How TikTok remixes breathe new life into the music industry

From Adult Swim to 'Cowboy Bebop,' TikTok is meshing popular culture with the music industry and helping to elevate local artists

For the last decade, social media has reigned king when it comes to community outreach and publicity. 

Few industries exemplify this more than in music. Stars like Justin Bieber made it big on YouTube, while Shawn Mendes made his mark on Vine, and established stars like BTS have used Twitter to boost outreach and ramp up sales. 

So, it should come as no surprise that with the emergence of TikTok, the music industry has once again found itself shaken up. 

Edward Blackmon, a popular music faculty associate and music marketing expert, said the app is interesting due to how it has adjusted the way marketers and record labels look at artists, "especially given the last year and a half" due to COVID-19.

“I think that to a certain extent, especially for new artists, you want to figure out how to have a level of engagement, and TikTok is that new platform. And so … we're really encouraging artists to get active on the platform," said Blackmon.

An example of this new generation of artists utilizing TikTok’s media outreach is ASU alumnus and former Sun Devils football player Edmond Boateng, who goes by the moniker of Kwe the Artist

His song, “OKAY SHAWTY,” produced by Jae Phillips (who has over 170,000 followers on the platform) has performed well, with nearly 78,000 videos using Phillips' version of the audio. 

@jaephillips1 Go stream OKAY SHAWTY on all streaming platforms now! #fypシ #producer #single #okshorty ♬ OKAY SHAWTY - Kwe the Artist



“It's one of those types of platforms that caters to the musician,” Kwe the Artist said. “Because it lets somebody look at (a song), respond to it, share it and then boom — there are so many things that you can integrate the same song with."

The track started as a way to tie in "a viral thing that was going on on TikTok," he said, by using a sample of Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright."

The popular TikTok audio adaptation of the song also includes a line from the English dub of "Cowboy Bebop: The Movie," where the main character says, "I love the kind of woman that will actually just kill me". 

“It really falls back on the nostalgia piece because you're able to bridge the gap," Blackmon said. “That's why you hear so many people, so many artists sampling music.”

This nostalgia feeds into the addictiveness of the app. “I feel like TikTok is almost like junk food in a way,” said Ross Morris, a junior majoring in popular music. “It's not just about being a good and talented musician ... but it's almost more about what you can do and how you can market it.”

One example Morris cited of the power remixes hold over TikTok was the Adult Swim trend that took over the app throughout the summer. To recap, the trend began when artist Vano 3000 posted a video with a remixed version of "Time Moves Slow" by BADBADNOTGOOD. 

Now the song has been used in almost 674,000 videos on the app, with even Adult Swim itself making its own video in response to the trend. And Vano 3000's original video has nearly 12 million views. 

Like most artists who experience a surge in exposure, Kwe the Artist is looking to parlay his initial success into something more. He recently released a collaboration with Rich the Kid, plans drop a new track titled "Nebula" and hopes to release a new record sometime in 2022. 

"In the near future, I really want to see my name on a Billboard chart," he said, adding that using TikTok may be the way to get there.


Reach the reporter at srkrish5@asu.edu and follow @shradhakrish on Twitter.

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