Music Music Editor Muse

An independent rapper’s take on TikTok.

James Dring Studies how TikTok changes the game for independent artists.

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Image Credit: Central Cee

Let me level with you, I have never used TikTok in my life. I think I downloaded it once, I’ve appeared in my friend’s posts, and my tracks are available on there to use as part of my distribution plan, but I have released no content on there at all to promote my music. All this, whilst artists whose talent I respect and admire use TikTok as a way to drive their success, creating viral trends catapulting them into new charttopping collaborations.

From hard drill artists like SK-47 with ‘Streets in South’, to cheeky chappy chart topping ‘Oliver Twist’ rapper Arrdee, and ‘Retail Therapy’, ‘Obsessed With You’, ‘Commitment Issues’ king Central Cee; all these artists are popping off on TikTok. Even SL who I’d say has one of the coolest, laid-back vibes in the UK with his self-proclaimed tropical drill is taking advantage of it. So, am I missing out both as a creator and a consumer?

I’m not great at social media. In the past my girlfriend has offered to manage my Instagram for me. As such, making yet another account to manage isn’t that appealing. Nevertheless, it makes business sense to be promoting myself on every platform available. TikTok has over a billion monthly users, who each spend on average 850 minutes on the app per month. TikTok also boasts the highest rates of social media engagement per post of any social media service. I’ve never really spent time scrolling through socials – I didn’t even get an Instagram account until a couple years ago – so for me as an artist, how can I get into TikTok and make it work for me?

Where Instagram is about aesthetics and YouTube the ten-minute algorithm, TikTok is short, viral and vertical. Due to their length, the clips have to be eye-catching and memorable, making random silliness and comedy popular. For me, this is the first hurdle, as worries about being cringy and making bad jokes puts me off. Alongside comedy, dancing is the other most popular type of TikTok. I’m not a good dancer and this sort of creativity doesn’t come naturally to me. I get that you don’t need to be a good dancer or a great comedian for TikTok, and that becoming comfortable with yourself is an essential part of being an artist, but it’s the type of image associated with TikTok which puts me off. I still struggle to sit through my half-hearted contribution to a Nativity related TikTok a friend posted.

As part of my research, I took to YouTube with generic searches such as “using TikTok as a rapper” or “how to get started on TikTok ‘’ hoping to find a step-by-step guide for beginners. It was here that I was reminded of an important point: you aren’t trying to be great at TikTok, you are trying to use it as another way to draw attention to your music. This point was made by small but informative YouTuber Adriel Rivera. On reflection, a lot of music that goes viral starts with catchy lines, or a part of the beat that is posted and reused as a backing. Instant examples like Arrdee’s relaxed views on condoms or Jnr Choi’s ‘TO THE MOON’ come to mind. To some extent this has reshaped my opinion on TikTok; it doesn’t require a separate stream of creativity like dance or comedy. If you are smart and talented with your lyricism, simply posting the right clip will get it snapped up and reposted by TikTok users and creators to viral effect.

It’s important to remember that I knew next to nothing about TikTok before researching this piece and despite Rivera’s tip being such a simple point, it is a useful way to understand TikTok as a beginner. If you’re a young artist reading this, I’d say focus on expanding your talent. Do that and when you find that one line or bar – which you will – cast it into the sea of TikTok and see how much of a wave it makes. Hopefully, you can ride it to viral success.

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