TikTok Ban: What Would It Mean for Artists?

Since its debut, Tiktok’s popularity cultivated its ecosystem of stars, not to mention a revenue for music labels and partnered brands. But this July, TikTok emerged as a target for the Trump administration, being labelled a “risk to U.S. national security.” Following a recent official executive order calling for a ban on the app, it poses the one (among many) questions: what would this mean for U.S. artists and artists worldwide?

THE EFFECTS 

The terms are seemingly straightforward: as of August 6th 2020, TikTok has 45 days to find an American company to buy it, or it will be banned in the country. Microsoft is rumoured to be in talks to buy the U.S. operations of the app. Still, the acquisition of a social network by a technology company with little expertise in social media reveals a big gap between “creation and curation”.

Disguised as a security issue, the U.S. vs TikTok battle quickly spiralled into a thorny geopolitical conflict.  Its repercussions on the countries’ relations is a whole other blog, but how will banning the app affect artists who were already gaining traction?

With touring out of the questions, major labels turned to the app to catapult new singles into number one hits and to promote established artists (Doja Cat, Ava Max, Megan Thee Stallion). But with a ban looming on the horizon, many independent artists (including global ones) will be forced to amass awareness in some other form.

Let’s look at it this way: TikTok allowed anybody to create a musical  “hit”, attracting the attention of the big sharks and often resulted in million-dollar deals. It’s the app that took power away from the old system (one that determined an artist had to have a huge budget to get on the radio and become commercially successful).

Unlike YouTube and Spotify (both which follow the same approach but are still firmly tied to major labels), TikTok is an “open for all” place. An unknown today can break out a hit single by next week.

Much like any other platform, it gave rise to the influencer trend and serves as a foundation of creativity for over  800 million users worldwide. Its ban means content creators will need to learn to use a new platform and reimagine their strategies.

“A TikTok ban in the U.S. would be a setback for the global, mainly western, music industry, [which would] not be able to generate the volume of viral hits at the current speed we are at today.” – Tim Collins 

HOW TO STAY AHEAD 

Whether or not Microsoft acquires the app, one thing is for sure: the app won’t be the same. Many Indian users (where TikTok is already banned) have urged followers to remain connected via other platforms, including YouTube and Instagram.

Their Western counterparts are doing the same.

The best way to prepare for a possible ban, however, is to stay attuned to alternative platforms and keep up to date with which ones are gaining traction. That is to say, start working on establishing a presence so you don’t start from zero should the ban come into place.

Above all, make sure to back up all your existing content on TikTok, so you can still access the original content.

In saying all of this, it’s not all doom and gloom. “The loss of TikTok in the U.S will only allow creators to focus more on other platforms and leave room for another upcoming app,” says user Ahlyssa Marie, cofounder of the content house Clubhouse Next.

ALTERNATIVES

Once upon a time, there was Musical.ly, and before that, Vine. Demands for TikTok successors are on the rise. Although many agree that the app’s algorithms are unmatched, competitors are already making head starts, in particular, two:

  • Triller: being downloaded more than 250 million timesand reaching #1 on the App Store in 50 countries. This short-form video platform  “allows users to create a mini music video by recording multiple different scenes attached to the same song snippet and then automatically edits them together in a random sequence.” Unlike TikTok, Triller edits videos for the user, making it accessible for people with any skill set.
  • Instagram Reels: originally, TikTok creators had to send their followers to their Instagram page for more information – now, it’ll all be on the same platform. With an algorithm created to mimic TikTok’s, Reels is similar to IGTV and Stories. It aims to venture into a new creative community, pitching to help new creators get discovered even if they don’t have a large fanbase. On the flip side, if your Instagram following is a big part of your work and identity, Instagram Reels is going to be a more intuitive option.
TikTok

Banning TikTok will undoubtedly affect the prospects and careers of those who have worked hard to establish a presence on the app (and hinder the attempts of others). Global artists need to take this time to steer into new alternatives and to remember that other apps will undoubtedly try to mimic what made TikTok successful in the first place.