HOLLYWOOD, CALIF. (July 21, 2022) — On Tuesday, July 19, Fender Musical Instruments Corporation (FMIC) hosted a panel discussion, “The #GuitarTok Effect: How TikTok is changing how we create, consume and discover new music” at Desert 5 Spot in Hollywood, Calif. Panelists shared perspectives on TikTok’s phenomenal impact on music discovery, including the positive growth for emerging artists, the powerful #GuitarTok community, and the integral role Player Plus guitars play as tools for rising artists and guitarists in achieving notoriety on the app. A largely unexplored territory within the trending TikTok conversation that has recently caught fire, #GuitarTok is continuing to emerge as a go-to source for playing tips and tutorials, inspiration, a sense of community, connection and collaboration – as well as a direct pathway to discovery for music managers and label talent scouts.
Moderated by digital media writer at The Hollywood Reporter, J. Clara Chan, the panelist line up consisted of Evan Jones, FMIC CMO; William Gruger, Music Editorial Lead, TikTok; Blu DeTiger, Artist and Musician on TikTok; April Kae, Artist, Bassist, Activist and TikTok Content Creator; as well as Music Managers, Adam Hirsch and Benito Lugo, co-founders of Alt:Vision and Too Future with commentary from Hunter Thompson, Partner at ALT:VISION. Watch the full panel conversation HERE.
The lively discussion unearthed various perspectives on how TikTok is impacting the music industry today, what the future for artists and creators looks like, as well as the ways Fender has further committed to expanding the aperture of guitar to a new generation of players.
- The Multi-Dimensional Artist:
- According to William Gruger, Music Editorial Lead at TikTok, the key to success on the platform is “showing you’re multidimensional – you’re not just a musician, you’re more than that.” He continued, “TikTok offers a basis of creativity that really is a new format. It is very exciting watching musicians that can follow that language and follow those trends and dialogue.” Benito Lugo, Music Manager and co-founder of ALT:VISION touched on how social media has molded today’s industry from a management perspective, sharing “social media has impacted everything when it comes to artist relations – nowadays, we look at artists that can drive around traffic through a song demo, as it is an important factor for record labels. We are also constantly looking at the data to analyze what is working and what is not.”
- The magic of TikTok user experience is differentiated from other platforms, allowing artists to connect with the community where they are and what their interests are. “TikTok is so good about finding the people who need what you are putting out there,” shared April Kae, Artist, Content Creator, Activist & TikTok Bass Sensation. “It’s bringing people together around something bigger – and doing that through music, which is something I really love.” To resonate with their audiences and cultivate deeper engagement, creators develop a style and voice that is both relatable and authentic. “I ran across a piece of advice recently that your TikToks should be inspirational, educational or entertaining – and now I always have that in my head when I am creating and it has been very helpful,” explained artist and musician Blu DeTiger.
- Both April and Blu ramped up their TikTok presence during the pandemic and shared advice with the audience around creating and launching engaging content. “The platform is based around these viral sounds, top trending sounds and that’s where you can get really creative with it,” Blu DeTiger shared. “My first video was a song that was going crazy on the app at that time, so I was like why don’t I just play what I would play in the studio? That is where I got my inspiration and I started off adding what I would want to play to existing sounds, then creating further from there.”
- Expanding the Aperture of Guitar:
- The sheer reach and virality of the TikTok platform cannot be disputed and its impact is illustrated everywhere. Take the 2020 TikTok video of Olivia Rodrigo playing her new song “drivers license” on her guitar – catalyzing a Billboard #1 smash hit and record-setting Spotify debut in just within two weeks. Then in 2022, the finale of ‘Stranger Things’ drove “Master of Puppets” up the charts with Metallica’s James Hetfield taking to TikTok to play the iconic riff on guitar. While music and sound serve as the integral framework for TikTok, guitar continues to emerge as a popular topic, clocking 4.5B views on #GuitarTok to date. “Music is a lot of things on the TikTok platform – but out of all of the instrument-based hashtags where people gather together to interact and play, guitar is the biggest. #Guitar is bigger than #piano, #singing and #drum,” said William Gruger, Music Editorial Lead TikTok.
- According to Loudwire, 58 percent of new guitar players are using TikTok to find guitar-related content. And, knowing nearly 60 percent of all beginners are going to TikTok to learn how to play the guitar, investing in the next generations of players and artists is vital, as they will lead the way and show new players what’s possible. “The face of guitar, just like music, is more diverse, expansive and youthful than ever, and TikTok has increasingly become a destination for artists and creators to share their music, and for new players to learn,” shared Evan Jones, FMIC CMO. “At Fender, we’re focused on amplifying all of these voices. In particular, on TikTok, it spans everything to performances, jam sessions, duet and product launches to lessons and tips for beginners. Above all, we’re focused on putting the artists and creators front and center, and honestly, one of the most enjoyable aspects of our jobs at Fender is seeing the continued expansion of creativity through guitar, bass, amplifiers and pedals in the hands of a whole new generation of players.”
- “From what I understand there are 10 male bass players to every one female bass player,” shared April Kae, artist and bass player. “By Fender creating a new version – or an expanded version – of what a bass player looks like through #guitartok, I have been able to find bass players that have backgrounds like mine, look like me and are from similar communities. Being boosted by a brand like Fender that has an ethos that is so aligned with what I am doing is how I have been able to reach so many more people and bring the conversation that is happening within my more niche community to a broader audience.”
At the heart of the #GuitarTok community experience are Fender’s Player Plus guitars and basses, which are becoming the preferred choice of Gen Z creators on the platform – both skilled players and beginners. Built specifically for digital generations in a shifting music industry, the launch of the Player Series in 2018, and then the Player Plus series in 2021, ignited a movement in the guitar industry that has been accelerated over the past few years with more new players entering the world of guitar than ever before. Fender has also seen an increasing number of female guitar and bass players that are actively engaging in the Fender TikTok and #guitartok communities. Moreover, the fact that artists are the biggest influences for players – especially new ones – causes users to heavily value these artist’s opinions when it comes to which guitar they should buy.
Fender has featured countless Player Plus artists on its TikTok account, including Hannah Dasher, Japanese Breakfast, Nova Twins, Destroy Boys, Ghostemane, Portugal. The Man, Teezo Touchdown, Blu DeTiger, Gabriel Garzon-Montano and more across several genres. By way of jam sessions, demos, Tone Tips and Fender Session artist performances, the content has garnered an impressive reach of 33 million viewers.
In line with the evolving industry, Fender CMO Evan Jones discussed how the brand continues to be a go-to resource and upholds authenticity for artists. “The narrative has shifted to what do artists want to be? and what do artists want to make?,” Jones said. As Fender continues to cultivate and empower artists, TikTok has also become a new touchpoint for the brand to expand support for emerging artists, especially for those in its Fender NEXT program. Tapping into the element of music discovery on TikTok, the brand has given 2022 Fender Next artists the opportunity to collaborate on content and talk about what they care about most, new music, notable new projects and more, so they have a new platform and algorithm to interact with new fans. To date, 12 Fender NEXT artists, like The Linda Lindas, Shannon Lauren Callihan, Bruses, Ed Maverick, Self Esteem, INK, Teezo Touchdown – have been featured in dozens of Fender TikTok videos. Fender continues to collaborate on TikTok with several former Fender Next artists, like Blu DeTiger, Hannah Dasher and Ritt Momney and looks to grow support for artists creators on the app in the future.
“When you see what happens on TikTok and the authenticity, there’s no way to predict viral moments and spikes in engagement, but if we can help validate an artist or creator’s voice, that is actually as important as getting the total number of views, because at the end of the day it all adds up to guitar and basses being true authentic tools of expression,” Jones continued. “Back in 1946 Leo Fender shared that he believed ‘artists are angels and it is our job to give them wings’ – and we take that to heart. It very much inspires and informs how we operate in person and through TikTok.”