December 20, 2019
How Tumblr made its mark on the music industry in the 2010s
In the mid-2000s, it was a turbulent time for the Internet. The world had tried influential social platforms like MySpace as early as 2003, but it wasn't until Facebook launched in 2004, followed by Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram, that users realized that digital communication had changed dramatically.
The origins of social media have changed the way everything works and its impact on the music industry in particular. Platforms like Twitter and Tumblr have become tools for artists, helping established artists create personal connections with fans. But perhaps even more innovative was the voice they gave to emerging artists. Suddenly, a young producer making music in the basement of his parents' house could play his music around the world without signing to a record label or touring. Of course there isany doubtsThere was a lot about the rise of these social platforms, but ultimately they gave artists a much-needed voice, which it was and still is.
When Tumblr launched in 2007, it was an important part of the creative process for many artists, largely because the experience was entirely up to the artist. They can use it to create personal mood boards for their work, connect with fans, write lengthy blog posts, or just mark time for innovative ideas. Unlike other platforms, where users are almost bound by strict restrictions on how they use the app, Tumblr feels more free and personal, which also means it's rare to see an artist's Tumblr run by someone else. It's easy to see when a team is running an artist's Facebook page, but no one is blogging or retweeting on her behalf.
“From the beginning, Tumblr has been focused on organic expression,” says Tatiana Simonian, head of entertainment partnerships at Tumblr.billboard"This is where the artists [prefer] [themselves] to use."
Simonian joined Twitter in 2011 as music director. He also worked at Disney and Nielsen and was namedbillboardofWomen leaders in social activitiesIn 2012, she started working at Tumblr in 2016, and she and her team are now responsible for building relationships across art, fashion, music, gaming, esports, TV, and film so their partners can have a positive social media experience.
When asked how Tumblr has grown in the last decade, Simonian said that, in many ways, it hasn't, which is exactly what makes it so great. “To be fair, Tumblr is one of my favorite platforms since I joined [as a user] in 2009 because of how consistent it has been,” he said. "From the beginning, we do not show followers, you have the ability to turn off likes if you want. I find it interesting that you see other platforms.talk about trying to do this now”
For Tumblr, art has always been a top priority. It didn't feel like a popularity contest, or following the rules and throwing tons of hashtags on posts to get more attention.
“Users tend to dictate the future of many social platforms: Twitter users create hashtags,” Simonian continued. "The way Tumblr proliferates memes isn't Tumblr engineers sitting in a room and saying, 'I think we should create memes!' It's Tumblr users.post something interestingabout an address orcreate a fake romanceWith members of My Chemical Romance. The platform's versatility has led to further expansions in the way it can be used, which is one of the ways it has evolved. "
In addition to sharing boy group memes, users can follow their favorite artists and discover new ones on Tumblr. GIFs of fan-favorite music videos and artistic images of musicians flooded the feed, often surrounded by black-and-white photos of sunsets and fashion-forward models. This resulted in Tumblr having a very specific and curated aesthetic, which helped change the perception of artists using it in the early 2010s. It also helps fans see what inspires them, like Lorde, Grimes and Beyoncé, who are retweeting ideas and sharing new music. Also, artists have 100% control over their aesthetic. In this sense, Tumblr took inspiration from MySpace and allowed artists to customize the layout, style, fonts, and colors of their profiles so that their pages are essentially digital representations of their art.
While Tumblr's influence on music has changed a lot over the years, thanks in part to the growth of competing platforms like Instagram and Twitter, it still sees a relevant use in online music culture, especially when searching for the upcoming trends. According to Simonian, it's "a cool hunter's paradise," revealing that a number of influencers use Tumblr privately to find inspiration and "what's next." For example, K-pop started appearing on the site years ago before it reached critical mass, and one trend the team is now noticing is a genre of music called C-pop (Chinese pop music).
“It's one of those things that no one is talking about right now, and I guarantee it's the next thing in two or three years,” Simonian said. "At first, I didn't know if people were looking at things like, 'Oh yeah, Chance The Rapper is going to be the next great rapper because I'm seeing these numbers on Tumblr,' but now we have this huge number of users (more than 350 million of blogs), we can look at the data and understand what we need to focus on. This is one of the big changes to the platform, the volume creates a very interesting long tail where we can predict Come and see."
Major artists have also chosen to pick something from the last decade to share exclusively through the platform. Taylor Swift is a great example. “She unfollowed all of her followers on other platforms, but she didn't do that on Tumblr,” Simonian said. "I don't want to rant, but one of the things I've learned from artists like her is that there's a view that Tumblr is a positive place. It's a place for supportive exchanges between artists and fans."
"Whether they're just quoting something she's written, or adding their own gifs, memes, or content, it's a perfect fit for the relationship [Swift] has built with her fans," Simonian added. "He feels very organic and authentic and personal."on pageAlso carefully designed to work almost like a collage. Sometimes there are funny cat memes, sometimes there are heavier topics likedevastating reactionHe tells Scooter Braun and Scott Borchetta about his masterpiece being sold, a headline that shocked many artists and industry executives earlier this year. The day he sent the letter, Simonian said: "It felt like a wave of support for her."
Earlier this month, Swift even explained why she loves Tumblr.billboard: "Tumblr is the last place on the internet that I think I can joke about because it feels small, like a community instead of an entire continent."
Tumblr is the perfect place for Swift to explain her story. "It's not very common for female artists to come forward and make these big statements. Calling out injustice is powerful. Many women are sometimes punished for speaking out and have to fight for support. The Tumblr community in particular is very supportive of this. Anyone who uses this platform to tell the truth, even if his voice trembles, he will be defended and supported."
Then there are artists like Frank Ocean and Sufjan Stevens who use Tumblr as their platform of choice. “Some artists are wary of social spaces and want moderation and restraint in their use of social media,” Simonian said. It's an easy feature for established artists who want to keep their mystery personas intact but need to share something once in a while. "There's something elegant about it, and I think being an artist can be very liberating."
For the second half of the decade, Tumblr has focused on emerging and independent artists. It doesn't matter if they sign or not, Tumblr is only concerned with who is doing awesome things on the platform and who the company ultimately wants to support. They show their support for their Spotlight series by interviewing artists on their official Music Tumblr page; recruit visual artists from Tumblr to create an "IRL" experience for music artists; They organize educational workshops called VIP Bootcamps. "It's almost the opposite of social media," Simonian said. "We are a platform that teaches us that there are times when you should put your phone down and connect with other people."
When they find an artist they really believe in, they host a brunch in honor of that artist and introduce it to the guests in the room. It was a proud moment for Simonian when they hosted a brunch with Billie Eilish in March 2018 when she started making a splash at SXSW. “There were only about 50 people at the time… If we did it now, there would be lines on the road and we would need security,” he continued. “It was a very simple way of saying we think this person is talented and we want to support them because it's the right thing to do. That campaign is not making us any money, it's just doing something because it's the right thing to do."
Tumblr also hosts an annual Pride brunch, honoring leading figures in the LGBTQ community. Hayley Kiyoko received a lot of love from the Tumblr community last year, so they supported her at lunch and had a Q&A with her. "I get emotional every time we support someone and start to see it prosper and gain momentum. I'm also starting to see Armani [White, the Philly rapper] doing really well on other platforms now, I'm like, 'Yeah! ' "
In the new decade, we can expect to see Tumblr take its experiential events across the country (they're just on the coast for now). Simonian also predicted the continued rise of C-pop and the massive resurgence of the platform in the music community.
"From a broader technology standpoint, we haven't seen social platforms go through these big phases until now," he said. "Snap [chat] had this moment this year. It was deemed dormant and now it's back on the rise. It's the first time in history that a social media platform has been around long enough to go down and then come back and have a different experience." . I think we'll see it in a big way. I really believe, especially in the music business, that you're going to see hordes of artists come back and connect with this community on an independent level and rediscover them. I love it. "Crushed velvet can [make a comeback], see, I'm pretty sure of that statement."
Ultimately, Simonian believes it will continue to be home to innovative trends, and its organic shape will allow the platform to grow on the upside. “I think you'll see more talent going back to the purity and simplicity of Tumblr,” Simonian predicts. "It's really easy to be someone who's cool and likes something that everyone else likes. It's not so easy to be someone who's like, 'I just found this and you should pay attention to it.' Tumblr is a home for these people."