While TikTok and Triller are here and they’re blowing up, and with a heavy Africa-esque push on the horizon, there is a need for Nigerian artists to get creative and get smart as they think of promotional strategies for their music.
It’s not going to last. Okay, maybe that’s to cynical and pessimistic. Let’s rephrase; it’s unlikely to last. However, with the rate at which TikTok is going, it’s rumoured $1 billion ad budget and the financial muscle of ByteDance – it’s parent company – you just never know. Asides that, ByteDance hopes to launch a music streaming service for TikTok while it’s major rival, Triller is making a play for music.
But that’s not what we’re here to discuss. While TikTok and Triller are here and they’re blowing up, and with a heavy Africa-esque push on the horizon, there is a need for Nigerian artists to get creative and get smart as they think of promotional strategies for their music.
First off, what are Triller and TikTok?
TikTok is a video-sharing social networking service owned by ByteDance. In its former life, TikTok was known as musical.ly. On its website, Triller defines itself as “an entertainment platform built for creators. A social video community where you can show the world who you are by capturing flawless videos…”
On their own, they are just random video-creation and social networking sites that give us the tools to create short videos about random events. But as they grow, they have become primary video creation platforms that suit the Gif/Meme culture of an entire social media-obsessed internet generation.
They also impact music streaming – streams from Apple Music count Triller as part of the streams for a song. While Triller also has a feature that could help people shoot quick viral music videos, TikTok is a virtual-equipment enabled video-creation application. What they are affecting the most, however is the global success or otherwise of certain songs.
How is that happening?
Music and dance have always gone hand-in-hand. In the earlier days of music, videos were made to not only promote the music, the music videos were made to engage the mind of viewers. For that reason, extras would join the main artiste on set and drive the conversation on the song or simply help sell the song better.
But overtime, the danceable songs that could even remotely make anybody move started to include dance routines in form of choreography in video shoots. For that reason, acts like Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson and more became heroes of an entire generation – they created groundbreaking dance routines in their music videos.
This directly influenced dance routines of the ‘Boy/Girl Band Era’ across the world. Boyz II Men will do their slow dance routines to make women go crazy while dressed in suits and while TLC, N’Sync or Backstreet Boys will do more energetic dance routines. In Nigeria, Fela‘s stage performances were usually accompanied by sensual female dance routines.
As the era grew, so did music and its use of dance. Awilo Longomba was a viral moment that united Africa in a sonic and dance craze – if TikTok existed at the time, their service might have crashed. The pop era became synonymous with viral dance routines from Usher, Destiny’s Child, P Square, Rasqie and more. However, it was difficult to aggregate the virality of dance routines at the time.
Even though since the early 2000s, Nigerian and global music have seen viral dance routines come and go, it was only at the virality and wide use of the internet that viral dance routines became aggregated. At the start of the last decade, viral dance routines took the form of dance sessions on YouTube, short dance videos on social media or #Challenge Culture to become famous.
What is #Challenge Culture?
The #Challenge Culture can simply be defined as a viral moment that incorporates dance or compulsory acts to drive fun and engagement. Sometimes, it involves the use of music and sometimes, participation requires nomination by someone you know. But the entire idea of it is designed to either play into the vanity of people or promote a brand/song or both.
Since the turn of the decade, #Challenge Culture has gone to another level. What possibly started as #GangnamStyle birthed #IceBucketChallenge for ALS and #SelfieChallenge which represented the first time #ChallengeCulture would make a song tagged as #Challenge a success.
The #SelfieChallenge piqued on the viral use of the word ‘selfie’ as front cameras began making the waves. It took ‘Let Me Take A #Selfie‘ and its makers, The Chainsmokers from obscurity to the mainstream.
While ‘Gangnam Style‘ by Psy, ‘Harlem Shake‘ by Bauer or even the numerous flash mob inspired songs by pop sensation, LMFAO had worked with the internet to become viral successes and even get to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, it was the #MannequinChallenge that first used #Challenge and sent a song to No. 1. That was ‘Black Beatles’ by Rae Sremmurd.
Across the pond in Africa, internet usage was not as high as in Europe and America. Thus, people could not consume data to join moments of #Challenge. What happened was that we continued making viral dance videos to our trending viral dance routines. #Challenge culture was not really as prominent in Nigeria as it was in Europe and America at the start of the 2010s.
Nonetheless, certain Nigerians joined the #MannequinChallenge and aced it. But since then, the world has gone crazy with #ChallengeCulture. Drake alone, who is probably the god of modern internet has benefited off three #Challenge culture moments for ‘Hotline Bling‘ and ‘In My Feelings. #InMyFeelingsChallenge is largely credited to a dance called Shiggy.
Asides that, acts like Bobby Shmurda, Silento, Rae Sremmurd have also created internet-enabled versions of what Souljah Boy did with ‘Crank Dat’ and Huey attempted with ‘Pop, Lock and Drop It.‘ The world changed and so did how we perceive it.
Things have gone to another level. These days, it seems we cannot have a successful song without viral dance #Challenge Culture moment. In fact, it’s spilling into Nigeria and the rest of Africa. In fact, these days, the vanity of memes and GiFs and the need to go viral created non-music related #Challenge as celebrities battled each other for the #BottleCapChallenge.
Since 2019, Nigerian artists, Naira Marley, Zlatan and Olamide have create quite a few #Challenge Culture moments to last a decade. Naira Marley and Olamide have been locked in the lucid obscenity of ‘Soapy,’ ‘Tesumole,’ ‘Opotoyi,’ ‘Pawon’ and ‘Won Ma’ with their Instagram pages either filled with numerous twerking sessions from women or people performing dance moves their songs birthed.
Zlatan on his part has created moments for his songs, ‘Zanku,’ ‘Yeye Boyfriend,’ ‘Bolanle,’ ‘Gbeku’ and even ‘Unripe Paw Paw.‘ It’s like nothing is complete unless these artists create a #Challenge or viral dance routine of some sort.
TikTok and Triller
Nonetheless, where it counts, only a few artists have been able to get smart and benefit. With the rise of TikTok and Triller, Drake has benefited with two songs already in ‘Non Stop‘ for the #FlipTheSwitchChallenge and the inevitable No. 1 single, ‘Toosie Slide’ which is a dance created by a guy named Toosie.
Asides that, songs like ‘Savage‘ by Megan Thee Stallion, ‘Don’t Rush‘ by British duo, Bugsey and Young T have aimed at creating No. 1 hits with TikTok in the form of ‘Old Town Road‘ by Lil Nas X and ‘The Box‘ by Roddy Rich. On their own, they have been aided by the boredom of people who are stuck at home during the COVID-19-induced lockdown.
Nonetheless, it’s become clear that the new object of promotion for new music are TikTok and Triller for what they represent. In 2019, Rolling Stone wrote an article about how the four major record labels now pay TikTok influencers to promote new songs by thinking up challenges or using those songs in their videos.
To be honest, it’s working but Nigeria has only seen three candidates jump on that trend ‘Bop Daddy’ by Falz, ‘Nobody‘ by DJ Neptune featuring Joeboy and Mr Eazi and ‘Love Nwantiti (Remix)’ by Ckay featuring Joeboy and Kuami Eugene. It’s also interesting how two of those songs carry the stamp of Nigeria’s most tech-savvy artist, Mr. Eazi.
Yes, the penetration of TikTok and Triller is still really low in Nigeria. This is due to the intense data consumption that using TikTok and Triller require as well as wanton ignorance to the availability or fun applications like those two. However, over the past 15 years Nigeria has grown become one of the most mobilized countries in the world where the average person consumes an average of 135 MB in a day.
TikTok, Triller and even the larger streaming might only be used by 2% of Nigeria’s internet population now, but chances are that by the end of lockdown, those numbers could very well tip towards 10%. Ladies and gentlemen, that’s sufficient to make a few Nigerian hits from TikTok or Triller like in the Nigerian context.
How will that happen?
Already, TikTok is making a move on Nigeria and Africa by going on a recruitment drive for social media content creators and influencers. Chances are that by the end of the year, people like Craze Clown, Sidney Talker, Taooma, Maraji and more might start creating exclusive content for TikTok. Mind you, TikTok is backed with a rumoured $1 billion ad budget.
What man power cannot crack, money might crack it. Regardless, even 10% of Nigeria’s internet population using TikTok as well as an inevitable array of influencers are enough to make a hit off random songs. All that has to happen is simple; a creative person creates good video content with a random song and it makes its way to Instagram, Facebook and Twitter where the bulk of Nigeria’s internet population is.
What happens next is that it gets millions views, retweets and likes. Other people might then start creating the versions of the original video with TikTok and Triller or even random video editors. Boom! a song goes viral. Of course, it’s not set in stone, but it means Nigerian artists need to start getting creative with the use of TikTok and Triller as burgeoning tool for music promotion.
What they need to do is pay creative people to think for them and come up with unique content formats to be used on TikTok and Triller. These unique content formats don’t even have to be #Challenge Culture.
People can think of great campaigns that could help a Nigerian music that desperately needs new promo formats for music and roll-outs beyond fake reverse-influencer marketing, web distribution, playlisting and radio placement.
Of course, my fear is that Nigerian artists are lazy. They are also unwilling to spend extra money to make money. Instead, what we are likely to see is a bunch of failed attempts at #Challenge Culture like Naira Marley, Olamide and Zlatan have attempted and consistently failed with since the final quarter of 2019.
Another fear I have is that this TikTok and Triller wave will come and go in what this writer feels is an inevitable wave without due use by Nigerian artists. Of course, #Challenge culture will sell some of the first artists who will look to promote their music with TikTok and Triller. However, that strategy will not last. People have short attention spans and repetition is unlikely to aid that.
It’s time for Nigerian artists to start thinking.