Are you a Canadian music artist who wants instantaneous success?
There's an app for that and its name is TikTok.
And according to its second annual music report released late last year, the popularity of Canadian artists both renowned and unknown is exploding thanks to a mobile app that allows its users to create short videos ranging from 15 seconds to three minutes.
Up to this point, the biggest Canadian success story has been Tate McRae, who domestically owned TikTok in 2020 and was promptly snapped up by Sony Music. For 2021, TikTok says that a pair of Canadian artists - Vancouver rapper, singer and songwriter Alexander Gumuchian - better known as bbno$ - and 17-year-old Torontonian RealestK, an alt- R&B singer - have been the greatest domestic beneficiaries of TikTok's viral exposure.
A glimpse of bbno$'s TikTok history on Saturday revealed the following stats: 1.6M followers; 22.8M likes and 14.2M views based on 113 supplied videos from Gumuchian, largely based on his song "edamame," and more recently, consisting of him and his wife/girlfriend flexing their eyebrows to the opening strains of the song, usually presented in snippets that last no longer than 23 seconds.
For RealestK, the main engine of his drive to recognition has been the R&B ballad W.F.M., (short for Wait For Me). It has amassed him 682K followers, 14.3M likes and views that are north of 400M - yes, you read that correctly - from those who have used his song as a backdrop for their means of video expression.
And it seems to have also been a particularly good year for ElyOtto - a.k.a. Elliott Ferrous-Martin Platt - a 17-year-old Calgary-based Trans "hyperpop" artist whose SugarCrash! was the top track by a Canadian artist, resulting in 6.8M video creations, according to TikTok.
I keep repeating the words "according to," because, for the most part, the lists they provide aren't accompanied by numbers, or how they determine these various statures.
For example, here's TikTok's list of the Top 10 tracks in 2021 by Canadian artists (and non-Canadian collaborators where applicable):
1. SugarCrash! - ElyOtto
2. Stay - Kid LAROI and Justin Bieber
3. Way 2 Sexy - Drake with Future and Yung Thug
4. Hot Demon Bitches Near U!!! - CORPSE and Night Lovell
5. Jalebi Baby - Tesher
6. Peaches - Justin Bieber, Daniel Caesar and Giveon
7. Running Away - Vano 3000 & BadBadNotGood & Samuel T. Herring
8. Burning Pile - Mother Mother
9. FMRN - Lilyisthatyou
10. W.F.M. - RealestK
If you go to ElyOtto's TikTok site, or Nick Luciano, an American Western wear manufacturer who performed a version of SugarCrash! that went viral to 220M, there's no real indicator of the 6.8M video creations, although it's evident the song has made an impressive impact.
The same for TikTok's Top 10 "Artists with Most Growth:" Although they list - in order - Justin Bieber, Sickick, Shawn Mendes, Lubalin, Avril Lavigne, The Weeknd, Akintoye, Tiagz, Mother Mother and Tate McRae - how are they qualifying it? Most growth...from where?
In this case - and others - some context from the platform providing this info would be helpful.
In the era of metadata, where there seems to be an emphasis on precision except when it comes to actually release numbers, in many cases due to the fact that businesses feel the release of this information will somehow enable their competitors - although TikTok stands in a league by itself- is puzzling. Wouldn't painting a more accurate picture lead to bigger and more frequent business opportunities, especially in light of positive metrics?
TikTok isn't the only perpetrator of this practice, but the lack of transparency calls into question the veracity of whatever statement they choose to make without publishing the stats to back them up, or involving a third impartial party to verify the numbers they do decide to share with the public.
For example, here's another Top 10 list TikTok provides of the most viewed Canadian artists in 2021:
1. Tate McRae
2. Justin Bieber
3. Johnny Orlando
4. Shawn Mendes
Log into Tate McRae's TikTok account and she lists 3.5M followers. Log into Justin Bieber's TikTok account and he has 23.3M followers. So, what info are we missing that places McRae ahead of the Biebs?
Here's a stat that does add up: Wallaroo Media, a Utah-based e-marketing firm, published that TikTok was available in 150 countries and boasted over 1 billion users by September 2021, which gives some credence to TikTok's claim that 430 songs passed the 1 billion video view mark over the past 12 months.
There's another certainty: that the sudden viral popularity of new acts debuting on TikTok is making it easier for record companies to find fresh meat, so to speak, with Vancouver's Jessika Harling - a.k.a. Jessia - transforming her song I'm Not Pretty into generating 9 million Spotify streams within 30 days and a contract with Republic Records in the U.S. This springboard not only enables immediate exposure and record deals for artists like Jessia, ElyOtto (RCA), The RealestK (Columbia), but it's also letting some of the older guard, i.e. Shania Twain and Michael Bublé use it as a video diary or resurrecting interest in classic tracks like Mother Mother's Burning Pile, a track from the band's 2008 album O My Heart that TikTok says secured the #7 Catalogue Track of the year in 2021.
But the Canadian band that might have benefited most from TikTok is Montreal's Simple Plan.
Their debut single, I'm Just A Kid - from their 2002 debut album No Pads, No Helmets...Just Balls - was adapted to the trending TikTok meme #imjustakid, where viewers were encouraged to post pictures of themselves now and when they were kids. Each post includes the Simple Plan tune and celebrities ranging from Ed Sheeran to actor Jason Statham to NSYNC's Lance Bass and Joey Fatone have participated.
The number so far: 4.4B.
Somewhere... a music publisher is smiling.