The Next Class of Digital Artists

Music and Influencers, The TikTok Effect, and the guy on Roblox

Welcome to Rohan’s Explorations, a semi-weekly place where I talk about creators, trends and stuff I’m paying attention to. This week I collabed with my friend Maximillian Yu, who is an A&R for a grammy-nominated record, does digital marketing for artists like Travis Scott, and manages a band called Beauty School Dropout.

Earlier this week I texted Max this TikTok baffled at the monthly streams Dixie D’Amelio was hitting, beating out some of my favorite talented artists:

Omar Apollo - 2.9M monthly listeners 

Glass Animals - 7.7M monthly listeners 

Rico Nasty - 3.2M monthly listeners 

Currently Dixie D’Amelio is at 9.6M monthly listeners. 

It’s still pretty crazy to think about, and watching the whole TikTok which includes many artists who I consider fairly large, I was confused. I mean really, who is still singing ᗷᕼᑌᗴᔕᒍYᗴᔕ … But apparently, a lot of people unironically listen to music made by influencers.

Music and Influencer’s Interesting Relationship

We can’t forget the Jake Paul 2017 Armageddon that was It's Everyday Bro, the song is at 270M+ views on Youtube and literally went platinum. 

Creators are constantly putting out music or transitioning to become artists. It’s the smart move because music is the only revenue source that can be consumed infinitely. A youtube video can only be watched so many times, a merch or collab can only be bought so often, but music is constantly playing in our ears.

Few other examples include: 

  • Tiny Meat Gang, made up of Youtube Stars Cody Ko and Noel Miller, at 1.6M monthly listeners. signed with Arista Records. 

  • jxdn, a Sway House member, at 3.1M monthly listeners. Signed to Travis Barker's label, DTA Records.

  • Kevin Creel, one of the first creators I followed making formatted content in 2018 on TikTok. Amassing around 3.1M followers he’s transitioned his other socials to promoting his music. 

We saw this with many of the Disney Channel Stars: Actors turned Musicians. Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato, Miley Cyrus, etc. Some which started out more regarded in music than others. 

Unlike conventional music artists, influencer music has stigma since a majority focus on diss tracks and comedic value.

Artists in the TikTok Generation 

In the industry, 1 billion streams was an exceptional accomplishment before the advent of TikTok. Now, if a song hits a billion streams with the assistance of TikTok we’re questioning whether the artist will have a sustainable career. Most teenagers and even us generally don’t know artists names’ or song titles but can recognize the melodies instantly.

TikTok lets artists hit unseen numbers at the price of real fans. 

Let's take a look at a few artists who’ve experienced TikTok virality and compare that song to the follow-up single.

  • Arizona Zervas now signed to Columbia Records.

  • Trevor Daniel now signed to Universal Music Group.

Note the severe drop in streams for the follow-up single for the three artists. Although Arizona Zervas’ didn’t experience as severe of a drop, his latest releases still follow the downward trend. 

Why were these Artists Signed? 

Labels value the massive fanbase these artists gained from their TikTok hit, although the challenge comes in retaining their newly acquired listeners. 

All 3 artists have the potential for long-term success and are in the early stages of developing their musical talent, stage presence, and marketability. Once assigned to a label team, an artist works with them to mature their craft. 

The golden exception to the TikTok effect is Lil Nas X. Columbia Records actioned spectacular marketing strategies, namely the Billy Ray Cyrus Remix, to boost “Old Town Road” after going viral. The label was able to A&R a great follow-up hit “PANINI”, and marketed in a clever way by releasing 4 remixes after Old Town Road helping sustain the lifespan of both the original song and Lil Nas X in the zeitgeist. 

But Lil Nas X is Also a Creator

On Twitter, sitting at 5.4M Followers, he posts memes, interacts with fans and understands the humor of the platform that ascends him beyond a typical artist. 

For his Roblox Concert, (which garnered 33M views) Lil Nas X took to TikTok to make a bunch of content getting over a million views each. Calling himself “the guy from Roblox”, strategically dueting fans’ videos, and following along trends that dictate the platform. 

Lil Nas X has something that some deem impossible to teach and what whole social teams are jealous of - he’s able to convert virality into true fans.

The Creator/Musician Hybrid

For the three TikTok artists we mentioned, their socials on all platforms are pretty inactive. They aren’t telling me new stories, interacting with fans or even fighting for my attention. At most, they simply announce a new project or thank their fans for stream numbers. 

This isn’t their fault, not everyone has the ability or wants to be both entertainers and create exceptional music, but those that can will outshine the rest.

The job of an influencer, who writes, directs, films, edits, and posts their own content falls on to the conventional artists who is already writing, recording, producing their own music.

A few examples include:

  • lilaltoid, sitting at 726K followers on TikTok and who recently won Lil Yatchy’s Coffin freestyle challenge, besides his rap verses he’s uploading a mix of trending sounds and general comedy. 

  • mxmtoon, at 2.4M followers and been making TikTok’s since 2018 following trends.

  • Coveysux, at 1.8M followers with a series explaining each character on his album cover.

Even traditional artists are realizing this. Take a look at Jason Derulo, Charlie Puth, and Lil Yatchy who are constantly interacting with fans and trends on platforms like TikTok. 

Our Predictions

  • TikTok Will Continue to Mold Music. (for better or for worse). TikTok artists will prioritize writing snappy lyrics and infectious melodies that compliment short videos.

  • More Creator Music. More conventional creators will release music resulting in less stigma associated with influencer music.

  • The Creator/Musician Hybrid. More artists who blow up on TikTok will successfully build digital presences, resulting in a new class of digital-first artists.

Thanks for reading Rohan’s Explorations, a semi-weekly place where I talk about creators, trends and stuff I’m paying attention to. This week I collabed with my friend Maximillian Yu, you can follow him on Twitter here

If you’ve made it this far, I’d love for you to email me back your thoughts and/or things you’re also paying attention to. Or you can share this post with someone cool :’)


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