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For the TikTok 

Utah musicians turn to the popular app to help advance their careers.

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In the ever-changing landscape of the internet, trends rule—and the biggest trend right now is TikTok. With its emphasis on lip syncing, the app adds a decidedly musical bent to the short format popularized on long gone apps like Vine, and with viral songs just as integral as the video elements, the app has launched some artists to fame. Below are a few examples of Utah locals who have found some minor celebrity via the app, and a few who at least half-way hope to.

It's hard to pin down a catch-all sound that does well on TikTok, because there are so many different kinds of viral songs that suit different kinds of trends. Melodramatic skits are a common sight on the app, and are what led locals like MASN to fame. The Utah county teenager found fame via his song "Psycho!," an emo pop track that does its thing with a spare, mournful guitar part accompanied by deep, bouncing beat drops that usher in the refrain "I might just go psycho, too many drunk white hoes." While soundtracking hundreds of skits about jealous girlfriends and other Gen-Z understandings of what "psycho" is, the track led to real fame for the young artist, who's since signed to RCA Records for the release of his first EP.

Another member of the TikTok taste-making world, CMTEN, is more aligned with glitch pop, a fact that if not apparent in his viral song "NEVER MET!" should be when considering the song's feature from Glitch Gum. The SLC teen's song occupies a different part of TikTok's headspace, thriving in trippy "transition" videos which are basically just experiments in the effects work one can do using TikTok. The song has the kind of breakneck-speed spazzy randomness popularized by 100gecs (it even mentions Laura Les), complete with lyrics like "we broke up on PictoChat, crying on my DS"—a match made in heaven for TikTok's zaniest users.

There are other local artists, and not just teenaged ones, who hope to find the same success. Local rapper Shaadie says, "I have many songs out, and thought instead of hoping for someone to discover one of these songs and do a video ... why not just make a literal song for TikTok." That turned into the aptly named "4theTikTok," which led to a fair number of users doing choreographed dances to the inviting club beat. "As far as the outcome, it didn't take off like I would have hoped, but at the same time, with the lack of a consistent type of promo due to lack of finances, it was hard to get the song out to the masses needed to have a viral notice." But, the song is catchy, and Shaadie relents that "those that do discover it all have the same feeling of it needing to be picked up officially by TikTok. So that's nice at least."

At this point, one might be wondering where TikTok users and influencers actually go to find the songs they pull snippets from for their viral skits. Local musician Russ Wood of Eichlers, profiled in City Weekly in October, has some insights after attempting to use the app to get word out on his new album. "Services like Submithub allow you to pitch your song directly to influencers for them to use in videos," he says. "I've been seeing everywhere that TikTok is the place for people to discover new music, and people have built careers off of one song going viral on the platform. It's the one social that people scroll with the sound on, so for musicians that's kind of a guaranteed way of getting your music (at least part of one song) heard by real people. Plus, their algorithm is more bent towards discovery on the [For You page] and will serve people content based on niche interests rather than general accounts they already follow, like on IG." Wood also notes that since it's the spot where "the kids" hang out, young, loyal fans are at the ready if part of your song does catch on.

Chazz Pitts, of local band Picnics, goes on TikTok casually, and adds, "Feels like part of the TikTok algorithm uses music taste or something, 'cause it only took a couple days being on the app before I was getting suggested TikToks using either music I've listened to in them or people creating content around certain musicians or genres." There, Pitts has found niches like "Alex G TikTok" or "shoegaze TikTok," and mines the app for users with similar tastes to then pitch tracks to.

Local solo artist Josaleigh Pollett, though, had a different experience. "I started it thinking I'd use it as a promotional tool, but I quickly realized that the algorithm for it is wild." Since realizing that, Pollett mostly uses it for fun, sometimes promoting her own songs. "But it's so random if it will do well. I've gotten a few new listeners from it, but way more just fun friends than anything. It seems like people either work really hard to get their art noticed on there, or maybe do nothing and it blows up for them!"

It seems that fame is, as it ever was, an elusive thing. But at least TikTok offers one new, accessible way of getting closer to it.

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Erin Moore

Erin Moore

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Erin Moore is City Weekly's music editor. Email tips to: music@cityweekly.net.

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