On TikTok, Music Producers Are Moving From the Background to the Spotlight

Photo credit: @sebseb122_/TikTok @seshnolan/TikTok @alianna.tv/TikTok @prod.by.iiinfinite/TikTok @gorari.beats/TikTok remix by Jason Reed

TikTok has become a major force in the music industry, elevated by the younger consumers who use the app. TikTok is one of the most popular apps in the world, and with the hype of the app soaring toward its peak, independent music producers have been joining in on the momentum to reach the masses. 

Producers of all musical styles have found success through TikTok. They are drawing in millions of likes and followers daily with their personalities, talents, and tutorials. TikTok has dramatically replaced older ways of social media marketing with brief videos and song snippets that see growing viewership each day.

SEBii, an artist and producer with over 200,000 monthly Spotify listeners, grew some of his most successful songs through TikTok. Songs from his catalog like “Play Poker (Remix),” as well as tunes he co-produced like cheRomani+’s “Euphoria,” have soundtracked thousands of original videos on TikTok. 

“I think anyone that is really trying to grow, go to TikTok because the app has the potential to reach so many people,” SEBii tells Passionfruit. “I don’t think any other social media app has the potential reach that TikTok has. If you have a piece of viral content whether that be a funny video or a really crazy beat, it can reach a lot of people.” 

@sebseb122_ ok sooooo what should the cover art be? #fyp #4moods #meme ♬ SEBii 4 Moods of Men – SEBii

Many producers appreciate the ease of audience growth TikTok has provided them. They cite this as one of the main reasons they use the app.

SeshNolan, a 20-year-old producer located out of Cork, Ireland, has produced songs for artists such as Roddy Rich and Elias Burbick. He states TikTok has been an important “X-factor” in cultivating a new following along with growing his other social media channels. 

“Being able to express my work and get it out there is the biggest thing for me,” he says. “It’s allowed me to have people view and critique my work, I’ve only been doing this for two years give or take and the growth in my musical ability is ridiculous because I’m being pushed by [the TikTok algorithm] and people [are] interacting [and] viewing my stuff. I think it’s been the best thing to ever happen to me realistically.” 

@seshnolan the reverse 808 took me outttt 😮‍💨🔥 #fypシ #typebeat #beatmaker #producer #foryou #ireland #musician #beat #producertok #fyp #musicproducer #producertiktok #flstudio #beatmaking #trap #beats #challenge #music #remix ♬ original sound – seshnolan

Many producers have switched over from platforms such as Instagram and Twitter to promote themselves and their work to a rapidly growing user base on TikTok. Producer Alianna, known for her groovy skills with music production centers (MPCs) that allow users to create drum loop sequences and samples, has seen how promptly the app can be used to garner a new audience compared to other platforms. She says TikTok has quickly become her “main platform” for showcasing her songs.

“I appreciate that [TikTok] allows me to be the source of inspiration for someone else to create something great for their own,” Alianna says. “I feel like the support on TikTok is much more present… Everyone is super supportive and they all just appreciate the music.”

@alianna.tv new oneeee 🙂 ready for the #duets 🌿🧘🏻‍♀️🌿 #fingerdrumming #producertok #chillhop #soul #rnb #beats #duetthis #openversechallenge #akai #mpcone ♬ original sound – Alianna

With TikTok, many producers are stepping into the limelight rather than being relegated to the background like they have historically been. The video format allows audiences to put a face to the music they’re listening to, creating a more personal experience. Producers can establish their own personalities and brands alongside their catalog of production credits. South Carolina producer Rari, who makes production-related videos and comedic sketches, believes the app can help producers build a higher profile. 

“Letting the people see you, letting the people see you in the studio, [and] letting the people see you making a beat” are fundamental ways to connect with audiences, he says.

@gorari.beats Y’all aint even heard the best part 😂 #gorari #producer #music #beats #rap #artist #rappers #flstudio #beatmaker #producertiktok ♬ Rollitupk fart spray sound – K’ Hood

While some producers find their footing fast, not everything comes as immediately as one may expect. SeshNolan says that his first months on TikTok were relatively tame. 

“You post and get a few views, mainly your friends or your mother sometimes,” SeshNolan laughs. “After that, then you’ll start to notice with consistency and quality uploads that the algorithm decides to promote your stuff to more users. If you can keep up that momentum it’s brilliant because you’ll take off for sure.”

Iiinfinite, a producer known for West Coast-type tutorials with production credits on songs by Tinashe and MoneySign Suede, says a producer must “be consistent and upload a lot” if they are looking to succeed on TikTok. 

“Try to put up as many shots as you can and eventually one of them will hit,” he says. “TikTok is one of them things that will put you in front of so many people, and the reach and engagement you can get on there is insane compared to any other social media platform.”

@prod.by.iiinfinite #stitch with @nxcoreal i like helping iut people so if you got questions just lmk and i got you. #beats #producer #producertok #fl20 #fl#cxdy #flstudio #flstudio20 ♬ original sound – Prod.by.iiinfinite

Internet fame alone doesn’t exactly determine a producer’s fate. Even with a large TikTok audience, producers need to consider what comes next. Rari believes that producers need to be prepared to make career moves when they start blowing up.

”I think it’s everything but it’s nothing if you’re not prepared for the moment,” Rari says. “If you go viral and don’t have anything to back it up and you don’t have any more videos or you only have five beats, or you’re not ready to take a flight to LA, I feel like [TikTok doesn’t] really do too much for you.” 

SEBii credits TikTok as being an effortless catalyst to get in touch with labels and larger artists, but says that getting popular solely off of TikTok can be “a curse” because it can pigeonhole an artist into a certain style. 

“You can have one huge, huge song but then people might know you for that one sound/one thing and it might be really hard for you afterward to do something different, and people are going to say you fell off, even though it wasn’t even in [the artist’s] control,” he says.

SeshNolan thinks TikTok contributes to “some big negatives” creeping into the music industry. He believes the app has perpetuated what he calls “mid culture” among artists and fans, meaning they expect producers to follow and adapt to fleeting musical microtrends on the platform. When artists don’t adhere to what’s trending, fans might lose interest and move onto the next fad. SeshNolan thinks this has contributed to shorter life cycles of albums and songs altogether. The current streaming landscape moves quicker than ever before with the amount of overnight hits that cycle through TikTok daily. 

“I think TikTok has played a huge role in that because everyone’s attention span and their expectation of things is altered,” he says. “The overall time of music seems to be a lot shorter than it was five or 10 years ago and I think that’s the way the social media’s affected our attention span.”

In recent years, record labels have begun to capitalize on the TikTok music community. A study from TikTok and analytics firm MRC Data determined that 67% of the platform’s users are more likely to search for a song on streaming services after hearing it on the app. Marketing campaigns, influencer promotions, and TikTok challenges are all some of the tactics used to raise a song’s popularity. 

As more songs are created to fit the mold of formulas made to succeed on the app, listeners are looking at the origins and motivations of TikTok songs more critically. Some established music veterans have openly questioned whether or not TikTok is good for the music industry due to the pressure from labels to catch a viral moment.      

Rari believes that rapid TikTok trends and the music industry’s penchant for maximizing profits have slightly diluted music. 

“I feel like TikTok, I don’t want to say ruining it, but I do feel like it’s hindering it a little bit because I feel like everyone is chasing a clip,” he says. “Forget if the song is good, we just need that little hook or that little part of the song that could be repeated and repeated.”

Despite some division over music marketing on the app, TikTok has brought milestone opportunities for several producers that may have otherwise been difficult to find. Iiinfinite says that a sponsored TikTok can bring in “more than what people are paying for an exclusive beat” and has since developed relationships with brands like Arturia and BABY Audio. Alianna has recently been noticed by artists such as Logic and late night channel Adult Swim. And SeshNolan points to TikTok as the reason he was able to leave Cork for “the biggest studios in L.A.”

While the business and demands of TikTok can be stressful, most producers are capitalizing on the moments that have come with it. Because of the nature of the algorithm, producers can pop up on the For You pages of people who may not have been able to find them otherwise. Iiinfinite says the possibility of discovery on TikTok “is barring everything else.” Other producers, like SEBii, agree with this sentiment.

“[TikTok] gives a lot of independent artists a chance to blow up and really make a career off their music without being signed like me,” he says. “It’s literally just me and my laptop in my room and I make a whole living off of it and it’s so crazy that TikTok can make a big song. I am so blessed to have that.”

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