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‘If You Can Get Famous Easily, You’re Gonna Do It’: How TikTok Took Over Music

Earlier this year, Leanne Bailey spent an entire day making 100 cookies for a birthday party. She was paid $300 for her efforts. 

Later that week, she went on the app TikTok, which allows users to make 15-second videos set to music, and created a pair of cookie-decorating posts under the name TheBaileyBakery. She netted $1,000. “She’s a 40-plus-year-old lady from Kentucky, she has four kids, and TikTok videos are helping to financially support her,” says Devain Doolaramani, an intern at Arista Records who also manages Bailey — along with over 20 TikTok users who reach a combined 70 million in audience — on the side. Bailey alone has over 4 million fans. “We get 10 to 15 inquiries a day from artists and labels wanting to pay us to use their song,” Doolaramani says. 

It’s been almost exactly a year since the Chinese company Bytedance shuttered the lip-sync-video app, purchased at the end of 2017, and migrated its users to TikTok. The re-brand and launch have been extremely successful, at least when it comes to impacting pop music, since the platform has become a staging ground for hits — Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road,” yes, but also Ambjay’s “Uno,” Y2k and bbno$’s “Lalala,” and now it looks like Lizzo’s “Good as Hell” — before they crash into the mainstream. 

In 12 months, TikTok has become massive enough that Mike Caren, CEO of Artist Partner Group, compares it to

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