The first time I heard about TikTok was in the fall of 2019. My coworker at an NYC coffee shop told me how Charli D’Amelio, the most-followed person on TikTok, filmed a video at our location. “Who’s that?” I asked as she tried to explain the app and D’Amelio to me. As a 22-year-old recent college graduate, I thought TikTok still referred to the Ke$ha song. I felt out of the loop for once and dismissed TikTok as just another social media app that would fade away. At the start of the pandemic, though, I was newly unemployed and forced to move back into the home of my parents in Texas (hopefully temporarily). I finally downloaded TikTok and made a free account, and spent hours scrolling mindlessly to numb the pain of the world.
When I first saw a video of someone playing a vinyl record, it clicked. Being home, I had access to 11 years’ worth of vinyl albums that I’d started to collect as a hobby in 2010 at 13 years old—something that was such a massive part of my life. I’d always wanted to show off my records in some way on YouTube or Instagram, but it felt too intimidating. With TikTok’s 1-minute limit, it felt like a challenge, but also just enough time to show off my records individually. Soon I was making videos documenting my collection along with tips on how to care for vinyl, which I learned in my years of collecting. I amassed a following of over 10,000 followers and over 600,000 likes on my videos. I loved the little nook that I joined.
Up until joining TikTok, I was always second-guessing what to post on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. With TikTok, I immediately felt a sort of comfort about posting. Now I get why it was popular: It was accessible. Anyone could go viral. There was no need to put on a facade like on other social media sites. The “For You” page showed you anything and everything. Once you followed and interacted with accounts, the page could get very specific to your tastes in content. The most popular creators were popular because they carved out their own arena and developed a following based on that niche, something I was also developing.
To post my vinyl content, I used a lot of stacked books to prop my iPhone up, making the videos outside—in 100 degree San Antonio heat—for great natural lighting. My first try was a Lana Del Rey heart-shaped record released in 2017. It got over 100,000 views in a few weeks. I couldn’t believe my initial post did so well. I tried more videos, but my luck ran out for a few months, stuck at under 500 views. When I got a tripod and a ring light, I used my professional camera to make better videos that showcased the records in the more detailed way I aimed for.
I was as anonymous as possible at first. I had never put myself out on the internet like this before. Yet, after trying to match the initial excitement of having my first vinyl TikTok go moderately viral, my account was stuck in limbo until I posted a video about my Selena Quintanilla record. That was one of the first voiceover videos I did, and it got over 20,000 views. That gave me the drive to make more videos. This time I realized I needed to put more of myself in my videos. I really revived my account when I made another TikTok about my Lana Del Rey heart-shaped vinyl record. With the added voiceover and a detailed explanation of the record, it got over 200,000 views, beating my initial viral Lana TikTok. As I saw the views go up and increased interaction with people in the comments, I knew the direction I needed to take my content.