Cat Davis and Sofia Reyes listen to music on Alumni Park. Photos by Lucian Himes
You’re scrolling on TikTok for who knows how long. You come across 10 different videos in a span of 20 minutes, all using the same sound bite from the newest hit song. You pause and ponder, “Has social media changed music?”
Since its development, social media has weaved its way into every aspect of human interaction — including music. With social media being an oasis of audience engagement, the music industry has utilized it to track data, seek out new artists, make new hits, as well as increase and maintain a fanbase, said Sienna Safiri — Pepperdine alumna (‘17) and executive assistant to the CEO of Capitol Records.
While there are many benefits, those who work within the music industry said there are also many drawbacks regarding the use of social media.
“[Social media is] changing the game so much,” said Francesca Lanese, first-year and former KWVS DJ. “It’s hard to have a positive or negative thing to say about it because it’s just so new and unknown.”
Senior musician Samantha Proctor said social media helped her promote the release of her first single, “Crime Spree,” on Dec. 30.
Social media, particularly TikTok, has allowed Proctor to build an audience and bring attention to her craft, she said.
“Over the summer, I started putting out a lot of TikToks of me singing and writing,” Proctor said. “I came back to school for the fall, and so many people, even people I didn’t know well, were like, ‘Oh my God, I saw your TikTok. Are you making music? When does it come out?’ [They] were so excited; it was crazy to me.”
She said the positive feedback encouraged her to showcase more of her art and talent on the platform.
When Nelson first started in the industry, she said she created a social media presence to share her love and talent for music, which eventually landed her a spot in Citizen Queen.
The girl group also utilizes YouTube to boost their career — posting music videos and covers — which led to attention from mega pop stars, being able to perform alongside Pentatonix and amassing about 211,931 monthly listeners on Spotify.
“The exponential [growth] factor that happens [with social media] really has the power to change someone’s life,” Nelson said.
The COVID-19 pandemic put Citizen Queen’s plans on hold, Nelson said, so she resorted to posting on TikTok to show her songwriting and production process, as well as covers and freestyles.
It was during this time Nelson said she experimented with and expanded her skill set while connecting with other musicians and viewers.
“It [was] really cool to see the response,” Nelson said. “Not only was I building this ability, but I was building my confidence in my abilities — and to see such a positive response to my writing was very validating.”
Portal to a World of Music
Just as social media promotes the growth of rising artists, it also exposes music listeners to a whole new world of music.
Lanese has discovered a plethora of new music and artists through social media, specifically TikTok — which she said is a big influence on her music taste.
Social media gives music lovers the ability to discover new music with a click of a button, and while Lanese said she loves this aspect, she also believes it can act as a “double-edged sword.”
“[Social media has] definitely exposed me to a lot of new music, but it’s had the opposite effect also,” Lanese said. “I’ve been turned off of music just from hearing it over and over again when I’m on TikTok or Instagram.”
Lanese said the overflow of music content can be overwhelming. In the same way, Nelson said she understands how hard it is to make a fan out of someone.
Beyond the Story
- What did the reporting and research process look like for this story?
While I consider myself a music connoisseur, much of my knowledge consists of the art and the artists that make up the music industry, not so much the business side of it. For this reason, I wanted to dig a bit deeper into the “Shazam Effect” and how the music industry collects data to boost sales. The interviewing process was so much fun. It was a pleasure getting to hear the stories and perspectives of all of my sources. I made sure to ask the questions that would allow me to learn more about the inner workings of the music industry and how music lovers, other than myself, perceive music through social media platforms.
- Can you speak a little bit about your sources and your process searching for them?
I absolutely loved getting to talk to my sources. I was able to interview Pepperdine students and an alumna, as well as a musician who got their foot in the door of the industry by using social media. My sources — music lover Francesca Lanese, student musician Samantha Proctor, musician Nina Nelson and Sienna Safiri, executive assistant to the CEO of Capitol Records — offer all sides of the story. All my sources sparked my interest and I believe their voices are essential to telling this story. Lanese is a former KVWS DJ and uses social media as a way to expand her music taste. Proctor just released her first single on Spotify and uses social media, particularly TikTok, to promote herself. Nelson has 370 thousand followers on TikTok and is in self-described girl group Citizen Queen. Safiri has worked at Capitol Records for the past three years and knows the behind-the-scenes of the music industry.
- Have you ever felt burnout from a song on social media platforms such as TikTok? If so, how do you balance your love for music and social media consumption?
I personally love using TikTok as a means for discovering new music, but the amount of content revolving around music on the platform does overwhelm me. There is just an overflow of good music out there, it almost seems impossible to listen to all of it — even though I want to. To balance this out, I stick to finding new music by searching through playlists on Spotify or asking my friends for recommendations. This is an easier way for me to filter through an abundance of music and find songs that perfectly fit my taste.
There are a lot of steps a viewer has to go through to actually become a fan, Nelson said. They have to watch the artist’s video, click their profile, click their follow button, go to their Spotify profile, then listen to their catalog and, by the end of it, hopefully, become a fan.
“You lose people along the way, but when the truth shines through, people are willing to endure that [process] for a bit,” Nelson said.
Power to the Fans
Safiri said one of the best parts about social media is it bridges the gap that once separated an artist and their fans — making the artist more personable and the music more tangible.
“It’s able to create a fan base that maybe we wouldn’t have been able to reach 20-30 years ago,” Safiri said.
Safiri said social media gives power to the people. Processes like ‘The Shazam Effect’ allow record labels to take in and analyze data in order to create the music fans want, according to a 2014 Atlantic article.
The data Shazam provides offers record labels insight into what the public’s wants and needs are in music. Data also allows record labels to be on the lookout for artists who are under their radar but popular among audiences, according to the article.
“The industry doesn’t control everything anymore, which is awesome because it gives more power to the people, which makes our jobs more authentic,” Safiri said.
On the downside, Safiri said social media makes it hard to sign an artist based on heart; rather, it has become a conservation of who is more marketable and has an established presence.
Art in Authenticity
In the conversation of social media, music listeners oftentimes question the authenticity of one’s internet presence. While Safiri said she believes TikTok has helped bring authenticity back to the way musicians present themselves, consumers of music content — like Lanese — believe some musicians are now creating music for the purposes of engagement.
However, Nelson said music is honest, so regardless of what social media dictates is good for business, she is going to create the art that is true to her.
“There was a point where we were in the studio and were like, ‘Oh, we should make something TikToky,’” Nelson said. “Then that started to turn into [us] compromising what we really wanted to make. [It] put us in a box and I realized regardless of how something gets discovered, it’s going to be something authentic.”
Nelson believes when music is created through passion, an audience will recognize and appreciate it for what it is — even if the music goes outside of what the data reveals as “hit-worthy.”
“What is true will shine through at the end of the day,” Nelson said.
Follow the Graphic on Twitter: @PeppGraphic
Contact Yamillah Hurtado via email: email@example.com
About the Author
Yamillah Hurtado is a junior Journalism major with a minor in Multimedia Design from Los Angeles. She has been a PGM staff member since her first semester at Pepperdine and now serves as co-copy chief and special edition assistant. Music has always been a part of Hurtado’s life — it is how she expresses herself and connects to others. Singing, sharing music and making playlists — either for personal use or for her KWVS radio show “i don’t know, shazam it!” — brings her immense joy. Hurtado hopes to work as a music journalist and bridge the gap between the artist and listener.