Forbes is back with its annual "30 Under 30" list. For its music class of 2021, the publication highlighted Roddy Ricch, Doja Cat, Saweetie, Lil Baby, and Polo G, all artists who dominated one of the industry’s favorite apps this year — TikTok.
Roddy Ricch took the top spot as the year's standout act. Showing adaptability to making new content — and making money — despite a global pandemic, the 22-year-old pulled in $20 million. "I've made more this year than I have ever made in life—at home," Roddy told Forbes.
The rapper has had a breakout year, starting 2020 fresh off his Grammy win and spending 18 weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100. However, there's one stunt that put his name on everyone's lips. His hit “The Box” received a considerable boost from TikTok. The track's meme-able squeaky sounds catapulted it to the top of the app with a whopping 1.5 million videos.
The viral capital of the song has helped the success of “The Box” as well as the artist himself, proving that while radio plays, ticket sales, and TV appearances were the marketers of old, TikTok is the only fame machine that really matters now.
In little over a year, TikTok has come to dominate social media and for the music industry, it's become a game-changer. The meteoric rise of the video-sharing platform has ushered in a new collaborative vision for the future of music, where the fans are the only tastemakers that matter.
Forbes' 30 Under 30 list is an attestation to that. Beyond Roddy Ricch, the other musical acts that made the list capitalized on the app's hype. Notably, Doja Cat emerged as one of 2020’s biggest stars thanks to her song “Say So” sparking a viral TikTok dance, accumulating 18 million videos. Similarly, Saweetie's "Tap In" and Lil Baby's "We Paid" also inspired viral dances, while Polo G's "Go Stupid" became the soundtrack for hundreds of thousands of memes.
These artists all earned notice for overcoming an otherwise challenging year for the music industry by reinventing the path to music stardom on their own terms – and with a little help from TikTok.