TIME

FROM MEMES TO MUSIC STARS

TikTok turns emerging artists into viral sensations. But who actually benefits?

IN 2017, A LITTLE-KNOWN RAPPER NAMED SUPA DUPA HUMBLE RELEASED his song “Steppin’” to a muted response. He moved on to other projects, but a year and a half later, he noticed a surge in the song’s view count on YouTube. As he scrolled through the comments, he kept seeing one word over and over again: “Who came here from TikTok?” “TikTok brought me here.” “Greetings from TikTok but this song is fire.”

“I’m like, What is TikTok?” the rapper, who is 27 and lives in Brooklyn, recalls.

Some quick research led him to the app TikTok, which he promptly downloaded and began to explore. The app allows users to post short videos of themselves lip-synching to music, doing makeup tutorials, performing synchronized dances or acting out comedic skits. There he found that people were creating skits lip-synching to the first 15 seconds of his song.

As he kept coming back to the app, the number of videos kept ballooning: his music had formed the soundtrack to a viral meme. And as TikTok users tried to find the song in its entirety, his numbers on Spotify and other streaming platforms were shooting up too.

“I was so hype,” he says. “It was unbelievable.”

TikTok is the latest breakout platform to house these types of short-form videos, following Vine, which shut down in early 2017, Dubsmash and TikTok’s previous iteration Musical.ly. In November 2017,

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