Thanks to TikTok, rising artists have found a surprising path to fame. “Say So” by Doja Cat, “Savage” by Megan Thee Stallion, and “Party Girl” by StaySolidRocky were all launched to the top of the music charts, thanks to the app. It comes at no surprise that popular artists are creating music using viral TikTok sounds (e.g. Jason Derulo’s “Savage Love”), but it’s not only celebs that are benefiting – artists without big labels are promoting their music and boosting their careers, one short video clip at a time. Spotify even has a “Viral Hits” playlist for rising artists on TikTok; from Abigail Barlow – of Bridgerton Musical fame – to Sarah Cothran’s hauntingly beautiful voice and Martina Lynn’s stunning covers, up-and-coming artists are taking full advantage of the app’s popularity.
Perhaps one of the most well-known artists whose career was boosted by TikTok is none other than Lil Nas X. His song “Old Town Road” was released on December 3, 2018, and in February of 2019 he uploaded the sound himself to TikTok, where it quickly became a meme; “Old Town Road” was the soundtrack of the “yee yee juice” trend on the app, in which people (and animals) drank yee yee juice, transforming them into a cowboy. “I promoted the song for months until it caught on to TikTok and became way bigger,” the rapper told Time. It went on to break records, having the longest consecutive run in the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Since then, Lil Nas X has signed to Columbia Records, performed at the VMAs, attended the Met Gala, and dropped his critically acclaimed debut album.
California-based musician mxmtoon recorded her debut EP in her parents’ spare bedroom and tried YouTube and Vine to promote her music, but she only reached viral levels in 2018, when she decided to join TikTok because she was hoping it would be her “redemption arc of trying to get internet clout on an app.” Her song “Falling For U” with producer Peachy went viral the same year and had almost 40 million streams on Spotify by June 2019. In September 2019, mxmtoon released her debut album The Masquerade. The lead single was “prom dress,” which spurred a TikTok trend with the hashtag “#awkwardprompose.” The song now has over a hundred million streams on Spotify and has been used in 83.3K TikToks and counting. mxmtoon has since been featured on a billboard in Times Square, made her Lollapalooza debut, and provided the singing voice for a character in the popular video game Life Is Strange: True Colors.
Another TikTok-fueled star is Ashnikko, whose tracks “Daisy,” “STUPID,” and “Working Bitch” have all gone viral on the app. After “STUPID” was used as a TikTok sound for the first time, it rocketed to one billion views on the hashtag page in only three weeks, gaining over 16 million streams on Spotify and 8 million on Apple Music in a month. Now, the singer has collaborated with Hatsune Miku on “Daisy 2.0,” performed on Jimmy Kimmel, and is going on a sold out tour.
Who knew TikTok would become such a crucial aspect of so many careers? But while some artists may dive in head first with the hope of hitting it big, some have found it by accident. Mia Giovina, a 20-year-old singer/songwriter from New Jersey, has similar aspirations to those who’ve successfully used TikTok to rise up in the music industry, and she’s currently taking the app by storm, but it wasn’t what she signed up to do. Though she thought the app was “strictly for dancing,” when she first joined, Mia decided to take a chance and post her first video, assuming that not many would see it. “I just posted my video because I was really proud of it,” Mia tells Her Campus.
Inspired by @stevienicksismymom, Mia first racked up the views with an edit of “Cherry,” by Harry Styles in the summer of 2020. Since then, the aspiring starlet has posted several popular rewrites – “Heather” by Conan Gray, “Love Story” by Taylor Swift, and “Before You Go” by Lewis Capaldi, to name a few – that put her incredible songwriting skills on display. Mia’s debut original song, “Sirens,” was released in March 2021, and since then she’s also dropped a track called “Time Machine.” With an angelic voice (think Lennon Stella meets Olivia Rodrigo and Gracie Abrams) and gorgeous lyrics (plus musical inspirations like Phoebe Bridgers, Taylor Swift, and Lizzy McAlpine), there’s no doubt in my mind that Mia Giovina is set to be one of your latest music obsessions, whether you’re on TikTok or not.
Rewrites may have been the first of Mia’s videos to go viral, and while they take a ton of work and creativity in their own right, there’s a whole other ball game in original releases. “[They’re] a lot easier to write just because the foundation is already there, and you’re just kind of building another part of the story,” she says of the rewrites. Meanwhile, you’re building an original from the group up. “Because of that, I always feel much more attached to my originals,” she says. “It’s literally like your child that you’ve created completely on your own and put out into the world.”
And quarantine provided the perfect opportunity for Mia to focus on songwriting, allowing her to feel out her audience and find her groove. “I wrote at least half of a new song every day for, like, three months straight,” Mia says. “Having the opportunity to really dive completely into my songwriting was such a special time for me.”
Today, she’s fully aware of the power TikTok has. “I always say that TikTok runs the music industry,” she jokes. “If a song goes viral on TikTok, it goes to the top of the charts.”
But beyond the viral success that TikTok can offer, Mia’s formed a unique and strong connection with her 181.3K followers – a side to the industry we don’t always get a peek at. “Your voice is such a dream and your lyrics always evoke emotions in me I never knew existed,” one follower commented on a recent post.
“It’s surreal to read some of the messages people send me expressing their love for my music,” Mia says. “I’ve even become friends with so many of my supporters from all over the world because of platforms like Instagram and TikTok. It’s really cool to be able to connect so directly with the people who are listening to and supporting your music!” To get them involved beyond just a role as listener, Mia even called on her fans to send in their own home videos for her “Time Machine” visualizer, showcasing social media’s unique role in connecting artists to fans. TikTok hasn’t just helped her gain popularity and find a foothold in the music industry, but it’s helped her connect with the people who her music impacts the most.
From old songs finding new life (e.g. “Gimme More” by Britney Spears) or new ones reaching incredible heights (“Levitating” by Dua Lipa recently became the longest-running song on Spotify’s “Today’s Top Hits” playlist), it’s clear that these quick video clips can have huge impacts. TikTok is helping new artists find fame in a way that’s never been seen before, and there’s no doubt about it – it’s shaking up the music industry, and a new wave of self-made artists is rising.