The Awesome Power Of TikTok For Touring: New Social Media Giant Paves The Way To The Road

From TikTok To Lolla
Kevin Mazur / Getty Images
– From TikTok To Lolla
Tai Verdes, who released his single “Stuck In The Middle” while still working at a Verizon store and who TikTok named an “Emerging Artist,” performs at Lollapalooza 2021 at Chicago’s Grant Park on July 30, 2021.

In its five years of existence, TikTok has become a key driver for building many an artist career as the social media platform has experienced exponential growth. 

A new report by Cloudflare, a web infrastructure and content delivery network, just put TikTok as the Internet’s number one visited site, ahead of Google and Facebook. With its video snippet format, the social media platform, helps make, break, build, buoy and/or bury careers as artists become meme sensations climbing streaming charts on the wings of user generated content. 
And if they’re really successful, the hub’s hubbub can even convert users to hard ticket buyers. Just look at Grammy-winning artists who found early success on the platform like Megan Thee Stallion, Doja Cat and original TikTok breakout star Lil Nas X, all of whom today sell out arenas, headline festivals and more. 
“In 2021, over one billion people turned to TikTok to be entertained, find and share their joy with others, and learn new things,” TikTok’s Global Head of Music’s Ole Obermann wrote in the platform’s year-end 2021 Music Report. It may be unsurpassed as a music discovery tool as MRC Data found that, “75% of TikTok users in the U.S. say that they use TikTok to discover new artists, and 63% say that they hear music that they’ve never heard before for the first time on the platform.” 
To emerge from TikTok, however, an artist must first develop and nurture support from a gauntlet of unpredictable fans who must take notice of posts (which now can be as long as three minutes), like it, share it and sometimes create or augment. It’s lot to orchestrate, but if and when it connects on TikTok, it’s a strong proof of concept and content that can take artists to a whole new level of in-real-life success. 
“There are account analytics and song analytics that artists, managers and labels have access to that allow the industry to take deeper dive into what’s resonating and what’s not,” says William Gruger, TikTok’s Editorial Lead. “These insights are actioned upon quite a bit allowing artists and their teams to hone their content strategy and grow their communities on the platform.” 
The traditional rub is that the distance is vast between artists finding social media success and converting that success into a touring career; but, that distance may not be as vast as it once was, according to Gruger. “It’s a very different era now,” he says. “It was thought that early content creators needed the music industry to turn them into artists. Now, because of how low the barrier to entry is and because TikTok artists have to have an audience to be successful, it much more easily translates into being able to perform. The strength of the connection between the fanbase and the artist that TikTok facilitates allows that shared rapport to translate into live touring. There’s a much shorter pipeline between someone who breaks on TikTok and being a touring artist.” 
Gruger gives examples of two different up-and-coming touring artists who use the platform in different ways. “Blu DeTiger is an artist who engages with her community on the platform around live performances,” he says. “She’s a bass player who’s toured with Caroline Polachek (formerly of Chairlift), and now has solo material out and a solo tour. She uses the platform to announce dates and when those dates happen, she uses TikTok to showcase her performances from her live show. She’ll have different and really cool moments that highlight her tour.”
“Tai Verdes is someone using a vlog style and really speaks to the camera,” Gruger continues. “From ‘I’m about to go on stage at Lollapalooza for the first time’ and sharing his feelings behind that moment to more recently, ‘Here’s a day in the life of being in The Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade.’ Like, ‘Hour one, I’m cold. Hour two, look there’s some famous person,’ and bringing his fans with him every step of the way. Both illustrate how TikTok is really a narrative story telling platform. That isn’t just about memes and dance trends, but can really be used to bring artists’ fans along with them during their journey on the road.” 
For announcing and building momentum for tours, i.e. selling tickets, TikTok can be an incredibly effective tool with artists putting links in their bio to the ticketing platform of their choice. Gruger points to Olivia Rodrigo, one the year’s biggest break-out stars: “She teased out her tour on TikTok doing a re-creation of throwing pens into a cup trend that was popular at the time,” he says. “If you landed a pen into a cup, the thing that you say is true. She announced her tour that way.”   

Jet Setters
– Jet Setters
Boney M, founded in Germany in the mid-70s and which included Liz Mitchell, Marcia Barrett, Maizie Williams and Bobby Farrell, were resurrected in 2021 on TikTok when their song “Rasputin” from their 1978 album Nightflight To Venus went viral. Echoes / Redferns
After the onsale, however, where many Rodrigo fans were unable to obtain tickets, the platform erupted with users bonding on missing out. “There were all of these, ‘Wow, did anyone else not get tickets? reactions,” Gruger recounts. “Touring news is big news on TikTok and the reaction to not getting tickets went viral, which was interesting.” 
When asked about merch opportunities, Gruger intimates something may be coming soon. In August, the platform announced an in-app e-commerce integration with Shopify, which stands to reason may be a part of its future merchandise strategy. A ticketing integration has yet to be announced. 
TikTok, it’s worth noting, is not just for up-and-coming artists, with some of the industry’s biggest and most successful artists continuing to nurture and build fanbases via the platform. “Doja Cat is someone who broke on the platform in 2019 and started onboarding and using the platform in 2020,” Gruger says. “As festivals this year started opening-up, moments from her live performances went viral. It was hard to logon without seeing a moment from her, especially following her performance at Austin City Limits. It was one of the first times a mass audience got to see her performing and referencing her popular dances on TikTok. She created a 360 moment.”  
Another massive star all over TikTok this year was Harry Styles whose “Love On Tour” sold more tickets than any other tour in 2021, according to Pollstar’s Year-End charts. “There were many moments from his tour, particularly around his banter with the crowd, that did incredibly well on the platform,” Gruger says. “There are people who started entire accounts just following him on tour. I’m not sure if they’re literally at every single one of the dates, but the account is a compilation of Harry Styles moments on tour documenting big moments where he is bantering with the crowd or his dance moves. Fandom for artists like Harry is huge, but the way that fandom is taking artists on tour and translating them into a content strategy on TikTok is something new this year.”
TikTok can also be a tool for unearthing back catalog content. In 2021 there were acts like Boney M, a Euro-Caribbean vocal group by way of Germany from the 1970s-80s whose song “Rasputin” made the platform’s 2021 Top 20 Global Songs; and “The Backyardigans,” a Nickelodeon show that ran from 2004 to 2013, had resurgences this year.  
“A really interesting part of TikTok is how non-linear it is compared to DSPs, which are so focused on current catalog and who’s on the charts and have big hits,” Gruger says. “At TikTok we see artists and recorded parts of catalogs from all different eras pop up and go viral. Boney M is a really great example of an old ‘70s disco-era band that went viral because of a dance and other reasons and got a new modern context. Emo is a really big genre as well, with acts like Simple Plan and Papa Roach having a new relevance today in part because of TikTok. An audience will absolutely be showing up to see them in person.”  
Talk about actionable data… s