Lefsetz Letter » Blog Archive » TikTok


You do not have the choice.

That’s what Professor G, i.e. Scott Galloway, said on his podcast.

There are two podcasts featuring Galloway. One is Pivot, featuring Kara Swisher, the other is The Prof G Pod, which is his alone. You can read more about Galloway here: https://nyti.ms/3AoCZ2l

Scott is absent from the Pivot Podcast this month, so don’t tune in. The magic of Pivot lies in Scott’s responses to Kara. Kara alone…she drops names and is so inside that she loses the plot too often. But Scott is on the ball. He did call Elon/Twitter.

On Galloway’s Prof G podcast, which airs twice a week, as does Pivot, he answers questions. And a recent one was whether Twitter made a mistake in shutting down Vine. Galloway thought so, but he ended up singing the praises, going rhapsodic about TikTok.

These are the data points.

Scott said after a brief view that Netflix only has a few. TikTok has hundreds! Just look around and the algorithm starts adjusting to serve you what you want to see, even if you didn’t know you wanted to see it. As I keep getting golf shots on Instagram Reels, whose algorithm is nowhere near as good as TikTok’s, and I’ve never liked a golf clip, don’t follow any golfer, but I like what is served!

Now Scott said the average person takes ten minutes to choose what to watch on Netflix. Which surprised me a bit, since everyone I know seems to follow the algorithms, or what their friends say. I do research much longer than ten minutes, because I don’t want to waste time watching vulgar, boring, obvious television.

In other words, there is a barrier. What Scott calls a tax.

And there are none on TikTok. On TikTok, you just need to launch the app and the clips are served. You have NO CHOICE!

This is exactly what we need in music. I’ve written about this before, and it didn’t have traction then and it won’t have traction now. There should be one track per week promoted by ALL streaming platforms. Or at least every platform should only have one. Track of the week. We would all check. So we could talk about it! After all, everyone would be exposed to it. Would we love every lead? OF COURSE NOT! But we would check. Now a lot of people don’t watch anything new music, it’s too overwhelming.

Sure Spotify has Discover Weekly, a personalized algorithmic playlist, but I gave up on that, too many tuneouts. And Release Radar? The problem with algorithms is that they can’t see the facts. If it’s a reissue, a remix, a remaster, IT’S NOT NEW! Of course you want to let me know, but it’s cluttering the stream and I’m not listening.

Now you should know that your TikTok feed is personalized for you, AND ONLY FOR YOU!

And what that means is what you can be, few others can be.

Last night I did a comedy. I was looking for this deadpan young female comedian who is really good. I hadn’t followed her, which was a mistake, because I still haven’t found her.

And I found some good stuff, and then I researched these comics, and some of their YouTube clips only got hundreds of views. A couple has had thousands of views. And in terms of career pull, IT’S NOWHERE!

I mean, you have to start somewhere. But the road to the top is longer than ever. And at the same time, those at the top reach fewer people than ever before. So, if you’re lucky, you might be able to quit your day job, AND MOST OF THESE PEOPLE WERE NOT!

And they don’t understand the ground rules. QUALITY MATTERS! Don’t post a TikTok clip with bad sound. Not only does the audience tune out, but the algorithm sees you skipping their videos and… they’re out of sight and out of mind! Quality is more important than frequency, remember that.

And the barrier to entry is NON-EXISTING!

This is music on steroids!

I mean it’s simple to make a song and post it. You can buy the beats, Macs come with GarageBand…While every other type of entertainment on TikTok…requires a lot less history and a lot less skill. EVERYONE can speak, not everyone can play an instrument, let alone write a song.

And in truth, everyone knows that shitty TikToks aren’t going anywhere. And TikTok is not about impressing your friends, but people in general. So why bother if you’re not going to play for real?

And the level of innovation is mind-boggling. Sure, there are vertical shots, sex and beauty, but some people say the craziest things. You’ll find more relationship wisdom on TikTok than in a slew of self-help books, and they’re SMALL!

And sure, the special effects, the trickery has an audience, but really, it’s just the person/persons in the clip. You may be handsome, but do you have charisma? Are you wooden on screen? Can you connect with people?

TikTok is YouTube on steroids. Because there is no research! Oh, you can search. But really, you just see what the algorithm offers and go to your own personal hejira. There are very few disconnects, and if you hit one and scroll through it, TIKTOK KNOWS!

TikTok is not rushing you to watch anything. They just want you to watch the period. Which means that the same people on all other social media platforms, the “winners”, don’t have all the airtime. They compete with dummies for views, you can never rest on your laurels and no one can reach the top with just one clip, even the first one!

As for the actors…

I was amazed at how many there are. I mean, I lived through the comedy boom in the 80s. You’d think all those comedians on TikTok would be crummy, complete amateurs. But in reality, they are all professionals. And some have hilarious jokes, which will make you laugh even if you’re alone. Others will say things that you find funny but don’t relate to.

Now, I mostly watched actresses, looking for the one I had seen before. But there were mixed pros. Like Jimmy O. Yang, whose name I knew, I had been exposed somewhere along the line, but I really didn’t know his material.

This is the bit about the fortune cookie that got me watching:

https://bit.ly/3Pi50g8

So I looked more at Jimmy, he’s a cut above. And it has traction.

Not quite as good, from a parent person, who is funny, is Isabel Hagen:

https://bit.ly/3ph3Sib

I could post clip after clip but I won’t, I just want to say the more you watch the more you see who’s a pro and who’s close and needs better jokes. And then there are those who have carved out careers as actors, voice-over artists, whose material just isn’t good enough to sustain them as stand-up comedians.

I don’t even want to listen to new music.

I mean, mediocre music is intolerable, while mediocre jokes can be endured.

So you are in competition with the whole world. Not only the living, but the dead. And each individual only has a certain amount of attention. And multitasking turned out to be a cheat, that’s not how the brain works, either you’re paying attention or you’re not.

And you thought the road to success was tough before… it’s so steep these days that four-wheel drive won’t get you there.

But at least you can exhibit your work for free and get started.

But when you hear all this bullshit about going viral on TikTok…

I’m starting to think it’s pure luck, you can’t really make it. The company can push your track, but someone who is creative has to choose to use it and make a great clip with it. Again, great works.

So if you are a musician…

Of course, record labels can hunt freaks on TikTok…

But if you’re playing music… Suddenly you’re not just competing with musicians, but seemingly with everyone! They all flaunt their talent online. And most give up. But those who support…

It’s not like the days of yore, where you could get by being mediocre in your own market because the big talent never came to town. No, now EVERYONE is coming to town. At least virtually.

The world is falling apart as we sit here. increasingly individualized. We don’t know where to turn, we don’t know what to spend time on, and TikTok makes everything easy, HE CHOOSES FOR US!

As for the non-internet users, the non-users, who pontificate negatively on TikTok, aside from collecting Chinese data, I’m talking about those who speak out against misinformation…they don’t realize there’s no mainstream on TikTok is positively rural. A million hamlets and towns, and there may be no road from one to the other.

But we all want to go on a trip.

If you’re not addicted to TikTok, you simply haven’t used it.

You are interested in something. And as obscure as it may be, there is someone talking about it or doing it on TikTok. And all you have to do is surf. You don’t have to look, search, contemplate… just live in the moment and entertainment will come your way.

It is the opposite of network television.

TikTok is where the algorithm works.

But you can’t beat the game like you can at Google or YouTube. It cannot be wired. You can just dive in and create, or watch.

And the more you watch, the more depressed you will be if you are a creator. The competition is fierce, and winning the TikTok game, having a viral clip, doesn’t mean you’ll get a big, rich Hollywood contract.

Something is happening here.

And the more you use the platform, the clearer it becomes.

But don’t think clarity is just a few superstars at the top of the chart… NOT IMPOSSIBLE!

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