What Happened to Tumblr? How TikTok Carries on the Tumblr Legacy Through Music

Tumblr might not be as relevant today, but Tumblr Music has helped carry on the spirit of the platform on TikTok.

What Happened to Tumblr? How TikTok Carries on the Tumblr Legacy Through Music
Sarah Kloboves
Sarah Kloboves
January 6, 20235 min read
Permalink Copied

It’s 2013. You swipe open your iPhone 4S, open Tumblr, and start scrolling past soft grunge mood boards and groups of angsty teens sporting chokers. A video featuring music from the new Arctic Monkeys album comes up, and you immediately reblog the song to your page. “I felt this in my soul....” you type, before pressing send.

Many millennials and Gen Zs look back on this period with a nostalgic smile and a slight cringe, but any true Tumblr user knows that the platform was more than just a blog; it was a cultural space for communication, the birthplace of digital aesthetics, and a safe zone for niche fandoms to call home. With no public follower count or requirement to provide a real identity, the site quickly became a place for art, confession, feminism, gender identity, and passions of all kinds. Out of those passions sprouted Tumblr Music, a Pop, Rock, Alternative, and Indie sound that has helped shape the millennial and Gen Z aesthetic and is experiencing a resurgence thanks to TikTok-fueled 2000s-2010s nostalgia.

How Tumblr Helped Launch Artists' Careers

In every era, the youth have played a lead role in deciding what pop culture's "next big thing" will be. It's really no surprise, then, that artists who once found their audience through Tumblr gifs are now some of the industry's biggest players. Using the Artist Filters on our Artists List, we find that the Top 5 Alternative artists according to Chartmetric Artist Rank is dominated by Tumblr Music—especially when the audience is limited to the ages most influenced by 2010s Tumblr, i.e., 18-24-year-olds.

Tumblr Music accounts for the Top 5 Alternative artists with a majority Gen Z demographic.
Only one Tumblr Music artist (Arctic Monkeys) appears in the Top 5 Alternative artists for the overall population.

Almost a decade has passed since Tumblr's 2010s reign, but the American microblogging platform reported 73 million accounts in 2013 before it was acquired by Yahoo. Today, nearly 50 percent of today's Tumblr user base hails from the United States, and that share was likely even larger at the platform's height. Using Filtr's 2014 tumblr phase playlist as a reference, it's evident that the majority of artists from this selection also hail from the United States. Given the app's user base, we can assume that the US-based platform favored domestic artists, presenting them with an optimal environment for growing their audience and engagement.

That said, non-American Tumblr Music artists from the Anglosphere also saw success. British groups like The 1975 and Arctic Monkeys, for example, have their largest fanbase in the US with the UK falling closely behind. Australian-based Pop star Lorde also sees a significant majority of listening from the U.S., while Ireland's Hozier has an American fanbase that rivals that of Arctic Monkeys.

American dominance in the global music industry during the 2000s and 2010s made it possible for these artists to find long-lasting fans during the Tumblr boom. Because we tend to carry our formative music tastes with us, those fans haven't abandoned Tumblr Music even as they have aged and the platform has become less and less relevant. In fact, with TikTok, that fandom may have just found a new medium through which to spread its Tumblr Music gospel.

Where Is Tumblr Now? #tumblrcore

Following the site's infamous porn ban of 2018, whatever was left of the micro-blogging platform went swiftly to the internet graveyard. Meanwhile, a new social media obsession was gestating: TikTok. It would be difficult for a platform to replicate the golden age of Tumblr Music, but millions of users turned to TikTok to at least resurrect the spirit of it.

Whether it's sharing your dramatic main-character poses from 2014 or arguing that grunge fashion is on its way back in, the now-fully-grown community of Tumblr kids has managed to regroup under tags like #2014tumblr (331.9M views), #tumblr2014 (200.8M views), and #tumblraesthetic (651.4M views). A popular TikTok audio, "tumblr indie," even has users ranking Tumblr Music according to the "impact it had fully developing my frontal lobe."


♬ tumblr indie - sarah frost 🪐✨

While the spirit of Tumblr Music may live on within the TikTok community, the hard truth is that its influence as a platform has come and gone. With short-form video driving content consumption, much of what made Tumblr so enjoyable might not translate for younger generations. While Tumblr Music enjoys a healthy following on TikTok, you don't see Tumblr artists rising to the top of the TikTok follower charts. Today, the top growing Alternative artists for 18-24-year-olds on the platform are more Pop and Hip-Hop-oriented rather than Rock-oriented. In the case of Indie Rock, it's really only The 1975 who have managed to effectively crossover, at the artist-level, to a TikTok audience.

TikTok seems to have given us the best of both worlds, though: a new medium for appreciating the Tumblr Music that influenced so many millennials and Gen Zs, and an exciting new list of artists to inspire new generations of digital natives. Angsty blog posts may be a thing of the past, but the internet's revolutionary potential to reinvent the music discovery process again and again looks like it's here to stay.

Regardless of whether skater skirts and leather combat boots ever truly make a comeback, the cultural significance of Tumblr will always live on in those who were there to experience it, even if it means having to migrate to a new platform. With trends emerging and re-emerging so rapidly, there's no telling what decade-old fad might show up next on your daily feed, and which one may just be going out of style (again...).