There’s no denying it, TikTok has taken the music industry by storm. From becoming the vehicle that drives artists up the charts, to being the single most important promotional tool, to entertaining the masses, it has become impossible to ignore. And why would you want to? With so many great music-tok accounts, this newly crowned platform is bustling with energy.
In turn, we took the liberty to talk with some of our favorite music-tok curators on TikTok today. Without further ado, here are the six best places to find music on TikTok (Part 1):
When you think of the phrase “TikTok curator,” Ari Elkins is certainly the first name that comes to mind. Seen as a pioneer in the space, Ari has cultivated a following of over 1.8 million on TikTok in large part due to his undeniable energy, and vast taste in music. Ari got his start curating music on TikTok at the inception of COVID-19 (as many did), when a record label internship fell through thanks to the pandemic. He had posted a video detailing tracks “that will take you straight to a frat basement,” and after waking up to over 2 million views, it was clear that something had happened. The sheer power of TikTok was discovered.
“I see TikTok as the great equalizer,” Ari told me. “If a video posted by an artist resonates with the masses, it has the opportunity to get in front of thousands of people. No marketing budget. No barrier to entry.” Ari strives to put the spotlight on developing and mainstream artists alike, with segments about songs released that day, if you like, you’ll like, songs that put you in your feels, and countless other formats. When asked about the variety in his content, Ari told me, “As a kid I could never sit still, and it shows in my content. There isn’t one type of video I stick with, it changes every week.” Most recently, Ari has been curating videos tailored toward emotions and experiences, telling me that it helps the masses connect with music beyond just a playlist. This personality is parallel to his music taste, as Ari features music genres ranging from electric, pop, hip-hop, and even claims to be enjoying country music as of late.
Speaking of playlists, you can find Ari on Spotify, boasting over 200,000 Spotify followers, and over 40 playlists. From an Ari’s Aux playlist, to an oldies playlist, Great Vibes playlist, all the way to specifically-named playlists like Saturday at Noon, there are no gaps in his curation. Ari’s relationship with Spotify goes beyond just playlisting, as he’s begun hosting a podcast dubbed “Soundtrack Your Day,” which serves as an intersection between pop culture and music, premiering every Monday at 5pm PT. With a revolving door of guests, the podcast has granted Ari the chance to dive deeper into music, while further developing his already impressive following.
Ari’s reach has gone far beyond TikTok, with invites to cover festivals such as Bonnaroo, and appearances at VidCon. In speaking with him about future goals, Ari tells me, “The goal is to solidify myself as a voice for music curation for gen z. I’d love to continue working closely with Spotify on other podcasts, building out the Soundtrack Your Day show, and working in the live events space. On the business side, I’d ultimately love to start a JV with another label to start helping artists from zero to ten.” Still, though, Ari’s heart remains in curating for undiscovered artists, saying, “It’s honestly incredible to use my platform to uplift smaller artists, to put artists on that are really doing great things.” Showing no signs of stopping, we highly suggest you follow the pioneer of music TikTok for your next week of music suggestions.
One artist Ari would love to sit down with: Frank Ocean
The power of TikTok is limitless. Just ask Sam Weisband, who has used TikTok as the sole engine for her meteoric rise into the music curation hall of fame. Known by her TikTok handle @theweisestband, Sam has cultivated a following of over 150,000 on Spotify, even more than she has on the social media app. After only posting a handful of videos before gaining the respect of music-tok, Sam has completely reimagined playlisting by using colors. Yes, colors.
When I spoke to Sam about how she uses colors, rather than genres, to curate playlists, she told me, “Thinking about music abstractly is the most important part of it. I started ordering my playlists by color and I noticed it was interesting to hear music in that way. It allows you to appreciate the sound without classifying by genres, giving a more encompassing music experience.” From reviewing festival lineups, to playlisting, to content about specific artists, @theweisestband does it all. She tells me, “TikTok is a new space and I’m humbled by it every day. My favorite part of content curation is when followers align with my taste, and chime in to talk about the music.”
Sam is also in the process of creating a website for her business, “Painted Aura,” which will serve as a place where she’ll accept submissions, allow other playlisters to hop on as curators, and more. “PR feels archaic in a small sense,” Sam tells me. “I can understand how it is necessary, but we need to find a new way to transfer information about new music. Painted Aura can be a hub for industry people and music lovers alike to find new amazing songs.” At the end of the day, Sam Weisband likes good music. “Anything that’s good is where I want to be. It could be an old band, an artist with one follower, or a mainstream artist. It’s the music that matters to me.” You can find Sam on TikTok, as well as read her reviews on Dancing Astronaut.
One artist Sam would love to sit down with: Flume
Nicolas Nuvan grew up championing human interaction and the human experience over everything else. Starting only nine months ago, Nicolas has cultivated a following of over 1 million on TikTok. His strategy is simple: put the power of curation in the hands of the people. By traveling from city to city asking individuals on the street what they’re listening to, what song makes them happy, what their couple song is, etc., Nicolas has become a fan-favorite on music-tok. While countless other music curators on TikTok make themselves the star of the show, Nicolas tells me, “I am a curator in a way, but it's really about the greater culture and people. I love the selflessness behind the page. That random person on the street is the star, not me.”
Fresh off a 20-city tour from Dallas to Miami, and back, Nicolas has a vault of videos ready to go for the ensuing months. Striving to make the content on his tour as engaging as it possibly could be, Nicolas poured his entire brand deal budget into the tour with hopes that it would pay off: and it has. Along his tour, Nicolas learned that every city has their own culture surrounding music, making stops in Austin, Houston, Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Tallahassee, Orlando, Tampa, and countless other cities. The importance of his mission is rooted in talking to individuals from every walk of life, saying, “What's really cool is talking to all different types of people: older, younger, latinos, black, white, Russians, whoever it is. There’s a culture within each city, and I’m showing the world that cities are multifaceted in both music and culture.” His quick-hitting, off-guard content gives anyone he walks up to the power to blow up an artist that may be relatively unknown.
When speaking to Nicolas about the end goal, he told me he’d like to be the Anthony Bourdain for music, saying, “Anthony Bourdain is not the best chef in the world, but he's great at talking to people about food, and the culture surrounding that food.” In the near future, Nicolas looks to expand his content, recruiting a team that can help him film nationwide tours top to bottom, in hopes to create a long-form documentary archiving the entire experience. “It’s about building the most honest depiction of music culture in every city I take on,” He says. “by my next tour I plan to be in a place to create a more professional version of what I do now.”
For the time being, you can find compilations of Nicolas Nuvan’s city travels on his YouTube, as well as follow him on TikTok.
One artist Nicolas would love to sit down with: Kanye West
While a large majority of music curators struggle to garner the attention of their following by putting on unknown artists, this is Axel Tanner’s bread and butter. Axel got his start on TikTok during the heart of COVID-19, promoting his own beats as a producer. After committing himself to a consistent posting schedule, he saw steady growth on the platform. It wasn’t until he had an epiphany, though, when his TikTok exploded, growing to the 1.1 million followers he has today. Axel described this epiphany to me, saying, “I thought to myself, creatives are always asking their audience for favors. Instead, I wanted to find a way to provide value to my audience. I always used to be the friend on aux throughout my life, so I decided to start sharing my playlists.” After a handful of curation videos, his following erupted, and Axel never looked back.
“I realized how fulfilling curating music was,” Axel told me. “Posting an artist and being able to give them an initial spark is really, really cool.” Axel implored to me that consistency is the key to winning in any industry. By posting daily and experimenting with different segments and styles, Axel has built a sturdy brand that is highly respected in the A&R world, and the music community at large. Still, the question remained, how was Axel able to create such a massive following through music discovery content – a space so many TikTok curators struggle with.
It all comes down to trust. “The trust of my viewers is sacred to me, it’s something I prioritize every day,” he told me. “I strive to remain as authentic and genuine as I can. At the end of the day I’m passionate about every song and every playlist that I post.” He has certainly gained the trust of his following, with his genuine confidence toward the tracks he highlights shining through in his videos. Moving forward, Axel looks to expand his content with a podcast, and eventually enter into the world of Twitch. He tells me, “I see the music community integrating very nicely on that platform (Twitch). It would be cool if someone live streamed music discovery, and I believe I could be an early adopter in that space.” For now, though, fans of Axel will have to stick with TikTok, and continue to enjoy his playlists.
One artist Axel would love to sit down with: Jay-Z, Pharrell, Drake, Kendrick, Kanye, all for different reasons.
Garnering over 70,000 followers on Spotify is no simple feat for an artist, let alone a curator. Kasey Gelsomino, known by her TikTok handle @kaseys.playlist has done just that, converting almost all of her TikTok following over to her Spotify playlists. When asked why she entered the TikTok space to begin with, she told me, “Most of it comes down to helping artists in every way I can. It’s great to have a platform to amplify their voices, and support art I think is cool.”
Kasey was gifted a present on Christmas Day of 2020, when she witnessed her first viral TikTok video, following months of posting every so often. With the world entrenched in COVID-19, and internships falling short for all college students, Kasey Gelsomino decided to dedicate 2021 to building her presence as a curator. From featuring rising artists, to reviewing new music on Fridays, to creating countless playlists, Kasey was able to earn the ears of thousands, thanks to her keen taste of indie / alternative music.
When asked how she sees her brand growing in the future, Kasey told me, “I’ve thought about this a lot recently. I would love to do something in the live space, putting on showcases for artists I love. Maybe even putting out a physical piece, such as merchandise or a year-end vinyl. Ideally, I’d give proceeds back to the artists!” With an artist-focused approach, Kasey looks to continue discovering the best new music, and providing her followers with some of the best suggestions on TikTok.
One artist Kasey would love to sit down with: Dijon
Jarred Jermaine has the largest TikTok following of every name on this list, and has grown this audience by flaunting his keen ear and well-versed music knowledge. After spending 20 years producing, recording and engineering music, Jarred started curating content in November of 2020, and hasn’t looked back since. Known for his dead-pan style, calmly pointing up at the tracks he’s featuring, he has the jaw dropping power to pick out songs with similarities, generations of samples, and dive into the archives of music, creating additional appreciation for popular tracks today.
Jarred didn’t expect the meteoric growth he’s experienced, and is still settling into his role as a music influencer. When asked how it feels to be dubbed an “influencer,” Jarred told me, “It’s funny to be called an influencer. In a sense I am influencing the way people hear songs. I try to shock people every day. People assume everybody knows everything, but there’s so much we aren’t aware of.” That’s where Jarred comes in. From videos explaining multiple covers of the same original tune, to videos explaining original sounds vs. viral music-tok sounds, to content exposing song similarities, Jarred strives to open his viewer’s eyes to hear music in a whole new way.
Jarred spent multiple years working in the A&R world, striving to find and develop the next new talent, but his new venture on TikTok has strived to curate mostly in the pop space. He told me, “I was in that music discovery lane for the last seven years. I’ve been in the trenches with artists forever.” While some music curators focus on the best new talent, Jarred Jermaine curates pop music for his followers in an incredibly unique way. He hopes to see his brand continue to grow, so he can have the platform to truly influence pop culture. Beyond TikTok, Jarred has launched a Discord, is closing in on half a million subscribers on YouTube, and has plans to launch a Twitch. “It’s all about building a community,” he told me. If you haven’t yet, follow @jarredjermaine on TikTok for jaw-dropping music content.
One artist Jarred love to sit down with: Justin Beiber, Doja Cat