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TikTok’s Takeover of the Entertainment Industry

Over the course of the last two years, many people got what they did not sign up for. There were graduations and prom dances online, working from home and much more. There were, however, online classes which felt like the longest snow day, week, month and in some cases students experienced a “snow year.” Independent of whether there were movie productions on hold or TV series with unexpected season finales, over 100 million Americans resorted to one app: TikTok.

If you didn’t make a TikTok, did it even happen? This past year not only did the world change forever; but so did the entertainment industry. Fifteen second videos have shaped much of the average social media user’s life in 2020. In the last twelve months TikTok went from “that’s the fake Vine” to “I wish I started earlier…I’d be famous.” It was nicknamed the “short version of YouTube” by American record producer Mike Caren. Caren, who represents artists like Beyoncé, Kanye West, Bruno Mars, and more (The Advocate). 

TikTok now has over 100 million users in the United States alone and is on its way to be a talent agent’s “go-to” for new faces in the entertainment industries. TikTok users have gone from uploading TikToks as a joke to hanging out with the Kardashians.The demographic, although in favor of the younger generations, is sixty percent between the ages of eighteen and twenty-four. Twenty-five percent of the U.S. “TikTokers” are even forty-five to sixty-four. This shows that TikTok does not discriminate based on age; if one has a phone, they can have a TikTok.

Although TikTok does not pay their users to make content, it presents the opportunity for them to create opportunities for themselves. Kudzi Chikumbu, head of creator partnerships explains:

“We’re excited to help our creators reach their ambitions and aspirations — there’s truly a new wave of entertainers and artists emerging from TikTok. Our team invests time meeting with our creators because we want to learn about what they are passionate about and what their goals are. We love seeing them [the users] thrive on TikTok, and then to see them connect with partners both on and off the platform. Sometimes that’s getting on The Ellen Show, sometimes that’s appearing in a Blanco Brown music video, sometimes that’s partnering with major brands — these are awesome opportunities for our creators, and we love seeing them shine” (Project Casting).

However, this sounds all too familiar! The app Vine had its shining moment but we watched the rise and fall. Even more recently, we watched the rise and fall of Musical.ly. Although the apps may not last forever, their influencers, models, singers and even actors will.

I will be using articles and analysis of the entertainment industry to show that the TikTok influencers are here to stay and will remain relevant. They are the Shawn Mendes of entertainment and will be breaking into whichever industry they choose and dominating it by bringing their loyal following right with them. I will talk about how these influencers use their upper hand and platform to market things ;such as trendy products and even their personal political views. I will also bring to your attention the fact that influencers have been running our world for years, but they have now coined the term “influencer” but rather movie-stars” and “talk-show hosts.” TikTokers are here and they are here to stay and take over the world. These influencers are breaking through and making a name for themselves in the industry. How has TikTok changed the entertainment industry? How long can it last?

TikTok is an app where new Hollywood talent is discovered. Talent agencies like UTA have been racing to sign TikTok stars. They are now using the app to scope out new talent. Agents and managers who have connections across the entertainment industry can turn a TikTok comedian, dancer, or singer into a mainstream star just like that. The app allows talent recruiters to see people’s personalities and more than they would be able to at a casting call or an interview. Agents from IMG will now search for talent on TikTok and then reach out to the talent via instagram on their verified account or get in contact with that talent’s parents. You cannot actually message a user on TikTok if they do not follow you back.

“I think it’s super exciting to have a new platform that is another pipeline for us to discover talent,” said Joe Izzi who is a digital agent at the Hollywood talent agency WME. “Regardless of the platform, the No 1 thing we always look for is talented creators – people that we can help build a business around that’s long-lasting” (Fashionista).TikTok allows people to not only showcase their talents but to do it from the comfort of their own home. This creates a sense of familiarity for people and creates a connection between content creator and viewer. As users, we get to see into people’s messy bedrooms, their decorations, their outfits, etc. We can see into a content creator’s life like never before. In terms of talent recruiters, they can see people’s personalities and ability to connect with social media users and view real time likes and comments and use these insights to determine if someone is fit for a job.

These are things talent recruiters can do through TikTok that they cannot do in a casting call or interview. I don’t think that when things go back to normal this will change for us, because we’ve been able to connect with people that [we] would never have been able to before,” says [Jeni Rose, SVP at IMG Models]. “I love the genuineness of TikTok, and I hope it doesn’t change because it used to be like that on Instagram, too, and it’s not anymore.I really love that kids [are] creating content on their own that doesn’t have to be beautiful and perfect and filtered. It’s just them having fun” (Fashionista).

The ability to stay relevant has been and always will be (and even more so now) critical. An example of a content creator gaining business opportunities off of the ability to hold an audience on social media is Carla Valderrama. She was contacted about writing a book because of her Instagram account dedicated to old Hollywood. A publisher acknowledged her ability to gain followers, connect, and hold an audience through her content and saw it as a business opportunity and now Carla has ventured from the successes of social media to the successes of a writer. Even Blake Lively bought Carla’s book for her husband Ryan Reynolds. This goes to show that content creators like Carla or Addison Rae can venture into different industries and hold the upper hand because they bring their following with them.“These guys are the next generation of YouTubers, like it or not,” said TalentX co-founder Michael Gruen. “When you put a video with their name in the headlines, they’re going to get 100,000 views” (South China Morning Post).

TikTok influencers should be considered entrepreneurs; “The way to think of influencers or creators is as entrepreneurs,” (Stokel-Walker, “YouTubers”).  Social media content creators or influencers are one-person start-ups; “These people are setting up businesses, hiring staff, managing budgets. These are massively transferable skills.” They can predict trends, build an authentic connection with their audience, listen to what their followers want to see more or less of, and make themselves stand out in such a saturated market. As social media continues to dominate the business world, those who chose to steer the online conversation will have an upper hand in whatever niche they decide to go into— whether that’s products or politics. The 21st century has created a generation of children who grew up on the internet. 2021 has raised teens to chase online “clout”, which will result in them understanding how to operate and get attention within the industry from a very young age.

This generation of marketing has grown off of a direct-to-consumer strategy. Consumers may see this in brands like Glossier, whose marketing was all social media and influencers, became successful quickly. They recently raised $100 million at a valuation of more than $1 billion. Brand endorsements, brand deals, and influencers have changed the way marketing is done, especially when considering the effects of social media and social media marketing.

For example, Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, a professional gamer holds the position as the number one live streamer. Blevins has tens of millions of fans, endorsements  and is negotiating a massive deal, according to The Hollywood Reporter. In January of 2020, Blevins logged on to his webcam and encouraged his fans to go out and watch the new film 1917, claiming it was an “awesome new movie” that is “hands down the greatest picture movie ever” (THR). This was a planned endorsement created by Universal, who thought Blevins’ audience of young males was the perfect target for the premiere of the new war film. Although there is no way to measure the amount that Blevins is responsible for 1917’s results, they were bigger than any article or blogger predicted. This is just the beginning of what Blevins’ success on a live streaming platform provided him with. It is rumored that Tyler is seeking options within the filming industry as well as becoming a voiceover for cartoons.  

Earlier, I had mentioned TikTokers who went from babysitting to hanging out with the Kardashians. Her name is Addison Rae. Addison was a college student at LSU until TikTok gave her the platform to speak with people such as Jimmy Fallon, Kourtney Kardashian and more. She is confirmed to star in the remake of He’s All That and recently released a single that was on Spotify’s top 100 chart. Addison has also been rumored to be breaking into the reality TV industry and will have her own show that is similar to Keeping Up With The Kardashians. Another industry she recently broke into was “clean beauty”. She started her own company named ITEM Beauty. In a recent YouTube video, her fellow housemates referred to her as the “most famous girl in the world.” Since becoming America’s new It Girl, she gained a massive TikTok following, released a song, appeared on two episodes of Keeping Up With The Kardashians, appeared on talk shows, created her own brand and social media “must” tap into her dating life. Her housemates may not be too far off after all.

Another TikTok star who is now signing brand deals and earning over a million dollars is Charli D’Amelio. By the end of last May, D’Amelio hit over 100 million followers on her TikTok page after only being on the app for over one year. A great example of how a TikTok influencer can make just about anything go viral is that Charli shared her Dunkin order and now Dunkin Donuts made a drink named after her: “The Charli”. D’Amelio has been climbing the superstar ladder as she performed with Jennifer Lopez at the Super Bowl halftime rehearsal. TikTokers are now being invited to late night talk shows like Jimmy Fallon.

We have always had famous influencers but they were not always called “influencers.” They were famous “celebrities” like actors and talk show hosts such as Leonardo Dicaprio and Howard Stern. Influencers are today’s celebrities and the name is quite fit for their job. “People and organizations who have purported levels of social influence in their field,” as Google describes it. We’ve always been influenced by celebrities on what to buy or what to think but this is just a new type of celebrity.

What industry are young TikTokers not taking over? Will these stars take lead roles over people who are classically trained and professionally qualified? Like I have stated, TikTok influencers really are just entrepreneurs. We have seen it on apps in previous years, like Vine where people like Shawn Mendes went from MAGCON to signing record deals and become pop-star sensations without the app. TikTok is the new way to search for talent and it is here to stay. It is the new stepping stone for a bigger Hollywood career. TikTok is just the beginning for people; it provides a platform to showcase their skills (or lack thereof) to individuals that otherwise may not have the opportunity to break through the ceiling and move onto bigger and better things.