If you happen to catch a glimpse of a video with a random teen lip-syncing to what seems to be one of their favourite songs, there is a good chance that video was created on Musical.ly.
In April 2014, the first protocol of the app Musical.ly was released by a social media service headquartered in Shanghai. The app allowed users, or Musers, as they were called, to post original lip-syncing videos lasting between 15 seconds and one minute to their accounts on the platform. Musers could mime along to music, record their own songs, slow down videos, speed them up, and then post or share with other Musers around the world.
You absolutely do not have to be a creator to use the app, however. If you are not into creating amateur karaoke videos, you can spend your time scrolling through the creations of other Musers, liking and following those you enjoy the most. You can even comment on videos if you have something to say to or about the creator.
Who would've guessed the app would blow up and become the uber-trendy app that is known as Tik Tok today?
The original Musical.ly app gained popularity with Gen Z quickly, acquiring over 200 million users around the world by the end of May 2017. On August 2, 2018, Musical.ly users discovered a surprise on their phones when they scrolled through their apps looking for the familiar Musical.ly logo, however. It was now called Tik Tok, owned by ByteDance, and the logo looked like a multi-dimensional quaver note, rather than the recognized red “m.”
The acquisition cost a reported $1 billion, and it seems that ByteDance made a valuable investment. By the end of September 2018, monthly downloads for the app surpassed Snapchat, Instagram, YouTube, and even Facebook. Content ranges from the original lip-syncing type of videos that made Musical.ly popular to comedy skits, dancing, fashion videos, vlogs, and much more. Tik Tok is often compared to once popular, but now discontinued, entertainment network Vine.
Like YouTube and Instagram stars were conceived due to content going viral, this feature has spawned Tik Tok stars, most Gen Zers, and many of whom were “just fooling around” when they created their videos. Many of these stars are making six-figure incomes, which is no surprise, considering online fame is often paired with the opportunity to make money.
How Do Tik Tok Stars Get Paid?
If you spent time scrolling through the Tik Tok app, it would not be evident immediately, but many Tik Tok stars are making money with their videos. There are plentiful opportunities for influencers (a.k.a. people with extremely high follower counts) on social media apps. Like Instagram, brands are constantly seeking influencers who are interested in promoting their products, services, and even music, to their followers.
Because Tik Tok focuses heavily on music, it has become a powerful platform for musicians and record labels desiring to be recognized by an audience. It created several music stars that were unknowns before their songs went viral on the app.
For instance, Tik Tok introduced Canadian rapper, singer, and songwriter, bbno$ (pronounced “baby no money”) to us. His song “Lalala” is featured in over one million videos on Tik Tok. The artist was unknown before the song went viral on the app, and now the song has been played more than 500 million times on Spotify.
Australian artist Tones and I became popular when “Dance Monkey” became a hit with over 247 thousand Tik Tok videos featuring the song.
The undoubtedly catchy and genre-redefining “Old Town Road” by Lil Naz X first found fame on the app. After sitting at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart for 17 weeks, it is now the longest-running #1 single in music history.
Tik Tok Stars With the Most Followers
Loren Gray (@lorengray) 39 million
Loren Gray hails from Pottstown, Pennsylvania, where she began to accumulate followers on Musical.ly with her lip-syncing video shorts. Her following has now reached an astonishing 39 million followers on Tik Tok, which puts her at the top of the list for the most followers. She has 18.4 million Instagram followers, 3.5 million subscribers on YouTube, and according to Online Casinos, she makes approximately $175,000 per post.
She first joined Musical.ly in 2015 when she was just a 6th grader, and she says that was the beginning of the bullying. “So, imagine you not only have been bullied since the sixth grade but now the rest of the world is looking at you, too. And they're pointing out everything that's wrong with you.”
She said that people would write horrible comments on her videos, such as she had no talent, had lip fillers and plastic surgery done, was rude, albino, anorexic, and they would threaten to “jump” her. “To the point where I was in the school bathroom, calling my mom, telling her I was scared.”
She is outspoken about her fears. “I'm so afraid of what everyone else is going to think,” but pushing beyond those fears she says, “To be honest, when I'm in front of them (my fans), I don't get scared, because I feel like they know me so well. I read every single letter because my fans lifted me out of this awful, awful time. They give me the platform to use my voice, and I encourage them to say nice things to each other. The more engaged you are, the more positive you are towards them, the more likely they are to take that love that they feel and bring it somewhere else.”
She now lives in Los Angeles, has signed contracts with Capitol Records and Virgin Records, and is singing her original songs.
Via Instagram (@loren)
Zach King (@zachking) 32.1 million
Zach King, Vine and Tik Tok star, filmmaker, and YouTuber, also lives in Los Angeles, although he was born and raised in Portland, Oregon. Unlike many other top Tik Tokers, who are teenagers, Zach is 30 years old. He is known for creating “digital magic,” and says that fans often approach him, many of whom are children. He laughs as he explains that he frequently has to clarify to their parents that they probably recognize him from YouTube.
He used a home video camera when he was seven to film his first video. Then, when he was fourteen years old, he bought a Mac computer, video equipment, cameras, a tripod, and started filming and editing videos. Unfortunately, the first time Zach applied to film school, he was not accepted. Rather than wallow away in sorrow, though, he created a YouTube channel, started making videos, and uploaded them to his channel.
Zach enjoyed teaching his audience how to use Final Cut Pro software to create visual effects. He calls the magic that he creates “a sleight of the hand.” His videos demonstrate the magic - Zach jumping into computer screens, origami birds flying away like real birds, a kitten appearing from a printed picture of it, candy pouring from a laptop, juice pouring from an iPhone, and regular-sized pieces of pizza turning into giant-sized pieces, all right in front of your very eyes. You have to see his videos to believe it.
Zach also used Vine to grow his following, and when Instagram came along, he reposted his Vines to Instagram. It was not long before he started creating original content for Instagram, too. He joined Tik Tik, as well, on February 28, 2016, with his jailbreak video. Today, he has over 32 million followers on Tik Tok.
Baby Ariel (@babyariel) 30.2 million
Baby Ariel, born Ariel Rebecca Martin, was led to Musical.ly by boredom. She began to make lip-syncing videos and share them with friends in the summer of 2015. She became the first person to reach a million followers on Musical.ly and has since starred in films on the Disney Channel and Nickelodeon, most likely due to her personality and positive spirit.
Like Loren Gray, Baby Ariel also experienced haters. Her schoolmates would leave negative comments on her videos. Instead of letting the hatefulness get to her, she decided to help others with dealing with similar bad feelings. She made a video in which she spoke about how people should love themselves, which resulted in a wave of positive feedback that encouraged her to continue her anti-bullying movement, called #ArielMovement. She was recognized by People magazine for her support in the #HackHarassment initiative to stop negativity on the Internet and Internet trolls.
Baby Ariel paired up with Jacob Sartorius, fellow Muser, on the cover of Billboard magazine. She won the 2016 and 2017 Teen Choice Award for Choice Muser. Forbes, People, and USA Today have all referred to Baby Ariel as a top influencer, and in 2017, Time magazine called her one of the most influential people on the Internet.
She is signed with Creative Artists Agency and has released several of her own songs.
Via Instagram (@babyariel)
Riyaz (@riyaz.14) 20 million
Riyaz Aly is an Indian influencer, actor, fashion blogger, and Tik Tok star born in Jaigaon, Alipur Duar in West Bengal, India. Riyaz graduated from SHMD (Shri Hanuman Mandir Dharamshala), the private higher secondary school in Jaigaon, Bhutan. He lives by the motto, “Create a life you are obsessed with,” while his fans are obsessed with his amazing gravity-less hairstyles.
He has approximately 20 million followers on Instagram, where he shows off his favourite fashionable clothing and hairstyles. He has coordinated with a variety of brands and has been estimated by Online Casinos to be making an average of $137k per post. Riyaz has earned the prized title of Crowned Tik Tok muser and has also appeared in music videos, including “Pahadan” by Siddharth Nigam and “Yaari Hain” by Toni Kakkar.
Although Riyaz's family is not mentioned anywhere, and he seems to work hard to keep them out of the spotlight, his mother is featured in several pictures with Riyaz on his Instagram.
Kristen Hancher (@kirstenhancher) 23.3 million
Kristen Hancher started her online experience on YouNow, a live video streaming platform, however, once her Tik Tok videos become successful, she stopped using YouNow. Born into a Macedonian descent family and raised in Ontario, Canada, Kristen attended and graduated Art school. There is not a whole lot about Kristen before she moved to Los Angeles other than that.
She has received a ton of attention because of her look-alike Kylie Jenner features. While she is not necessarily a Kylie Jenner doppelganger without makeup, she has mastered the art of recreating herself to look just like the celeb and has even posted side-by-side pictures to show her skills off.
She appeared in several episodes on the Brat YouTube channel in a couple of web series, one called Mishaps and the other Too Cool For School. She has over 1 million subscribers on her own YouTube channel, where she shares fashion advice, cosmetic tips, and talks about music and lifestyle topics. She has also posted comedic videos involving her family or friends, with titles like, “I found nudes on my boyfriend's phone....we broke up.”
Kristen's handsome blond younger brother, Derek, is also a sensation on Instagram. When she dated Andrew Gregory, another Instagram star, their intimacy was live-streamed accidentally in 2017, sending Kristen's private life straight to headlines. That relationship ended, and Kristen dated another social influencer, Austin Hare.
She experienced some hate over a post of her riding a horse through deep water in Anguilla. Many of her fans felt like the water was too deep for the horse to be walking through. Accusations immediately arose, alleging Kristen risked the safety of the horse for a photo op, resulting in accusations of animal abuse.
Kristin reportedly makes approximately $116k per post, according to Online Casinos, and her estimated net worth is around $400k. Most of the money that she makes comes from brand sponsorships and influencer activities.
Via Instagram (@kristenhancher)