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The music industry watches as the U.S. government considers banning TikTok

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Now, in addition to oil from OPEC, the Biden administration worries about social media from China - globalization. The U.S. is pushing the owners of TikTok to sell out or be shut down. So what would that mean for artists who made their names on TikTok? NPR's Lilly Quiroz met one.

LILLY QUIROZ, BYLINE: Tai Verdes is one artist who got a record deal after his songs went viral on TikTok. You may recognize this one...

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "A-O-K")

TAI VERDES: (Singing) Living in this big, blue world with my head up in outer space. I know I'll be A-O, A-O-K.

QUIROZ: ...Or this one.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "STUCK IN THE MIDDLE")

VERDES: (Singing) She said, you're a player, aren't you? I hope you know that it shows.

VERDES: My first song that I posted to TikTok was "Stuck In The Middle." And then five months later, I had a record deal. And then I had another one in 2022. And it is very fast for an artist who just started putting out music. You get to skip a couple of steps.

QUIROZ: Verdes says being discovered on TikTok changes the power balance for musicians.

VERDES: TikTok is really just changing the entire way that a smaller artist can take on the touring industry, take on the merch industry, take on basically every part of the industry. You have the ability to make a deal that is positive towards you. Right now, I own my masters, I own my publishing, and I'm on a distribution deal - super positive, super creative, friendly towards me.

QUIROZ: Verdes isn't the only TikTokker to get a boost from the app.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ABOUT DAMN TIME")

LIZZO: (Singing) It's about damn time. In a minute, I'ma need a sentimental man or woman to pump me up.

QUIROZ: Artists like Lizzo gained a lot of traction on TikTok when users created their own dance videos to her music.

VERDES: And TikTok makes that transition even easier. You make a song, and now everybody in the world has access. Basically, you're giving people a soundtrack to their life.

QUIROZ: Some videos are also used to protest.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CALM DOWN")

REMA: (Singing) Baby, calm down. Calm down.

QUIROZ: That's "Calm Down" by Rema. The hashtag #DanceForIran went viral after five young Iranian women were detained for dancing to it on TikTok without their hijabs. But even if the app is banned, Verdes says musicians will always find a path to a bigger stage.

VERDES: Musicians will figure out a way to become more powerful no matter what. If it's not TikTok, it's Discord. If it's not Discord, it's Twitch. There's different ways for artists to move forward. No matter what regulations happen, it's going to prevail, this connection between humans.

QUIROZ: Lily Quiroz, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HOW DEEP?")

VERDES: (Rapping) How I'm 'posed (ph) to know how deep, how deep? How I'm 'posed to know how deep? Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Lilly Quiroz
Lilly Quiroz (she/her/ella) is a production assistant for Morning Edition and Up First. She pitches and produces interviews for Morning Edition, and occasionally goes to the dark side to produce the podcast Up First on the overnights.
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