More TikTok


You absolutely must listen to the third episode of the Foundering podcast on TikTok. I don’t care if you’re an agent or a promoter, a label executive or a wannabe act, this will set you straight on where we’re going and where we’re not.

“TikTok Redefined the Economics of Fame – Episode three of ‘Foundering: The TikTok Story’ explains how the startup chooses who gets famous, which videos go viral and which trends blow up.”:

You see there’s a great bifurcation in music today. All the focus has been on streaming payouts, when the ball has moved, now it’s all about the kind of music that’s being made!

I know, I know, that does not correlate with the news, but when did the news ever tell you where you were going to go?

This podcast episode will tell you that TikTok is active with its users in a way that YouTube and Facebook/Instagram are not. Those are old models, TikTok is new. TikTok is consumer facing. Sure, the other platforms depend on users, but they’re hands-off, they provide the tools and then it’s a free-for-all. But not on TikTok. TikTok handpicks its stars, nurtures them, provides information to allow them to maintain their stardom and does not close out newbies. Yes, once a platform reaches critical mass, if you’re late to the party you’ve got no chance. Sign on to Facebook for the first time today, good luck building a friend base, that was something people did ten years ago. Same deal on Twitter. The stars have been anointed, and even though a few new ones may be minted, the odds are really long. But TikTok focuses on building new stars, otherwise the creator class, in this case the hoi polloi posters, gets discouraged and moves on.

You see TikTok knows its creators are the stars. They are the focus, they are number one, they supersede rights holders and advertisers, everybody in the ecosystem. And the creators can get rich. Come on, try to make it as a musician, you’re gonna be broke, quite possibly forever, your odds are better online, and fewer skills are required.

Now TikTok satiates the music companies, the site is music dependent, but when you listen you’ll learn that labels were reticent. This is what has hampered music for decades, there’s so much money in it that those involved are averse to risk, whereas art is always about throwing the old over for the new. And believe me, if you’re making bucks on TikTok, you’re reinventing the wheel every damn day, you’ve got to post content that is appealing all the time, or you’re forgotten. That is today’s internet paradigm, something oldsters rebel against. If you’re not posting content constantly, you’re never going to make money online, look to other avenues. And the amazing thing is there are other avenues, in the real world.

So the record labels are businesses. They don’t create trends, they follow them, and they go where the bucks are. And before the internet, there was a very narrow sieve of exploitation. If you didn’t have a record deal, you were SOL. But today, you don’t need the label’s imprimatur, you can just start. That doesn’t mean you can get fans and get rich, that just means the barrier to entry is low and some genius will figure out how to make it.

But now you don’t focus on the platform. This is what all the wankers complaining about streaming music payments don’t get. That paradigm has sailed. With the twentieth century. Now it’s about the music itself.

Let’s be clear, TikTok is not about the music, but the performances. But even more significant, only a snippet of a song is used. Which is why you’ll find the tracks in the Spotify Top 50 have brief intros, if they have intros at all, and they’re laden with hooks. But as we make the tracks ever more bite-sized, the more we open the playing field to other music.

Let’s start with the money. You pay your dues until you make it. And you make it much slower in the real world as opposed to the virtual world. It’s kind of like education. You can make bread on TikTok without schooling, but you can’t get a job in the real world sans degree. You see TikTok fame is an extension of Kardashian fame. But now you don’t even have to know Ryan Seacrest to get you a TV show. YOU DON’T WANT TO GET A TV SHOW, THAT’S NOT WHERE IT’S HAPPENING!


You complain the Spotify Top 50 is crap, no-talent music made by committee for those with challenged ears. And to a great degree you’re right. Hell, try to find a hit written and performed by one person, it’s an impossibility, never mind the insurance of adding a featured performer to the track. Popular music is swirling down an ever-deepening drain, and if you’re complaining about this, your head is up your rear end, you should be jumping for joy, so much of the landscape is open for exploitation! And one thing is for sure, the major labels don’t want it. They operate under internet metrics, but not all art can be quantified this way, all listeners don’t go around liking online. What I mean is…

If you want to be successful, don’t go where everybody else is, blaze your own path!

Once again, I must remind you, very few people can make a living making music. Don’t get too enthused, because odds are you’ll never make it. You have to be a near genius creatively to make it, and most people are not. Not everybody can be the CEO of a Fortune 500 company and not everybody can be a hit act. But someone can be. And not all the hit acts are in the Spotify Top 50.

And too many other acts are focused on radio genres. Active Rock is very active, in that it’s loud and in-your-face, they’re not playing the equivalent of Crosby, Stills & Nash on Active Rock.

What I’m saying here is…

To focus on the music.

When everybody else goes short, you go long. Now is the best time ever to create a long track. Demonstrating your skill, entrancing the listener. These tracks grow via word of mouth, not via hit pathways. A perfect example, Alice In Chains’ “Rooster.” It’s slow and dirgey and over six minutes long, but it’s fantastic, ethereal, hard to burn out on. Or Led Zeppelin’s “The Rain Song,” from “Houses of the Holy,” that’s the track people e-mail me about the most, and it’s seven minutes and thirty nine seconds long! And neither of these tracks are about instant hooks, never mind multiple hooks…

You see what is outside today is inside tomorrow. But in today’s world, there’s not just one pathway to success, but many.

The key today is live performance. That’s where you feel the music. That’s where you get touched by it. And the truth is you’ve got to pay a lot of dues to get good enough to get people’s attention when they’ve never heard your music previously, that doesn’t happen out of the box, but if you can… Today’s world is all about experiences, streaming music on demand is not an experience. On some level TikTok is, proving that the online recording game is now subsidiary to the layers of creativity poured on top!


Want to break through today?

Form a blues band. Yes, someone in the act has got to be able to play guitar, and the vocals must be excellent and the songwriting must be stellar, but if all three align, you’d be a breath of fresh air talked about everywhere. The problem today is most people focus on fame before songs, and people don’t realize we only have room for excellence, for greatness, if you’re not the best songwriter of all time, you can’t have Bob Dylan’s voice and expect to be a star.

The truth is active music listeners are looking for a cornucopia of sounds. Even more they’re looking to be affected by the music. Today’s hit music slides right off of you, it’s sauce for your efforts to hook up. Today’s music is secondary, not primary. And it’s all about the money. Everybody in music talks about the money, even people who’ve never made a record, that’s the focus, but that’s never the focus in art. If you don’t love it for itself, stop. And if you love it and take the public on an exquisite journey the doors are open!

But for far too long the best and the brightest have avoided music, the odds are too long, and innovation is abhorred. But the key is to use the notes, the instruments, to create something new and different, not me-too and expect a new result.

You see today’s music is so in pursuit of the dollar, a platform for branding more than standing alone, that it satiates fewer listeners.

And look at the concert grosses. They’re rarely packed with those in the Spotify Top 50. And if they are, they’re usually different acts the following year.

Yes, you can get depressed learning about TikTok or you can be inspired. Everything you love about music has been excised. How long a journey can you go on? Sure, the TikTok clip can be replayed ad infinitum, but let’s also be clear it’s about the trick, not the music.

As systems become ever more digital, you want to go analog. Even acoustic. Look at movies, they chased the dollar with cartoons/superheroes and the end result is that most people never go to the theatre anymore, never mind watch the Oscars, they’re too busy consuming humanity-based longform content online.

The medium changes the message. But now the medium has resulted in music that’s all about brief hooks, which is ultimately background, disposable. Never in the last fifty years has the landscape been more wide open. Now is not the time to complain, now is the time to innovate!

The public is all ears.

But only for the new and different.

That’s your responsibility. Only a few are up to the task. But those few will be bigger than all the rest. We saw this when FM superseded AM. Sure, there continued to be AM hits, but all the action, the money, the respect, the gravitas was in the FM acts.

The Spotify Top 50 is AM.

The world at large is FM.

FM started small and took over. That’s what’s going to happen again. Look at the rest of the world, the non-musical landscape, it’s endless niches, many of them profitable, why should there be only one profitable niche in music?


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