“Services break tracks. Labels break artists.” (Maybe)
July 2, 2019 10:37 PM   Subscribe

“When I saw TikTok, I instantly went: This is how it’s done,” Sueco told me on the phone earlier this month. “[The musician doesn’t] need to make the content, they have other people making the content for them. It blows up and becomes a meme organically on this app.”
It is widely known that Tik-Tok broke “Old Town Road” and now it’s the number one song in the country.
Writing for The Ringer, Alyssa Bereznak looks at how Bytedance’s platform is colliding with the music business: “Memes Are the New Pop Stars: How TikTok Became the Future of the Music Industry”
posted by Going To Maine (24 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
(Regarding the pull quote, I will say that this was one of the rare times in the field when the ambiguous gender and number that can be referred to by “they” and the ambiguous noun referenced by “it” actually made a sentence hard to parse. But thanks to context clues, we got through it!)
posted by Going To Maine at 10:56 PM on July 2, 2019


I've seen this narrative about TikTok a bit, but I suspect Old Town Road broke as big as it did because of Lil Nas X's relentless hustle (across several platforms) plus Billboard showing their ass with the Country-Not-Country chart nonsense that was rightly pushed back on and capitalised on. I was talking about Lil Nas X last night with four people who didn't know about the chart controversy but did all have the song on their Spotify lists, none of them know what a TikTok is.
posted by Gin and Broadband at 12:16 AM on July 3, 2019 [9 favorites]


Lil Nas X is perhaps the exceptionally outsize version of this kind of success, however his particular hustle may be the prototype for future one hit wonders produced by the platform. This could be the new normal for a decade, before it gets replaced by whatever comes next. (Soundcloud much die but music videos are going to be going up on YouTube for a long time.)
posted by Going To Maine at 12:36 AM on July 3, 2019


I wonder how much control the Chinese Communist Party could bring to bear on TikTok if they needed to, and, if used subtly, how much leverage this would give them for shaping pop culture.
posted by acb at 2:23 AM on July 3, 2019


a) As much as they feel like. I'm sure it's useful, particularly during events with a lot of public action and social media activism, like the protests in Hong Kong.
b) Probably very little in the West. I suspect that the presentation of China in popular media on other continents only interests them as a means to monitor public and political opinions. It might be different in East Asia, where most countries already have relatively strong government regulation of media content (compared to the US) that the population has adapted to.
posted by at by at 3:20 AM on July 3, 2019 [1 favorite]


I haven't heard of Lil Nas X before but the fact that there is a black gay country rapper makes me really happy.
posted by lazaruslong at 5:50 AM on July 3, 2019 [3 favorites]


I've been expecting a new Lil Nas X post any day now, but I assumed it would be about how he came out on Pride Day. The rapper with the biggest hit of the year just said he was gay and (outside of some comments of the usual type in the usual places) it seems to be going pretty fine.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 5:52 AM on July 3, 2019 [6 favorites]


I haven't heard of Lil Nas X before but the fact that there is a black gay country rapper makes me really happy.

A black gay man at the top of the country charts! Best thing in 2019.
posted by tofu_crouton at 6:11 AM on July 3, 2019 [14 favorites]


I'm over here like 'But, but, there's already a rapper named Nas.'

Because I am a hundred years old.
posted by box at 6:36 AM on July 3, 2019 [11 favorites]


As a preteen growing up in Pasadena, the blue-haired rapper learned how to play the drums via the video game Rock Band.

box, if you're a hundred years old, I'm two hundred years old.
posted by Automocar at 6:43 AM on July 3, 2019 [10 favorites]


That made me 3 hundred because I was thinking "Nas" => "Nazz" => Lord Buckley
posted by aleph at 6:49 AM on July 3, 2019 [4 favorites]


There are two tiktoks — the blessed fabulous lipsync and goofball meme one where tracks like peppermint end up getting 6million views because of a wide spectrum of people copying each other in duets, and the curséd, where cops in uniform clumsily mouth the sound from a youtube “comedian” ranting about millennial participation trophies while doing that zoom in and out thing with their selfie stick. There is war in heaven.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:56 AM on July 3, 2019 [6 favorites]


(I don't think this has been posted here before)

Bloomberg: The Kids Use TikTok Now Because Data-Mined Videos Are So Much Fun - "The video-sharing app by the Chinese-owned Bytedance, the world’s most valuable startup, has a younger audience than Facebook, an algorithm that learns you, and different ideas about free speech."

And from wikipedia: "an investigation by the American think tank Peterson Institute for International Economics described TikTok as a 'Huawei-sized problem' that poses a national security threat to the West, noting the app's popularity with Western users including armed forces personnel, and its ability to convey location, image and biometric data to its Chinese parent company, which is legally unable to refuse to share data to the Chinese government."
posted by msbrauer at 7:09 AM on July 3, 2019 [7 favorites]


Lil Nas X is what is keeping Lil Nas X at the top of the charts, but TikTok is what got him there. Weirdness is a drawback in traditional ways of finding an audience for new music -- what genre is this? what is it for? etc -- but it's definitely a positive for grabbing people's attention on the internet.
posted by grandiloquiet at 7:16 AM on July 3, 2019 [1 favorite]


I've seen this narrative about TikTok a bit, but I suspect Old Town Road broke as big as it did because of Lil Nas X's relentless hustle (across several platforms) plus Billboard showing their ass with the Country-Not-Country chart nonsense that was rightly pushed back on and capitalised on.

I think you're right here, but I think we also have to factor in Billy Ray Cyrus after Billboard showed their ass. Cyrus isn't exactly country royalty, but to most of Lil Nas X's audience he's legit. I think it's notable that the version where Cyrus collaborates on the song, thus somehow granting country legitimacy to Lil Nas X, is also the version of the song that feels most complete, and the version that I think most people heard.

(Not to take anything away from Lil Nas X, he's got a well deserved number 1 that even the most slickly produced and well-heeled pop stars haven't been able to wrestle from him. But it's undeniable Old Town Road has had a few revisions, and at least one of those early revisions was 'novelty song'.)
posted by Merus at 7:25 AM on July 3, 2019 [3 favorites]


But it's undeniable Old Town Road has had a few revisions, and at least one of those early revisions was 'novelty song'.

I guess it's a hot take, but "Old Town Road" seems basic to me, an a-one example of how pre-made hook + pre-made beat + five bars (fewer?) is enough for a hit. (And he got the beat from another fellow who had already sampled Trent Reznor without permission! The rights issues make me very sad.)

Anyhoo! "Old Town Road" is fascinating, and I forgot to link to a previously about it.
posted by Going To Maine at 7:47 AM on July 3, 2019


And from wikipedia: "an investigation by the American think tank Peterson Institute for International Economics described TikTok as a 'Huawei-sized problem' that poses a national security threat to the West, noting the app's popularity with Western users including armed forces personnel, and its ability to convey location, image and biometric data to its Chinese parent company, which is legally unable to refuse to share data to the Chinese government."

So, basically the next LiveJournal?

I wonder if there have been any confirmed instances of FSB/GRU targeting American professionals in positions of interest for blackmail/recruitment on the basis of psychological profiles drawn from their friend-locked adolescent angst confessions/bad vampire poetry/&c. from 20 years earlier.
posted by acb at 7:50 AM on July 3, 2019 [1 favorite]


So, basically the next LiveJournal?

This is reductive, I think: LiveJournal was never at risk of becoming a major cultural mover in the US. (In Russia itself, obviously yes.) TikTok could become the dominant platform at some point.
posted by Going To Maine at 8:28 AM on July 3, 2019 [1 favorite]


I heard the song on TikTok long before I heard it on the radio. It was shocking to me driving along when it broke into the chorus and the 6 second bit that I recognized from the videos. I'm wondering how / if at all TikTok handles royalties, since it seems like nobody is using an 'official' rip of the track but are instead just cloning the audio over and over from various users.
I also always misheard the lyrics so badly that when I found out what it really was singing, I was disappointed.
posted by msbutah at 8:32 AM on July 3, 2019


Do you ever see one of those stories that makes you feel ancient? This is one of those for me.
posted by egypturnash at 10:04 AM on July 3, 2019 [1 favorite]


> So, basically the next LiveJournal?
> LiveJournal was never at risk of becoming a major cultural mover in the US.

Livejournal was a U.S. company with U.S. hosting from its start to after it had peaked. Many of the communities that found homes there started looking for other places when Danga was sold to SixApart, and by the time Livejournal was a Russian subsidiary, it was in decline, the Dreamwidth fork was in progress, Twitter was more popular among the people who mostly used Livejournal for staying in touch with people rather than blogging, and Tumblr was the trending hotness among gender, sexual, and fan subcultures.
posted by at by at 10:32 AM on July 3, 2019 [1 favorite]


So, basically the next LiveJournal?

I'd also look at recent reporting about Grindr being owned by China. In that case, data about a population with particular vulnerability in China (also on Wikipedia) is wide open to Chinese authorities.
posted by msbrauer at 10:54 AM on July 3, 2019



I've seen this narrative about TikTok a bit, but I suspect Old Town Road broke as big as it did because of Lil Nas X's relentless hustle


At this point, to someone like me, it feels like Lil Nas X broke TikTok.
posted by bongo_x at 1:56 PM on July 3, 2019 [1 favorite]


Tired: control of the means of production
Wired: control of the production of memes
posted by acb at 2:04 AM on July 4, 2019 [3 favorites]


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