How TikTok LIVE's “Gimme the Mic” Gave These Creators a Global Audience
It's hard to talk about the size of TikTok without pulling out some dizzying numbers: with over 1 billion active monthly users, it's one of the largest social media platforms in the world, and it's still growing. That's why when TikTok hosts a talent competition, it's a huge deal.
The recently concluded Gimme the Mic competition pulled from a global pool of singers that drew thousands of applicants, and was hosted entirely on TikTok LIVE, the platform's live streaming service. This meant real-time engagement and even more eye-popping numbers: #GimmeTheMic-tagged videos earned over 5 billion views, and the final award stream was watched by 300,000 users live, plus even more on the creator's pages.
The artists competing in the event, however, were (mostly) not used to these kinds of stats. Of the applicants, only 30 were selected for the semi-finals based on audience engagement, and 10 of those made it to the final round. Rapper @Real209er took home the final prize: 500,000 "diamonds", the in-stream gifts that fans can send to creators.
As you can imagine, winning this kind of competition — or even just making it to the finals — can completely transform an aspiring singer's career. Now that the finalists have been crowned, we wanted to know what it was like to perform on such a large digital stage and how it affected their success. Here's what six finalists had to say:
Steve Ant (@Steve_ant)
"TikTok LIVE literally changed my life," says Ant, who was born in Greece but lives in Bucharest, Romania. "Since the music I make always contains more than one language, I thought it was a great idea to participate," he says. He started recording TikToks while working "day and night" at a casino, and was eventually able to quit to focus on singing. By posting his live dates online, he's seen a huge uptick in bookings, and now his original songs are getting thousands of additional views thanks to his finalist status. He's already hard at work on his next single.
Chrissy Grimsdale (@musicalchrissy88)
Chrissy, who is from Kent, UK, saw her career slow down as she began to focus more on teaching singing than her own music. TikTok LIVE changed that. She quickly gained an audience for her princess-themed covers, and after that, her rise was meteoric: "My first LIVE was on the 31st October 2022, and since then I have seen my following grow to over a quarter of a million!" Of course, taking the (digital) stage during the Gimme the Mic finals was still nerve-wracking: "When I saw the viewer numbers, my heart felt like it was going to beat out of my chest," she says. TikTok's exposure has given her new fans that she feels incredibly connected to, and she's already looking for her next step, including, possibly, an album of original songs.
Known only by his handle Real209er, this rapper took the No. 1 spot in the Gimme the Mic competition despite only having limited real-world performance experience. As he told us: "I have performed maybe three times publicly." Nevertheless, his style has been shaped by TikTok. "I love the live feature because it did change my life three years ago, being able to perform to crowds over the World Wide Web." After winning Gimme the Mic, his career trajectory is looking up. New exposure to record execs, new music, and validation of his years of hard work are just some of the perks from taking the top spot. As for his fans, he says: "They knew that when I won it, [it] was something that has been a long time coming."
Cyrilia Lopez (@Thecyrilia)
As one of the more experienced finalists, multi-genre singer Lopez has made music her full-time career since 2014. "My entire life of music had mostly been performing at live events," she says. "However, ever since the Covid pandemic, social media streaming has been the perfect way for me to connect with people all around the world." She especially appreciates the gifting feature on TikTok LIVE, since it allows her to make a living performing to people online. Naturally, the competition expanded her viewership: "Ever since the Gimme the Mic contest, my following on TikTok has grown by the thousands," she says. Not one to think small about what's to come, she adds: "With this sort of consistency, I'm sure I can have a world tour within a few years." Her next steps are to form a touring band, keep expanding her musical genres, and put "Team Cyrilia" first.
Levi Hummon (@levihummon)
Hummon's more than 800,000 followers on TikTok have helped him grow his country singing career to new heights. However, his country roots run deep: His dad was one of the co-writers of "Cowboy Take Me Away" by The Chicks. As he puts it, "I grew up in the Nashville creative community and have been singing ever since I can remember." Even so, TikTok LIVE changed his life. He says, "It has allowed me to build an incredibly loyal fan base and has helped me grow exponentially." Most importantly, it means getting new music to fans as quickly as possible and letting them enjoy it. Gimme the Mic helped fire up his fanbase in an entirely new way, and he was seeing increased numbers across his songs and his daily 7 p.m. live streams. He adds: "I actually just signed a record deal, which I think is in large part due to being able to grow my fan base on Tok Tok LIVE and the amount of exposure on Gimme the Mic."
Twenty-one-year-old Trey from DeLand, Florida, grew up performing in church, and has only been streaming live on TikTok for about a year. He says it changed everything: "Streaming on LIVE has changed my life. Not only am I set financially, but I have such an amazing group of people that watch me every single night; it feels like they're family." His experience with Gimme The Mic was one of collaboration, and he was glad to be sharing the stage with a crew of diverse musical viewpoints. But most importantly, he was psyched about what it means for the fans. "They love it as much as I do," he says. "I know so many artists that would do anything to be in the spot that I'm in right now, so I'm forever grateful."
All images courtesy of TikTok LIVE