On TikTok, all it can take is 15 seconds to catapult a song into the mainstream — if you can get the right user to dance to it.
Thanks to the alchemy of DIY challenges, meme culture and the addictive scroll for more videos, TikTok users are increasingly soundtracking their viral videos with the next Billboard chart additions. Recent No. 1 singles on the Billboard Hot 100 like Doja Cat’s “Say So” and Megan Thee Stallion’s “Savage” can trace their success back to dance challenges from influencers on the video-sharing platform. So can smashes from last year like Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” and Lizzo’s “Truth Hurts.”
TikTokers aren’t only there for the tunes, of course: After TikTok merged with the lip-syncing app Musical.ly in 2018, parent company ByteDance positioned the platform to cater to interests ranging from cooking to crafts to comedy, through its signature, super-digestible 15-second videos. But for music lovers, the app has emerged as a major new source of discovery — and the influencers providing the heads-up on cool new tunes have become famous in their own right.
As these TikTok icons have become the driving forces behind some of this year’s most played songs, music-industry insiders are integrating the platform into their marketing strategies. With this in mind, below is a list of 10 TikTok music influencers you need to know (presented in alphabetical order), and some of their biggest success stories.
TikTok followers: 61.4 million
@charlidameliowhy my socks so dirty♬ jordan.suaste and nessaabarrett – brighton.short
As the most-followed personality on TikTok, 16-year-old Charli D’Amelio is best known for completing dance challenges that get millions of likes and setting trends on the platform. Based in Norwalk, Conn., the trained dancer aims to use her platform to “share the joy and love of dance with everyone” and “to help voice the things that teens want to say,” she says.
TikTok followers: 43.9 million
@lorengraythank u for all the love on Cake so far here’s a lil acoustic version i did with @thewavys ##acousticcovers♬ original sound – lorengray
Before Charli D’Amelio’s rise to the top, this 18-year-old from Pottstown, Penn., was the most-subscribed-to TikTok influencer with her mix of dance, lip-syncing and comedy videos. With her single “Cake” released in May and a deal with Virgin Records, Gray seems to be transitioning from TikTok star to full-fledged artist.
TikTok followers: 2.4 million
@jalaiahharmonLike we hit the lottery @addisonre @charlidamelio♬ original sound – _.xoxlaii
At 14, Harmon — whose feed is filled with her own choreography — is the youngest influencer on this list, and the creator of the “Renegade” dance challenge, set to the song “Lottery” by rapper K Camp. The video was posted on Instagram last September before user @global.jones shared his version of the dance on TikTok, where the dance became a viral sensation that even earned the Atlanta native an invitation to be a guest on Ellen in February.
TikTok followers: 20.7 million
@lilhuddylong time no see bruvv @charlidamelio♬ 100rackschallenge bryansanon – bryansanon
As a founding member of the Los Angeles-based Hype House — a collective of influencers living and collaborating under one roof — Hudson, 18, is a dancer, comedian and lip-syncer on the platform. Originally from Stockton, Calif., the teen has become synonymous with TikTok stardom and has also garnered internet attention for being romantically linked to fellow TikToker Charli D’Amelio.
TikTok followers: 3.7 million
@ajani.huffOur dance is trending so why not do it again? @davonte.house ##foryou ##dance ##trending ##funny♬ The Git Up – Blanco Brown
Teen dancer Ajani Huff and his brother, Davonte House (@davonte.casa), created the #GitUpChallenge for Blanco Brown’s Hot 100 hit “The Git Up.” On the platform, Huff is best known for his impressive choreography punctuated by comedy clips.
TikTok followers: 1.7 million
@mxmtoonprom dress but make it full quarantine ##acousticcover ##meetmypet ##duet ##fyp♬ original sound – mxmtoon
With track titles like “feelings are fatal” and “prom dress,” singer-songwriter Maia got her start on YouTube and harnesses the common experiences of her Generation Z fan base to churn out relatable songs with the help of her ukulele and soothing vocals. On TikTok, the Oakland, Calif.-based teen dabbles in comedy while also addressing issues on gender, race and identity.
TikTok followers: 33.8 million
Hailing from Florida, 19-year-old Ariel Martin is another influencer who carried over her success from Musical.ly. Like many of her peers, the TikTok star shares dance and lip-sync videos, but is also pursuing a career as an artist and actor. She released the single “Gucci on My Body” in 2018 and recently voiced the character of Wynter in the Disney Channel movie Zombies 2.
TikTok followers: 44.1 million
@addisonre@livinthelopezlife♬ original sound – fire.soundz0
After Mariah Carey liked Addison Rae’s dance to “Obsessed,” the 19-year-old from Louisiana soon became another rising star on the platform. With clips that feature cameos from her parents and siblings, the TikToker says the app “really does encourage you to be authentic. It’s a good platform to just post what makes you happy.”
TikTok followers: 1.6 million
@yodelinghaleyand here’s the dance and THANK YOU FOR 10 MILLION HEARTS OMG THAT’S CRAZY♬ Say So – Doja Cat
High schooler Haley Sharpe’s viral dance challenge for Doja Cat’s “Say So” played a large part in the single’s rise from fan favorite to Hot 100-topping smash. As a nod to the track’s TikTok roots, Doja Cat performed the viral dance and invited the Alabama native to make a cameo in the disco-themed music video — a definite step up from Sharpe’s usual clips, set in her bathroom.
Keara “Keke” Wilson
TikTok followers: 1.1 million
@keke.janajahday 2 doing my dance till it goes viral ##PlayWithLife ##foyou ##fyp ##foryoupage ##newdance ##megan♬ Savage – Megan Thee Stallion
Before TikTok stars Charli D’Amelio and Addison Rae jumped on the bandwagon, it was Ohio teen Keara “Keke” Wilson who created the “Savage” challenge to Megan Thee Stallion’s latest hit. Since then, the track has been remixed by Beyoncé, has hit No. 1 on the Hot 100 and has even prompted a follow-up dance challenge from the budding choreographer.