The gentrification of Triller

Following a 90 day will-it, won’t-it speculation over Trump’s US TikTok ban, a rival app has welcomed an exodus of disenfranchised, renegade-dancing TikTokers. But how will this impact Triller’s hip-hop DNA that has traditionally elevated its Black creators?

On 6th August, president Trump signed an executive order threatening to ban TikTok in the United States unless an American company bought the app by 20th September. With 80 million monthly users of the app in the US – nearly a third of its population – the news, understandably, sent the internet into a tizzy. 

Agitated teens took to the app to mock, plead and berate the decision through a variety of memeable 15-second clips, while #TikTokBan shot up to Twitter’s number one trending spot for three consecutive days – an eternity in internet years. 

In the wake of the TikTokalypse, another platform started attracting a lot of hype: Triller. In the days following, the Los Angeles-based music video maker app” shot up to number one on the app store in 50 different countries, including Britain, the US, Australia, France, and Italy. 

The rival platform has been around since 2015, two whole years before TikTok, and currently has about 250 million worldwide downloads – 35 million of which were in the last few weeks alone.

While it’s a long way off TikTok’s goliath two billion downloads, the news that the Chinese-owned platform might be banned in the US has caused a mass exodus from the app. Even top creators like Charli D’Amelio told her 85.9 million (!) strong audience to follow her new Triller account, while Kourtney Kardashian’s bestie Addison Rae shared her new handle on 10th August. 

Josh Richards, a member of the notorious Hype House rival Sway House, was also one such expat. The 18-year-old announced his departure back in July by posting a video of himself and fellow creators Noah Beck and Griffin Johnson wearing Triller branded tees to his 21.5 million followers. 

Moreover, Richards announced that not only will he be joining Triller as a creator, but that he has also become an investor and will be joining the company as Chief Strategy Officer, with Beck and Johnson also taking up advisory roles. 

Considering the two apps share a similar premise – both platforms see users record themselves lip syncing and dancing to catchy earworms – the gold rush exodus to Triller seems, at first glance, to make sense. 

But over its three years of operation, TikTok has also become a treasure trove of beauty hacks, Vine-like comedy skits and random throwaway laughs, used mainly by white creators. The main difference, for Triller, is all about the music, and namely the hip-hop genre, too. 

Proxima Media founder Ryan Kavanaugh told Music Ally that the app’s demographic mainly caters for the hip-hop audience. It’s why the app has attracted big hitter angel investors from the hip-hop world, such as Snoop Dogg, The Weeknd, Marshmello, Lil Wayne, Kendrick Lamar, T.I. and YoungThug.

Triller seems to support independent artists, or what I would call the underdogs, and unfortunately in the music scene the underdogs are often the Black creatives and hip-hop artists,” says @thecleopatraway, a popular Black creator who has been on Triller since July 2019. If, demographically, you fall into that category then Triller is a good platform for you to use.”

@Blacky_loic agrees, citing that Triller is more supportive of its Black creators as it gives them more visibility” as there are less videos of people doing random shit to compete with”. 

Although TikTok helped break artists like Lil Nas X and accelerated the streaming stats of Megan Thee Stallion’s sex-positive hit Savage, the app has faced criticism for not properly elevating its Black voices.

Many point fingers at the algorithm’s collaborative filtering” mechanism, which works by replicating physical characteristics of a person’s profile picture in TikTok’s For You page recommendations. Because the majority of the platform creators are white, including it’s biggest users across the Hype House and Sway House, creators of colour with fewer followers argue they are given less scroll time – as backed up by artificial intelligence researcher Marc Faddoul.

It’s why Black users have tried to co-opt trending songs and dances to reclaim their space.Take @ebunnie for example, who posted a video to Then Leave and called for other creators to signal boost the hell out of it” when they saw a Black/​PoC using this sound”. 

In addition, its Black creators are often ripped off by bigger creators without receiving credit. For example, TikTok superstar Charli D’Amelio was crowned CEO of the renegade even though it was a young Black teen from Atlanta called Jalaiah Harmon who started the career-launching jig. 

All of these factors are why @ChyTheGreatest, an established Triller creator since 2016 who helped break K$upreme’s Gucci Cologne and Rich the Kid’s Splashin in her Triller videos, was reluctant to join TikTok. 

Triller definitely supports Black creators more than TikTok,” says the social media star, I had problems with TikTok. There were times where I would do the exact same video as other Caucasian creators and they would delete mine but not theirs, or put theirs on top. I’ve also never seen a Black person trending on top.” 

So, with TikTok potentially getting banned, how does @ChyTheGreatest see Triller being affected?

It will definitely see more white creators join the app. You can already see the content on the homepage and the leaderboard be overrun by TikTokers like Josh Richards, Bryce Hall and even Donald Trump. A year ago it was mainly Black creators, for sure.” 

While the US president gave his blessing” to a deal between TikTok and US firms Oracle and Walmart this weekend – in effect overturning his previous decision to bar Americans from downloading TikTok through any app store from Sunday – it hasn’t stopped the great TikTok emmigration. In fact, the rest of the D’Amelio’s, TikTok’s royal family, opened Triller accounts this weekend, with reigning Queen Charli reminding her Twitter followers to: follow my triller teehee”.

For @ChyTheGreatest, she believes that, even though TikTok didn’t get banned in the US, all the talks about security concerns as well as the genuine fear that it might be,” has meant that, Triller has been changed forever.” 

Does she think that’s a bad thing?

I guess we’ll have to see.” 


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