The driver’s seat of a Seat Ibiza was Blanca Vergara’s first recording studio. Three years ago, during the Covid-19 pandemic and the TikTok boom, the artist began uploading covers of other people’s songs from her car. Now her account has more than 30 million likes and she has signed a deal with Warner Music. The 22-year-old from the Spanish island of Mallorca is part of a new talent pool that the social media app has given prominence to. The sound of this generation is characterized by a pattern: pop music with a youthful touch that is reminiscent of the songs that dominated the charts in the 2000s.
Shortly after creating her account, Vergara uploaded her first post. It went viral, her followers increased and production companies took notice of her. “It has been a springboard for my artistic career,” she explains. Her success story is one of many. The journalist and music expert Arturo Paniagua says that “TikTok has become the largest showcase for music in the world without the industry even realizing it.” The app, he explains, has gone from being an entertainment space to becoming a way to search for new artists and thus an essential tool for record labels and production companies.
Hootsuite’s 2022 Digital Report reveals that TikTok was the social network on which users spent the most time on average. According to the digital measurement platform, 80% of its community discovers new music on the app thanks to the fact that sound is the central element of all videos. At the same time, emerging artists are trying to take advantage of the statistics.
Guzmen, a 20-year-old musician from Vigo, in northwestern Spain, was, like Vergara, another one of the young aspiring talents who tried their luck on TikTok. His life, he explains, has always been linked to music: “Since I was little I have played instruments on my own. If I don’t end up as a singer, I’ll be a musician, but I want my career to be on stage.”
Guzmen began uploading covers of other people’s songs to TikTok at the beginning of the year. By late February, when he had already signed with his manager, one of his videos went viral. His content has not changed since then. He always sings in the same position, sideways to the camera, with a few direct glances from time to time. Sometimes he has a guitar, other times he just sings to a musical base in which one or more songs are combined — called a mashup — and with his voice as the main feature.
Lucía de Decker’s account illustrates the reality of the new industry. Lu Decker, as she calls herself online, has more than two million followers and hundreds of thousands of views. In 2021, TikTok named her the winner of its award in the music category. Her manager at the Music Hit Factory record company, Iñaki Monsalve, met her on TikTok during the pandemic. “Lu Decker had included a song by Luenco, one of our artists, in a mashup,” he explains. At that time, the singer was 15 years old.
The music industry has been nourished by a series of online platforms over the last 20 years. MySpace was the launching pad for Arctic Monkeys. YouTube opened the doors to Shawn Mendes and Becky G.
Monsalve defines TikTok as another great music showcase. The goal, he explains, is that potential customers will see the content and buy it. He also notes that the viralization that takes place on TikTok sometimes means that the “essential” triangle for an artist to gain recognition is not always closed. This triangulation goes as follows: first, people become familiar with the artist’s name. Second, they put a face to the name. Third, they are able to associate the artist with one of their songs.
But on TikTok, “sometimes songs go viral that are only fragments of a song. There are people who take the time to find out who is behind it, and others who only notice the dance, the melody, and don’t go any further,” he explains.
If a song grows, an artist can grow. And TikTok continues to be the top showcase, the loudspeaker for a new generation of emerging artists who are looking to attract the attention of record labels large and small.
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