What’s the Point of TikTok for Musicians?


I’m going to keep this short.

That’s partly because I’m a bit worn out (I’ve churned out a lot of words lately), and partly because brevity makes sense, given the subject matter.

Here’s the subject matter:

How to deal with the “TikTokification” of art.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the verbiage, here’s a quick definition:

TikTokification: noun – The process of compressing meaning into the shortest format possible, often in a way that makes old people grumpy.

(As you may have noticed, I am one of the old people.)

Generally, I’m a fan of long-form content.

I like long books. I like three-hour movies. I like songs that run for more than three minutes. I tend to believe that more breadth creates more opportunity for depth.

Like, you can be impacted by one scene of a TV show – but you’ll be impacted much more deeply if you view that scene within the context of a four-season character arc.

Meaning requires context. Context requires time. TikTokification cuts time into the smallest segments possible, and so it cuts meaning into bite-sized bits, too. That results in art that’s easy to snack on, but that’s not ultimately fulfilling.

⬆️ That’s my cynical take.

But (ironically), it’s not the full picture.

Because I think there’s another way to view / use short-form art:

As a hook into a bigger story.

This, I think, should be the true purpose of TikTok (or Instagram Reels, or the two-minute-thirty-second pop song).

Viewed correctly, TikTok isn’t a replacement for depth; it’s not the junk food masquerading as a full-course meal. Instead, it’s the appetizer. It’s the tip of the spear. It’s the cover of the book.

It’s the entry point, not the endgame.

Sure, not everybody treats TikTok / short-form media this way. Shoot, most people probably don’t treat it this way. Tons of people only watch reels; tons of artists only make two-minute songs.

We want dessert for dinner, even when we know it’s not good for us. It’s human nature.

But that doesn’t mean that you should never have pistachio gelato.

I’m going to wrap things up here, because I promised I’d keep this brief, and because I’m making way too many food analogies.

If you’re considering putting time into TikTok, 1) ah you poor soul, and 2) I hope this thinking is helpful.

If you want more context on how to use short-form content, check out this discussion I had with Tom Dupree III the other week. Tom crystallized this idea for me; he’s good at that.

(But he’s also good at meaningful long-form content, too. Just saying.)

That’s all for this week. As always, thanks for reading.


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