Can TikTok Create Talent?

You’ve definitely seen them: The teens (and even some adults) dancing and lip-syncing their way through fifteen seconds on an app that sprung up in the wake of Vine’s death. If you live under a rock and don’t know, I’m talking about TikTok.

In a short time, TikTok has become the new It app for a strong majority of today’s teens and young adults. Of course, this means there’s a whole new genre of influencer, one that, essentially, seems to have even less substance than the infamous YouTuber, or even an Instagram star.

So, why is it that musicians are using TikTok (and other questionable forms of social media) to launch music careers? Why are there so many articles out there telling them how to do so (really, Google it!)?

Obviously, transmedia has always had opportunities when used in a traditional marketing sense: Post some pictures and short videos on Instagram, put concert dates on Facebook’s events, and Tweet a few snarky comments to make yourself seem more relatable, and you’ll have fans. But apps like TikTok are an anomaly. What do fans get out of watching their favorite artists flossing (The dance kind, not the tooth kind. I’d be even more confused by the latter.)?

Before finding the answer in the present, we have to dig into the past.

If you’re around my age (21), you’ll likely remember when YouTube and Vine were the main sources of entertainment, and, as a result, the influencers that came from them. Yes, I’m talking about MAGCon.

I’m not here to make fun of the people who enjoyed MAGCon culture (or TikTok, or anything, really). In fact, I’ll admit it: I attended DigiTour, and I had fun! Yeah, some of the influencers didn’t really have a talent, and they just jumped around onstage, but there were some acts that I really enjoyed thanks to their charisma, comedy, or musical talent.

But, many people were there because they wanted to see those seemingly talentless influencers, the ones jumping around onstage. Why?

The answer is simple: They felt connected.

This could be the key to the TikTok phenomenon, too. When someone—especially a young, impressionable person—feels like they know someone’s personality online, they will want to know them in person, too. They will want to support this person, to feel like the relationship goes two ways. For many of these lucky fans, it can. For others, a “concert” is enough of an illusion to mask the true distance between creator and consumer.

So, we can understand this: People will support a creator with whom they feel a connection. But what about musicians on these apps? Would people still enjoy their music if the social media connection was severed? Should these performers stick to the apps, or expand their brand and play live?

From my own experience, and in my personal opinion, no—unless they’re extremely well-practiced and prepared to put on a show, not just a performance. The thing that breaks many social media-based artists in my mind is a lack of differentiation between a performance on an app, and a live show.

The perfect example is Brothers Page, a popular Instagram/TikTok team of brothers. Please take my critiques with a grain of salt, and remember that they are just that: critiques. As a music reviewer, this is my job, and it doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy someone’s music.

And I do enjoy Brothers Page’s music! I think they have great voices and a lot of talent within the mashups they create on social media. Their vocals are very well-blended, trained, and suit the songs they choose to sing. I can definitely understand why they have (at this moment) almost forty thousand followers on TikTok and over a million on Instagram. I think it would be fair to say that they are, objectively, talented people.

That being said, I would not think so if I was only exposed to their live show. When I was first introduced to Brothers Page, it was via their opening act for Hot Chelle Rae’s Burlington, Vermont show on December 5, 2019. While it was mentioned that it was Brothers Page’s first live show, it was also completely obvious (at least to the trained eye) that they were completely unprepared. I can understand nerves and a lack of polishing for a first show. Heck, I can even sympathize with a train wreck. But it is my strong belief that bands who are not ready to play live should not do so until they are as bulletproof as possible, at least in rehearsal.

That’s not to say Brothers Page was a train wreck: Their vocals sounded very much similar to their social media videos, and nothing went explicitly wrong. But—and this is the Big But—they appeared as if they were performing for a phone camera, not a ballroom full of people. Marching in place and swaying back and forth may give videos a great sense of movement and presence, but it does the opposite on a large stage. Unless a social media musician understands this, their show will likely feel staged and small, much like this one.

That’s not to say that musicians who get their start online shouldn’t perform live. They should, but they should also keep in mind that live music is a whole new ball game.

In some ways, TikTok and other forms of social media can also truly benefit beginning artists, and this should be acknowledged. In fact, many artists that we know and love (Justin Bieber, Shawn Mendes, and Alessia Cara, the list goes on) gained fame because of social media. In fact, without TikTok, Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” might have never gained popularity: Its viral success as part of the “Yeehaw Challenge” is what put him on the map as an artist. It will likely do the same thing for countless others before a new app replaces its fame.

Social media is becoming a bigger and bigger part of the music industry, to the point where, in coming years, I could see apps like TikTok becoming the place for fans to discover new music, and for artists to primarily create it. We’ll all just have to wait and see.

In the meantime, check out Brothers Page and decide for yourself:

Instagram
TikTok

 

A Day in My Life as a Music Blogger

Ever wonder how exactly my posts are made from start to finish? Whether you’re a curious reader, an aspiring writer, or a musician interested in submitting your work, it’s understandable that you might want to know a bit more about what goes on behind the scenes. Contrary to some people’s beliefs, writing takes time, and so does running a blog with a scope like this one. I’m excited to give you a short behind-the-scenes look at my daily life as a music blogger!

Obviously, not every day looks the same, especially since I am a student. Below is a typical day during the semester for me, as accurately portrayed as possible….

8am: Wake up and leave for my first class around 8:45. I get there ridiculously early so my butt is in my chair for when class starts at 9:30, but I can get a lot done before the professor even arrives. If a post is being published, I typically send a link to the artist and do my social media promotion for it during this time frame, including writing the text, creating the graphic on Canva, and researching and adding hashtags. If I am publishing a Wednesday feature, I copy and paste the text and Canva graphic that I created earlier in the week for the post.

9:30am – 4:45pm: I am typically in class during this time period, depending on the day. If I have breaks during the day, I will use them to check my email and respond to artists or companies that may have contacted me. If time permits, I will also begin planning a post for the next week, or updating my calendar. Social media work also takes place during this period; I try to engage with other users by liking and commenting on their posts and following a few to make them aware of my account and the work I do. If I am running a promotion or need more artists to review, I will also post in music-related Facebook groups about it and potentially network a bit in my favorite group, Girls Behind the Rock Show, before logging off for more class time.

7pm: After dinner, I will choose to either focus on homework or write a post, depending on the day. I try to set a day to focus on each music review, particularly when it comes to album reviews, so I have ample time to really get into the sounds of each. I will listen to each track about three times, so reviewing can be pretty time-consuming before I even start writing. That being said, it’s a pleasant way to spend all that time!

11pm: After I finish writing, I’ll typically spend some time doing something else to relax and decompress after working all day. I try to get ready for bed and be attempting to fall asleep by 11, but my work never really stops: before bed, I tend to check my email once more and do a bit more work on social media before I go to sleep.

Obviously, weekends and workdays at my marketing job look a bit different, but my day-to-day life as a music reviewer is relatively consistent when it comes to what I do each day, even if the times change. If you’re interested in becoming a music blogger (or any kind of writer, honestly), consistency is the best thing you can do for yourself!

What does your daily life look like? I hope you enjoyed getting a peek at mine!

Best Singles of Fall 2019!

It’s that time again! I’m excited to announce my favorite music of the season, highlighting some of the musicians that deserve recognition the most.

While I can only include my top three singles, please know that if your band/your favorite band wasn’t included, it does NOT mean they lack in any way, it just means that the field is so competitive that only the best of the best (in my opinion) can be considered.

Everything about these songs was analyzed, from the production of the song as a whole to the quality of each instrument and vocal part. Without further ado, these are my top three singles from Fall 2019 submissions from September-December, excluding EPs and albums:

3. “Constellations” by Heavenly Faded

“‘Constellations’ begins with a building of tension in the guitar and percussion lines. Rhythmic, methodical riffs make way for the classically indie-rock vocals, which are perfectly suited to the unassumingly powerhouse instrumentals. The bassline, albeit not at the forefront, is well-suited to the track, working with both the guitars and the drummer to create a balanced mix of rhythm and melody through the track’s twists and turns. Even throughout tempo changes and during less-saturated sections, every beat obviously matters to every member of Heavenly Faded; measures are clearly planned and practiced to create a semblance of effortlessness that makes for easy listening. The work put into the single is clear even to the untrained ear throughout every dip and sway of the song.” —Heavenly Faded’s New Single Shines Bright

2. “Heart Beat” by Marble House

“Overall, “Heart Beat” lives up to its name: A lifeblood-shaker of a song, the track is perfect to dance to. The track was mixed by Aaron Bastinelli in Brooklyn, NY, and mastered by Joe Lambert in Jersey City, NJ. Described by the band as an “epic, fast-paced indie rock critique of modern hookup culture,” it tells a story that many listeners are likely to understand all too well. While the beginning of the song tells a story of “two people who will end up in bed together by the end of the night,” it widens into “commentary on the impersonal blur that is contemporary dating.'” —Brooklyn Band Rocks Down the (Marble) House With Latest Single, “Heart Beat”

1. “Not a Stranger” by RAGS & RICHES

“On their social media, RAGS AND RICHES touts the track as a song “for anyone struggling with self doubt.” Their message is that “you are not alone in this fight” and you need to “push through the negative thoughts holding you back” so you can “just learn how to fly.”  This message echoes the love and positive vibes of their last track, and it’s easy to feel the band’s pure connection to these messages in “Not a Stranger,” too.

“Not a Stranger” begins with the intensity listeners have grown to expect from RAGS AND RICHES. Heartbeat-like pounding and buzzing electronic beats lead us into a quieter, melodic instrumental section before the vocals come in. The waves of intensity matched with calm, xylophone-like rhythms and interesting percussion throughout the track create the perfect party song, but also something that’s fun to listen to when working out or just relaxing.” —RAGS AND RICHES are Far From Strangers to this Blog!

 

What were your favorite tracks this season?

 

 

Bishop LaVey is The Atom

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[All images courtesy of Kane Sweeney]
Ever heard of Doom Folk?

I hadn’t until I was fortunate enough to run into Bishop LaVey—AKA Kane Sweeney—at his show with Keep Flying at Jim’s Basement in Burlington, Vermont! Local to the Vermont scene, he is a singer-songwriter who produces music unlike anything I had heard before.

“Bishop LaVey” was originally meant to be just one darker, more aggressive concept album in Kane’s singer-songwriter career, but his new persona took off to have a life of its own. His discography under Bishop has grown to include releases like Light (February 2019, album), Paint Me the Widow (2017 EP), and singles such as “As Much as You Control” and “Trouble for Nothing.”

Now, Bishop LaVey is back with a new release: I Am the Atom, an album due to be released tomorrow, December 7, 2019—or, as Kane mentioned at Jim’s Basement, Pearl Harbor Day.

“I am the Atom” is the title track of the release, as well as the first song of the album. The stage is set for the track’s gritty vocals by light acoustic guitar strumming and a spoken word piece. “I am the Atom” brings a lot of Bishop’s strengths into play: his vocals are emphasized and echo among the steady guitar stream, allowing us to really get into the rhythm he creates and molds throughout the track.

The guitar picking at the beginning of “Romulus” brings a flighty feel to the song before it quickly deepens and slows through plodding, resonating notes as the vocals enter. The heaviness of the instrumentals brings extra emphasis and focus to the lyrics and the dynamic storyline within them: “Well, I was born up on the mountain / And they’ll drown me in the lake / Well, I breathe in Armageddon / And they’ll die for my mistakes / If my body is a temple / Well, then it’s seen some better days / So you can throw me from this hilltop / I see no sacrifice in vain / Now I am coming home / You’ve seen how I / I stand alone….” The character that Bishop takes on is one that we get to know well through the lyrics’ twists and turns, and it is a sonic pleasure to do so—In fact, “Romulus” is one of my favorite songs of the album.

The lightness of the introduction to “Ballad of John Peyton” juxtaposes nicely with the darkness of the previous tracks’ instrumentals. Much like the darkness emphasized the light of Bishop’s vocals in the previous track, the light of “Ballad of John Peyton” really shows off the grit in Bishop LaVey’s voice. Although it isn’t my favorite of the album—its slower pace not only shows the strengths in Bishop’s musicality, but also hints at some of the not-so-strong parts, such as the occasional unintentional shakiness of his longer-held notes—it does provide a bit of relief from the completely saturated, strong-willed tracks surrounding it. “Ballad of John Peyton” is a well-placed track in terms of the album, and I do believe it adds strength to the whole in its unique approach.

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The picking pattern and bassline that launch “The Myth Has Broken” echo the phrasing of the vocals in a way that makes it another one of my favorite songs of this album. Tolling like a bell, Bishop’s vocals are rhythmically mesmerizing, especially when the track picks up around the one and a half minute mark. The sweeping synthesizer adds a lot to the fullness of the track when combined with the other instrumentals, but Bishop also chooses the perfect points to pull back in again, making “The Myth Has Broken” a dynamic, interesting track to listen to no matter how many times you put it on repeat.

“Weaker Man” employs softness in its guitar line to set off Bishop’s sandy tones. This is one of those tracks where the space between notes matters as much as what is there. Every moment feels intentional and well-practiced. The gentle, constant instrumentals allow for the focus to really be on the well-written lyrics and their delivery as the song builds: “Going to a place I’ve never been before / All you give me is a glimpse, I need something more / The crows, they laugh at me through my bedroom wall / All I want is to clip their wings and watch them fall / Burning through my cash and booze and cigarettes / I probably got ten years in me and that’s at best / You keep me grounded someplace I can stand / Cut me off at the knees and you’ll see a weaker man.”

The final track of I Am the Atom is “The Family Curse.” Starting slow, but still measured and dynamic, “The Family Curse” focuses again on the fantastic lyrical storytelling that I have come to expect from Bishop. Even when the track picks up with the unpredictable introduction of electric guitar and percussion, it still retains the elements that make Bishop LaVey’s music so interesting to listen to. In fact, the addition of fuller instrumentals only highlights the strengths of his storytelling and musical ability, and I would love to see things mixed up more like this in the future. “The Family Curse’s” melancholy vocals and dynamically yearning instrumentals echo the themes found throughout the album, wrapping things up in a way that feels fittingly final.

If you’re interested in hearing some Doom Folk for yourself, check out Bishop’s album when it goes live tomorrow, or catch him at one of the upcoming shows of his Atomic Winter Tour:

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Learn more about Bishop LaVey:

Facebook
Instagram
Spotify
BandCamp

Bass Stereotypes

Music is one of the industries where it’s easy to put people into little boxes that are comically true or annoyingly false. Everybody knows the typical bassist stereotypes: We’re failed guitarists, all slappa da bass, and fat tones come from bellies or beards. Whether you agree with the stereotypes or not, you’ve definitely heard them. But what about the stereotypes within the pool of bassists alone? I think a lot can be said about a bassist bas(s)ed on their bass!

Please note that these are just for fun, and not meant to offend anyone!

Fender P Bass

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Usually in rusty brown starburst, the P Bass is such a common sight that it serves an array of different players. From the studio musician to the guy-you-sorta-know-who-kinda-plays-bass-so-he’ll-do-for-your-pop-punk-band, it seems like every musician who doesn’t have a Fender Jazz has a Fender P Bass. For those who just want to get the job done in the most versatile generic way possible, this bass is the holy grail.

The Sticker-Bombed Bass

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The owner of this bass is definitely in a pop punk band, and they’re definitely cooler than you. At least, they are in their heads. I mean, look at all the cool stickers from places they’ve toured! And that generic Nirvana smiley sticker. They’re not like other bassists, obviously.

Just don’t ask how it sounds.

Fender Squier

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A money-saving choice we all make at one time or another, the Squier will be the best mistake you ever made. Guaranteed to be either a gem or a money pit, the Squier is for those real risk-takers, or those real beginners. When you see a bassist with one of these slung over their shoulder, you can bet on how gullible, broke, or just plain cheap of a person they are in an instant.

Acoustic Bass

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Yee-yee! This one ‘ere is fer the country boys n’ girls n’ everyone in between. Wanna make yer music sound mighty fine, but can’t overpower yer mamma’s boy lead singer? This ‘ere’s the one for you! Folks will barely hear ya, but you’ll be doin’ yer lead singer’s mama proud!

Boutique Bass

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For the pickiest of bassists, a boutique bass can come in any shape, size, color, or configuration. But it’s probably just a  far pricier Fender Jazz ripoff. Still! Listen to how much better it sounds! Shhhhh, listen to the money talking….

Dingwall

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This player likely has premature arthritis from having to contort their hands to play their Frankenstein of an instrument. They’re probably pretty good, but they’ll likely have to retire before they hit the big 5-0 when their second wrist replacement wears off. In the meantime, they know they’re cooler than you, and they would be right. Listen to that sick sweep, dude!

Want more bass stereotypes? Leave a comment about what other types of basses you want to hear about!

Judge me on my basses:

Covering all the Basses
Bass Review: Psycho Pink Gamma
Bass Review: Rock-It Gamma
Bass Review: Starburst Gamma