When President Donald Trump announced an executive order banning Americans from making transactions with TikTok parent company ByteDance, many creators on the platform were worried about what that would mean for them. If the ban comes into effect it could stop Americans from using the platform, which has grown rapidly over the past few months.
For most people, the ban on TikTok either wouldn’t have a major impact on their lives or would put an end to a fun app they use to kill time. But for some, like the biggest creators on TikTok, this could have an impact on their entire livelihood. So to see just how a potential ban would impact top stars on TikTok, I spoke to 10 of the biggest creators on the platform from around the world, all of whom have at least 100,000 followers on TikTok.
80% of the creators I spoke to said that a TikTok ban would have a significant impact on them, be it directly from a loss of income made via TikTok or indirectly by a loss of fans and discovery for other platforms.
“Currently I’m making about $25,000 a month from TikTok and that is about 90% of my income,” said PJ “OVERTFLOW” Brittain, a creator on TikTok with 1.7 million followers. “A TikTok ban would be pretty devastating for me, I’ve spread my audience to my other platforms but TikTok is my biggest. I plan on buying my grandparents a house and taking care of my family with the money I’m earning from TikTok. It’s my full-time job and as long as it sticks around I plan to give it 100% effort because it’s life-changing for me and thousands of other creators.”
While creators on the platform generally don’t make money from ad revenue like other platforms such as YouTube, they can use TikTok to leverage some big financial deals. Sponsored videos on the platform can bring in thousands to a creator with a large following, and doing a few of those a month can result in a full-time income.
“About half of my monthly income comes from TikTok brand deals; the other half comes from my consulting clients, [such as] influencers creating content on YouTube, Instagram, etc,” said Andrew “DrewHacks” Falchook, a life hacks TikTok star with 1.3 million followers. “A TikTok ban would immediately impact my monthly income and ability to reach a majority of my audience. I have begun to promote my profiles on other platforms – YouTube (about 6000 subscribers) and Instagram (just over 2000 followers) but moving a majority of my TikTok audience to other platforms will be borderline impossible; I’ll essentially have to start over by creating content for other social networks.”
Some creators do make good money from TikTok, but the majority of the creators I spoke to say they make little to no money directly from TikTok. With no ad revenue, the only real way to earn money directly through TikTok is through donations from live streams on the platform, although applications to the creator fund where TikTok will distribute money to top creators have just opened.
But for those who do not make money directly from TikTok, they find value in the platform elsewhere. Many use TikTok to post highlights from longer videos available on YouTube, and those who see the TikTok clips then go looking for more on platforms that can be monetized. For most of the creators I spoke to, this loss of traffic to other areas they monetize would be the real loss should TikTok be banned.
“I’ve only made money directly from TikTok when streaming on the platform itself which I rarely do,” said Maria “Chica” Lopez, who has 4.1 million followers on TikTok. “I do however indirectly make money by directing my TikTok followers to other platforms like Twitch & YouTube where my numbers have skyrocketed due to the exposure the app has given me. My Epic Games affiliate code usage has also gone up exponentially since my TikTok has blown up. I’ve more than tripled my regular monthly income over the last year. I believe this is mainly attributed to my TikTok success.”
This seems to be the case for most of the gaming content creators I spoke to, who usually have large audiences elsewhere and use TikTok to show highlights. Unlike other types of video that do well on TikTok, gaming clips can be very profitable on YouTube. Someone who makes it big on TikTok thanks to 30-second viral dances, or minute-long comedy skits, would struggle to monetize that kind of content elsewhere, but for gamers, their content is often small clips taken from longer videos hosted elsewhere.
“TikTok currently excels as a discovery platform for gaming,” said Andrew “Sigils” Givler, who has 127,500 followers on TikTok but has 552,000 subscribers on YouTube. “TikToks are basically just short ads for the content creator. If people like your short-form content they’re likely to check out your YouTube and other platforms. Losing TikTok would definitely impact a major funnel for attracting new people to my audience.”
Arguably the best example of this is Australian creator Mully, who posts clips of virtual reality games on his TikTok. The clips are usually small portions of longer YouTube videos, and they have been massively successful, bringing in 9.1 million followers on TikTok making him the biggest TikTok gamer in Australia. However, the growth has been just as good on his YouTube channel, which now has 4.57 million subscribers. Around a year ago he was at around 325,000 subscribers, with a lot of that growth coming from his TikTok success.
“I do not make an income from TikTok,” says Mully. “I pull around 100-200m views per month and make no money, however in saying that TikTok is a great tool to funnel new people to my YouTube channel which then transforms into income through new views… If the US banned TikTok I would see an immediate impact on my account – 60% of my audience is from the US so that is a big chunk of exposure that I would lose immediately. Thankfully now I am well established enough on YouTube that I would be fine.”
Only 30% of the creators I spoke to said they would consider using a VPN or a similar service to access TikTok should it be fully banned in the US, with most citing a violation of the terms of service as a major reason not to. The other common reason mentioned was that if the app is banned very few users will continue to use it, so the value would be lessened due to the lack of viewers. However, one creator did say they would look into moving to a different country should TikTok be banned in the US.
“A ban on TikTok would mean less brand exposure for everything I am doing,” said Garrett “Jobless Garrett” Sutton, a creator with 2.8 million TikTok Followers. “Even though I do not believe it will be banned, financially, I will be fine as I have established fan bases on YouTube, Twitch and other platforms. It would be an unfortunate thing to happen but my team has already started to plan on re-purposing content for Instagram Reels, Facebook’s new feature to compete against TikTok. If TikTok is banned I personally would not try to circumvent the system. Putting myself, my team and my company in a losing situation would not be a fix to the issue.”
Some creators are, understandably, trying to prepare for a possible ban on TikTok and trying to find other ways to get content to their audience. But some are feeling comfortable, even if their TikTok audience disappears overnight, and have always been aware something like this could happen.
“It would suck, don’t get me wrong, I’d miss my community that’s been built on TikTok,” says Kruzadar, a TikTok creator with 1.9 million followers. “However, that’s just part of the content creation/entertainment industry, it’s unstable and unpredictable and you’re fooling yourself if you think otherwise as a creator… The industry is all about adaptability. I bust my butt to have content on other platforms so I don’t have to rely on TikTok being my only avenue for growth/income. I think that’s where a lot of creators make mistakes with the app, lack of promotion, and content off-site.”
For those who are looking for an alternative to TikTok should it be banned in the US, Instagram Reels, the new feature from the Facebook-owned app that functions in a similar way to TikTok, seems to be the best option on paper. But from the creators I spoke to, the platform appears to be quite divisive, with some thinking it could take off if TikTok is banned and others not believing it has much of a chance.
“My general thought on it is that it’s not a solid competitor yet to TikTok, the idea is there but execution needs work,” says Austin “BiffleWiffle” Drippon, a creator with 100,000 followers on TikTok. “My opinion is that they should have had it as a separate app and not on the current Instagram version. With it being embedded into Instagram’s app it makes it too cluttered and even a bit annoying to use.”
“If TikTok were to shut down, I believe the next most likely candidate for a replacement would be Instagram Reels,” says Henry “Henwy” Martin, a UK based creator with 194,900 followers on TikTok, who is having to look at other potential platforms as his audience is mostly from the US. “Many creators already have their audience over on Instagram and if they did it correctly, Instagram could seamlessly integrate it into their platform.”
Despite all the speculation and media coverage of a potential ban of TikTok in the US, 70% of the creators I spoke to think the ban will not go through, and that TikTok will either be sold to a US company or Trump will back down and not actually ban the app. The other 30% either didn’t know, or thought the chance of a ban was about 50/50, with none of them saying they think the ban is more likely to happen than not.
“I actually strongly believe it won’t be banned,” said Nic “MrTop5” Johnson who reveals he only spends five minutes per day on creating TikTok content but has managed to amass 183,600 followers on the platform. “I bet there’s a lot happening behind the scenes with Microsoft and other US companies ensuring such a large company as TikTok can survive.”
At this point, it seems things could go either way. A sale to a US-based company does seem like the most likely option, but being forced to sell your company because of a President’s wish is a bit of a raw deal for ByteDance, so they could stand their ground. Regardless of what happens, it is clear that for a lot of people TikTok being banned in the US would have a lot of negative impacts, and basically no positive ones for the creators who use it.
But it isn’t just those who post TikToks that would be impacted by a ban, music artists around the world would also potentially suffer, as the app has changed how hits are made. There’s also the developers, and staff for the app, the talent agents who work with TikTok stars and a whole host of other people involved with the app. For us regular folks we might miss some entertaining videos, but for a lot of people, a ban could impact their livelihoods.
“Losing TikTok in an entire country would be devastating to numerous creators,” says Mully. “Musicians who upload to Spotify would be hit as most viral sounds on TikTok directly correlate with how the full songs rank on Spotify trending lists, other gaming creators would be hit, it would not be good for anyone.”
Update: An earlier version of this article featured an incorrect full name for Mully, who does not publicize his full name. This has been updated.