

Despite their success, these artists face significant challenges in navigating TikTok. 

The song Bickett uploaded with viral success, “Break My Own,” was recently released on Spotify. With all of the newfound attention that it has brought about, however, Bickett is making sure to keep herself grounded and focused on her work rather than getting obsessed with the numbers of TikTok. This is not an easy feat, however, as the app clearly shows how many followers someone has, how many likes their videos are getting and how many times they have been viewed. Bickett commented that one of the biggest challenges with TikTok was “getting down on yourself about the way the videos do,” as some videos that she works particularly hard on might not do as well as expected. This sentiment was echoed by Kaylee Federmann, a 20-year-old songwriter from Boston, who explained that focusing too much on the way videos may perform is among the challenges she faces while releasing music on the app,

“I would say that the challenge is knowing when to stop. Sometimes you can make a lot of content and be like ‘I worked really hard on this content but it didn’t do well, and I did nothing to this other content and it did really well.’ You can kind of make yourself go crazy,” Federmann said. 

Federmann also stressed the importance of being authentic and focusing on the music more than the success she may gain from the app. TikTok favors creators whose videos are watched in their entirety, and with the post limit being 60 seconds, artists need to capture the audience’s attention quickly.

Jayden Palmer, a 19-year-old artist from Tennessee, whose song “HOODIES” was recently released after success on TikTok, found that working within TikTok’s algorithm can be stressful.

“Just like any other platform, I’ve faced a lot of creative burnout. The algorithm can be really tricky at times and is constantly changing. It’s hard to tell whether a video isn’t performing well because it sucks or if it was just never picked up by the algorithm,” Palmer said.

Another young artist, Cabeau Schuerger, is a 21-year-old who is interested in music production but actually got his fame on TikTok from uploading a pop-punk-inspired cover of Taylor Swift’s recent song, “Betty,” off of her 2020 album, Folklore. Schuerger noted that one of the biggest challenges he faces on the app is capturing the feel of a song, such as a catchy intro, all within TikTok’s time limit. However, he looks at it as a challenge rather than a barrier. 

Despite the difficulties that come with creating on an app like Tik Tok, many musical artists have found that the platform ultimately helps them along the road towards a larger music career. Sophie May, a 22-year-old songwriter from London, even remarked how the app can be an efficient way to test out songs.

“[You] have a lot of control with it … it’s crazy how much reach you have with it,” May said.

Palmer agreed with this sentiment, saying that Watching how people react is a great way to find what songs are wanted and should be finished.”

With all of the obstacles that come with TikTok, all of the artists I spoke to decided that they will continue using the app in addition to releasing music and other projects outside of it. 

“I think the good outweighs the bad, and that’s why I continue to do it,” Malekos said. Despite the likes, attention and views, it is the love of the craft that keeps these artists going.