Saskatchewan

To TikTok or not to TikTok? How Sask. musicians are using the platform

With a billion users, TikTok has rapidly become one of the most important social media players in the game. It may not suit every musician who is trying to promote their music, but for some it can be a passion. 

SaskMusic encourages artists to join the platform, if they can keep up with the trends

Brian Mendoza, a Regina-based musician, has 404.7K followers on TikTok.
Brian Mendoza, a Regina-based musician, has 404.7K followers on TikTok. (Submitted by Brian Mendoza)

With a billion users, TikTok has rapidly become one of the most important social media players in the game. It may not suit every musician who is trying to promote their music, but for some it can be a passion. 

SaskMusic said it encourages musicians in the province to use social media platforms, and TikTok has become a much-talked-about tool.

"Our word of advice for artists is if they're comfortable going on TikTok, and that's something that feels authentic to them and that they can keep up on a consistent basis as well, it's definitely worth pursuing," said Lorena Kelly, interim executive director of SaskMusic.

"There's lots of discovery options for fans through TikTok, and as you know that can lead to other things like higher streams and concert attendance and just a bigger fan base in general."

However, she said artists should not expect to make money off the social media platform. 

"Obviously when you're talking about music usages, often it's in like 15-second or 32-second little clips. So accordingly, the royalties are really, really low," Kelly said. 

Still, she said SaskMusic has seen some local artists have "amazing success" on TikTok. 

Lorena Kelly is interim executive director of SaskMusic. She said the organization encourages some Saskatchewan musicians to get on the TikTok platform.
Lorena Kelly is interim executive director of SaskMusic. She said the organization encourages some Saskatchewan musicians to get on TikTok. (Laura Sciarpelletti/CBC)

One such artist is pop and R&B musician Brian Mendoza of Regina. The 22-year-old has more than 400,000 followers on his TikTok account.

Mendoza livestreams his performance on the online service Twitch and then posts the content as videos on YouTube. That's where he makes money.

Then, he cuts short clips from the YouTube videos and uploads them to TikTok. Some of these videos have gone viral. Now Mendoza views the platform as an integral part of promoting his music and generating a strong fanbase. 

"It helps them get to know me a little bit and then say, 'Oh, it's such a short clip. I want to see more of this person. I want to see more.' And so they go and stumble upon my other social media," said Mendoza.

TikTok viewers landing on his YouTube and Spotify accounts means more revenue for Mendoza.

"I want to blow up in the music industry. So [TikTok] is kind of a way for me to just keep sharing that," said Mendoza. 

WATCH | Sask. musicians are taking advantage of TikTok's influence to gain and audience: 

Sask. musicians are taking advantage of TikTok's influence to gain and audience

5 days ago
Duration 2:31
Local musicians are using one of the world's largest social media platforms to promote their music and grow their audience.

Mental health and preparation

Kelly said the SaskMusic team warns musicians that with the good side of TikTok also comes the bad.

"It can be really challenging to read through things as an artist ... to deal with the praise and the criticism at the same time. So I think you just definitely have to consider whether you're prepared for kind of everything that comes with any kind of social media engagement," Kelly said.

The social media platform TikTok now has a billion users. And many musicians use it to grow their fan base. CBC's Laura Sciarpelletti joins us to dig into the benefits of artists using the app.

Mendoza is very comfortable on the internet, but admits the criticism can be harsh.

"You have to learn to adapt to everything that you're doing. But my advice is just upload something, see how people like it and you grow from that," he said.

Meanwhile, Kelly said artists also need to be prepared to deliver live performances and promotion. 

"Of course, you always hope that something's going to go viral. But on the backside of that is ... have you done the work to prepare for that? Are you ready to go and do those performances? And have you put the prep time into being ready to go if somebody calls you and says, 'hey, can you do this big show?'"

A man, who is out of focus, looks at his cellphone while standing near a neon 'TikTok' sign.
TikTok can be a valuable tool for musicians, but it does not generate much revenue on its own. (Tolga Akmen/AFP/Getty Images)

One example of that kind of success is Regina musician Tesher, whose sudden viral success on TikTok landed him a record deal and eventually led him to a Top 40 hit song with mega-artist Jason Derulo. A quick Instagram peruse today shows Tesher travelling the world, most recently living it up in Dubai.

"So, you know, we always want them to be not just preparing for a viral moment. So much is preparing their growth as an artist. So if they work hard and something takes off, yep, we're ready for this," Kelly said. 

Uplifting music fans

For alternative pop singer-songwriter Anna-Marie, TikTok is not about making money. The Neuforf, Sask., 23-year-old said she simply wants to inspire and uplift her fans. 

In March 2022, one of Anna-Marie's videos hit one million views. She was thrilled.

"For a while there I was following the same trends as the other artists, like just solely posting about my music. But I feel that that sort of changed in March."

Singer-songwriter Anna-Marie is based in Neuforf, Saskatchewan.
Singer-songwriter Anna-Marie is based in Neuforf, Sask. (Submitted by Anna-Marie)

That's when Anna-Marie found out she would finally get the life-changing eye surgery she had desperately wanted. That brought an obvious joy to her TikTok content. 

"The last few years in particular, I feel that there's been so much negativity and division within the world, and I just wanted to inspire people. I just want to uplift them," said Anna-Marie, who goes by her stage name. 

The young artist has managed to do just that. 

"I've gotten so many comments over the last little while from people saying, 'Oh my gosh, I just love how positive and uplifting your content is.' And people are saying that I'm a little ray of sunshine on social media."

Anna-Marie's TikTok content does feature her music, but it also features her sharing exciting personal news and stories about her musical journey. 

In the end, music sharing platforms will ebb and flow, and come and go. But for many Saskatchewan musicians, their focus on quality contact with the fans is what really matters.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Laura is a journalist for CBC Saskatchewan. She is also the community reporter for CBC's virtual road trip series Land of Living Stories. Laura previously worked for CBC Vancouver. Some of her former work has appeared in the Globe and Mail, NYLON Magazine, VICE Canada and The Tyee. Laura specializes in health-care, arts, environmental and human interest coverage. She holds a master of journalism degree from the University of British Columbia. Follow Laura on Twitter: @MeLaura. Send her news tips at laura.sciarpelletti@cbc.ca

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