While 2020 has been a challenging year for all of us, it’s been especially tough on musicians. With live performances on hold indefinitely, many have turned to social media to stay in touch with their existing fans and earn new ones.
Few others in Canada have been quite as successful at the latter as Domino Santantonio.
The resident of Piedmont, Que., about an hour’s drive north of Montreal, comes from a family of musicians, and has been a professional drummer for over a decade.
As the COVID-19 pandemic was forcing the closure of concert halls and the suspension of music festivals around the world in March, she was encouraged by a friend and fellow artist, Roxane Bruneau, to try out TikTok.
“I was like, ‘Well, I only use TikTok for cats and dog videos’,” she told Global News from her music studio. “But then one night here, I was like, ‘maybe I could give it a try.'”
That first try — a drum accompaniment to Shakira’s ‘Hips Don’t Lie’ — garnered millions of views in just a few hours, catapulting her to social-media stardom. To date, nearly 14 million people have seen it.
“It’s a little bit overwhelming,” she admitted. “A lot of things have happened to me in the past months, so it’s been a crazy journey, but a very exciting journey.”
She had to pinch herself when part of that journey involved her inclusion in an ad campaign launched by TikTok in the autumn.
One of just a handful of Canadian TikTokers selected to participate in the ‘It Starts on TikTok’ campaign, she’s also the only one from Quebec.
“When they approached me, I was like ‘Is this real!? Is it a scam?”
It turns out, it wasn’t a scam, and now, her face is plastered all over French-language television across Canada. While she’s performed on the small screen as part of a house band before, being front-and-centre was a surreal experience.
“So I was used to me performing on TV, but being like, with my name, not me behind the drums behind the artist, like, me in front of it, I was shocked,” she said. “I was like, ‘seriously!? There’s my name there? I only play drums, you know!'”
In a statement, TikTok called Santantonio “a great representation” of what makes the site and its Canadian content creators so unique.
While nothing can replace the rush of performing live with other musicians, Santantonio says finding an audience on TikTok has made all the difference this year.
“By having the space, to create, and the crowd reacting when I post a video, having lots of positive feedbacks, all the love…it’s really the best thing that could have happened to me,” she said with a smile.
Santantonio says when the pandemic is over, she can’t wait to show her new followers — all 589,500 of them and counting — what she loves to do, live, on a stage.
But she adds that even once we’ve all been vaccinated and are filling up concert halls once again, she’s not going anywhere on TikTok.
“I want to film myself, in live shows, and show this other side of my career, that I haven’t been able to show the crowd since the last year.”