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How TikTokers get record deals

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REUTERS/Rafael Marchante
For record companies, an artist who goes viral is a safer bet, but still a risk.

Binta Brown doesn’t use TikTok. Well, she does, but not nearly as much as you’d think. She doesn’t post her versions of memed challenges or duet the latest dance craze—for Brown, TikTok is for work. As a music manager and executive who has relationships with artists across genres and around the US, Brown might browse the app for new talent when she’s got the time and space for a new artist.

But an independent artist with a TikTok following or viral video isn’t guaranteed a call from Brown, which makes her unlike a growing number of reps from major labels. In an industry increasingly beholden to algorithmic whims, follower counts, video views, and streaming trends, a record company can sign a viral artist with the promise of big money, but it comes with the risk that their following won’t translate into revenue.

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