How Far We’ve Come: How One Musician Became A Star On TikTok

from the changing-world dept

There was recently an absolutely fascinating episode of the NPR podcast Planet Money, all about how Tai Verdes became a pop star. It actually appears to be a rerun of a different podcast, called Switched On Pop, which originally ran back in December of last year, but I first heard it on Planet Money. The story covers how he became massively popular while he was still working in a Verizon store.

But the thing that struck me as much more interesting is listening to it and realizing just how much the world of becoming a pop star has changed in the last two decades. Two decades ago, the recording industry still insisted that the internet’s only purpose was to destroy the “music industry” (they meant the recording industry, but they like to mix up the two). They freaked out at the idea of anyone anywhere ever giving away any music for free, and whined that those who experimented with giving stuff away for free “devalued” the music.

Slowly, but surely, the industry has been dragged into the internet era (still kicking and screaming, and demanding things like surveillance upload filters). But the story of Verdes was fun to listen to in showing just how different things are. The record labels are no longer the gatekeepers they once were. Verdes can now partner with them, as he is, but it appears to be much more on his own terms, rather than theirs. That wasn’t even remotely possible until recently.

Verdes notes in the interview that he basically set out to become a pop star, and explored how best to use social media to do so. He went searching for beats he could license on YouTube. He found some great ones that he could pair with clever arranging and ridiculously catchy lyrics, and then tried to spread the music everywhere he could — with a focus on TikTok (and then Spotify). And it worked. He notes, of course, that this (1) obviously doesn’t work for everyone, and (2) the market is always changing and new services can become more or less important over time.

But either way, it’s a notable story if only to compare just how far the industry has come in these past few decades, from a world in which the giant labels were the full on gatekeepers and tastemakers, and most people in Tai’s position who wanted to become pop stars would be completely out of luck, no matter what they did on their own. But now, it’s possible for someone with his talent to build a following and have the record labels coming to him, trying to partner with him (rather than control him).

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Companies: tiktok

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Comments on “How Far We’ve Come: How One Musician Became A Star On TikTok”

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Samuel Abram (profile) says:

What's also great about nowadays…

Is that you could publish your tunes as a vanity project even if you don’t expect anybody to listen to them, as I do. That my tunes make a small part of my income stream makes me extremely happy.

Oh, and if you want to support me, here’s my bandcamp:

If you want to download my music without paying for it, here’s my music on the internet archive:


Anonymous Coward says:

These days...

I listen to probably 98% indie music these days, there are so many dope-ass artists creating top tier music during livestreams or posting it on youtube that I have almost no interest in commercial music from record labels. I’d rather listen to something new and unique than the same old crap peddled by the recording industry.

Anonymous Coward says:

These days I tend to listen to music recorded by people I know, or to stuff that was formative, or the odd tune I heard somewhere and found catchy enough to look up online.

Of those groups, the only ones with any relationship to the big labels are the “formative” ones, because back when I was growing up, ClearChannel (sorry, iHeart) was what was picking the music for the radio stations everyone played.

Anonymous Coward says:

Many pop singers started off singing songs on YouTube, Justin Bieber etc tik Tok is now the leading video media source for launching or promoting music , if a song gets millions of views on tiktok it’ll probably be a hit, in the old days it was MTV. The old days of music reps going to music gigs looking for new talent are probably over.

David says:

Re: Re:

I wasn’t objecting to the coverage but merely pointing out that nowadays a musician’s rise through TikTok is pointed out as a surprising development while an Orwellian Stasi-imitating mandate to monitor all patrons and provide the recordings without oversight to police in Houston TX is not really all that surprising.

It’s a complaint (if you want to call it that) about the current times rather than Techdirt. I’d sure like to write an alternate reality that would then replace what we are currently living in but doubt it would be implemented instead of what we have now.

Lostinlodos (profile) says:

TT is just reaching the level of Daily Motion and YouTube when it comes to platform acceptance.
The difference is the then and now. A decade ago people would hope to get picked up. (By the labels).
Today, many simply make their own deals.

I’m not sure about pop which tends to be a bigger ‘show’ than metal and more expensive, but plenty of YouTube stars in metal have simply made their own distribution deals.

Anthony Vincent, violet orlandi, 10 Masked Men, Namless Ghoul, Death Twitch, The Floor is Blood…!
They all made their own deals with Apple, Spotify, etc.

Today you post a video for a few weeks. Call up the streaming service and say look at my watch hits. And bingo, paid distribution.

The same is happening in film with shorts and trailers on video then crowd funding a full film. And selling it via apple and Amazon and even Netflix.

What’s happening is artists are no longer interested in the advertising of the big company labels. They creat their own. And bypass giving up their rights and freedoms to the label overloads!

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