The pandemic has been problematic for many touring musicians, but for Manhattan-based Blu DeTiger, the past year has been a lesson in how to make the best of a challenging situation.
“The only thing you can kinda do right now as an artist is try to connect online, and I’m lucky that I found a way to do it,” says the bassist/singer, who has seen her career take off thanks to her savvy solo social media efforts and a wave of interest in bass playing — particularly from young fans (many of them women) stuck at home — on platforms like TikTok and Instagram.
“I started by putting out these little videos of me playing and doing my thing… just kind of jamming,” she says of the clips she routinely uploads of herself playing bass riffs that have attracted the attention of Janet Jacket and Questlove via re-posts on social media, and also a crucial online co-sign from YouTube bass god Davie504 last year.
“It’s cool anytime someone you look up recognizes you,” she says of her growing celebrity fan base. “I noticed a lot of people were liking them, so I just said to myself ‘I’ll just keep doing this.’”
Indeed, millions have now locked onto DeTiger’s covers and original bass playing clips, especially on TikTok, where she has had several videos gain over a million views each in the last 12 months (including one cover of “What They Want” by American rapper Russ that has so far amassed 8 million views).
And while it’s certainly nothing new seeing female bass players excel at their craft online (a cover of Dua Lipa’s “Don’t Start Now” by Polish bass player Juliaplaysgroove has racked up nearly nine million views on YouTube), what is new is the number of young female fans that are feeling increasingly empowered by the short-form videos to reach out directly to the creators who make them, and then having those creators engage back with fans, quickly.
“Platforms like TikTok and Instagram are making it really easy to connect with people by going live, and duet-ing, but I go even further and talk to my fans directly,” says DeTiger, who started playing bass when she was just seven-years-old. “I try to respond to all my DMs…. people want to learn, which is really cool. I like to do that because it really helps people. If I can take five minutes to answer technical [bass playing] questions, I’ll do it. It makes me feel good when I get messages like, ‘You inspired me to get a bass.'”
The 23-year-old (she just celebrated a birthday last month) bassist’s blossoming online presence is part of a wave of young female bass players who are gravitating towards the instrument amid the pandemic, and companies such as Fender have taken notice.
“We’re seeing our Instagram channel get younger and skew more female,” says Matt Watts, vp of marketing at Fender. “At the onset of the pandemic, we made the decision to offer Fender Play [the company’s teaching app] for free and about 20% of the new users were under 24 years old, and female users grew from 30% pre-pandemic to 45% with this new wave of players,” he adds of the instrument maker’s digital learning platform.
Fender noticed DeTiger’s talent early, and has built a relationship with her over two years. The company will officially name her to the 2021 class of their annual artist development program called “Fender Next” later this month.
“We’re always optimizing our marketing approach and reaching younger female consumers has been a priority over the past several years,” says Watts.
“When young players see themselves in [online] content, it inspires them and opens up a world of possibility for their future in music,” he adds. “Content featuring artists of color and females have been our biggest growth drivers on social.”
For DeTiger, who just released her debut EP “How Did We Get Here?” last week (which includes her 2020 single “Cotton Candy Lemonade,” see the music video for the song below), her short-form social media videos are a simply a sincere expression of her love for bass, and music in general.
“I try not to think about it too much, but my fans vibe with me [online],” she says. “Kids like people who are just being themselves on social media. … People can see through the BS really easily.”