DiscoverTrapitalWhy It’s Not Too Late to Start on TikTok (with Sean “BrandMan” Taylor)
Why It’s Not Too Late to Start on TikTok (with Sean “BrandMan” Taylor)

Why It’s Not Too Late to Start on TikTok (with Sean “BrandMan” Taylor)

Update: 2023-02-02


The playbook for artists to go viral on TikTok has changed a lot since 2019. Sean Taylor aka “BrandMan Sean” has written and executed that playbook for his clients since the early days of TikTok. He’s the co-founder of the ContraBrand Agency, which specializes in TikTok marketing for music talent. The agency has helped artists like Macy Gray, 24kGoldn, and Trap Beckham, among others.

Sean and his team just released a global report on How Artists are Going Viral on TikTok. The report is packed with insights on artist virality on the platform. According to the report, artist-generated content (AGC) is the key to going viral today. It’s more impactful than not user-generated content (UGC) from fans and other users. AGC not only works, but it’s also a cost-effective way for independent artists to break through.

However, Sean points out that virality isn’t as easy as before. TikTok has matured, and overnight success is harder to achieve. Still, with the right strategy, Sean believes TikTok is still a second-to-none top-of-funnel marketing play. 

We broke down this tested TikTok system in our discussion. Here’s everything we covered about the platform:

[1:51 ] TikTok entering its maturation stage

[5:39 ] Second wave TikTok music artists vs. first wave

[9:10 ] Biggest shift on TikTok for artists

[17:13 ] No, artists don’t have to post dance content

[24:00 ] YouTube shorts lack of culture

[26:29 ] YouTube’s advantage over TikTok

[31:31 ] The problem with IG Reels

[33:32 ] TikTok pushing Google for search dominance

[38:55 ] TikTok as a marketing funnel

[42:21 ] The rise of TikTok live

[46:10 ] Predicting where TikTok will be in three years

How Artists are Going Viral on TikTok in 2022 report:

Listen: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | SoundCloud | Stitcher | Overcast | Amazon | Google Podcasts | Pocket Casts | RSS

Host: Dan Runcie, @RuncieDan,

Guests: Sean Taylor, @brandmansean

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Trapital is home for the business of music, media and culture. Learn more by reading Trapital’s free memo.


Trapital #Sean Taylor

[00:00:00 ] Sean Taylor: One of the problems that people were having were them blowing up right? Without being able to connect to an actual face, right? So it solves so many of the problems that come with that, and even helps the problem of TikTok’s algorithm where people just hop on and start running things up with ads and you haven't really even understood what your content looks like, that creates some algorithmic problems, which probably aren't worth getting into, here, or maybe they are, but yeah. Man, artists generate content. It's gonna be a love hate relationship for sure with artists, the labels, all of us, right? But, if anything, it'll force collaboration and synergy between teams, in ways that it hasn't before.

[00:00:42 ] Dan Runcie Intro: Hey, welcome to the Trapital Podcast. I'm your host and the founder of Trapital, Dan Runcie. This podcast is your place to gain insights from the executives in music, media, entertainment, and more. Who are taking hip hop culture to the next level.

[00:00:42 ] Dan Runcie: All right, today we are joined by my guy, Brandman Sean, Sean Taylor, who is back on the podcast for a second time now, and I wanted to have him on because there's so much that's happening with TikTok, with short form video and how artists are using it. And his company, the contraband agency just put out a report that dives deep into this, and he talks about this often on his platform, the Brandman Network. So Sean, let's level for a little bit, and I feel like TikTok is in such an interesting place right now, 2023. It's not some of that same rapid growth that it may have had a couple years ago, but it's still so essential for artists. How do you feel about where the platform is right now?

[00:01:51 ] Sean Taylor: I think it's in a really good space actually. It's in a maturation space. The problem with that is people aren't seeing hits come as easy on the platform. and they're actually using that to downplay the platform and say, TikTok isn't that impactful, or it's not that big of a deal. It's hard to get a hit on TikTok. The difference is it's now a normal marketing infrastructure within your whole overall marketing stack. So yeah, there was this hot period where you were getting like gains that you probably didn't even deserve. Right. Every shock, swish, nothing but net. Now you have to do what you're supposed to do in every other space. So I think a lot of the pain that people are feeling isn't necessarily TikTok not being effective. It's TikTok not being unreasonably effective, unbelievably effective. The thing that made me get on TikTok, back in 2019. It's in an interesting space, but I think it's in a good space actually. And I can go deeper into that specific argument and why I see it that way. Cuz there's some numbers and milestones that I kind of think of it and approach it from, but yeah, that's where I think TikTok is right now. It's new, it's a viable marketing channel, but it's not the marketing channel that everybody is going to be as excited about as they were.

[00:03:24 ] Dan Runcie: I'm glad you said this because there's been a bunch of reports about how TikTok has slowed down about how artists are starting to complain, and I've heard many A-list artists, even privately and publicly complain that things are popping the way they used to. But this isn't 2019 anymore. It may take some actual marketing expertise since some clever thinking about how to find things in. I remember one of the reports I said was talking about how you can't just give some post or some link to Addison Rae and then hope that someone like that goes and blows the whole thing up for you and makes you a superstar. You have to find your niches and build from there. And in reading that, it's like, well that sounds like what it's like to grow any type of career, and that's probably how it should be, right?

[00:04:11 ] Sean Taylor: Exactly. Should it be that you pay one person and everything just blows up. Not really. I would love it to be that way for me, you know? But look, that's just the reality of how marketing works. So you can still get that number to grow and get millions of streams, but that millions might come a little bit slower. And now when it hits that 2 million mark, 3 million mark, probably even before that, it's gonna take a lot more heavy lifting to get it over the hump where, That thing could just keep going like a rocket ship straight to 2030 and not stop, right? So it's a great space to get things off the ground and create the spark, but going beyond that spark is more difficult.

[00:04:59 ] Dan Runcie: In past years, we saw record labels signing a bunch of artists that came from TikTok, and I would assume that because of this rocket ship success, people didn't have the infrastructure behind them. A lot of those stories probably didn't end up panning out the way that they thought they would, maybe even at a lower rate than the average hit rate for. Otherwise artists at a record label are assigned. But I would think now that things have matured a bit, the artists that are actually coming to the forefront are likely gonna have more behind them. And because of that, B, the potential to actually maybe have a more sustainable career than that first wave of artists who just benefited from a very aggressive area.

[00:05:39 ] Sean Taylor: Yeah. I mean, I think the thing is people hadn't really seen anything like that before, right? Like yeah, there had been one hit wonder. That has happened and someone who's seasoning the game probably understands what needs to take place. But to constantly have day after day someone popping out of nowhere like a breakneck speed level and trying to figure out how to bring infrastructure up, up under all these artists at the same time is a completely different story. Cuz it's also a different story when you have these artists housed under you, and then things take off really fast. You're taking them, you're trying to create a deal and figure out how to sign them, and then create infrastructure. By the time some of these deals take place, a lot of that moment is already missed, right? So, it was a really weird space, and I'm sure there's labels that have more of an infrastructure that's prepared for that situation. It's like, oh, if we bring somebody in from that particular climate, then there's a specific path that we can take 'em. Whether we exp

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Why It’s Not Too Late to Start on TikTok (with Sean “BrandMan” Taylor)

Why It’s Not Too Late to Start on TikTok (with Sean “BrandMan” Taylor)

Dan Runcie