Do you, sometimes, catch yourself humming Old Town Road by Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus? Chances are you first heard this song on a TikTok video. The #OldTownRoad TikTok cowboy challenge introduced us to Lil Nas’ as an artist and influenced his success. Similarly, the earliest record of social media’s impact on the music industry was when the Arctic Monkeys band used Myspace to launch its career. This technique has gained popularity in the last decade as more musicians use TikTok to boost their ratings.
TikTok’s History In Brief
To understand TikTok’s influence on the music industry, we need to start with its history. TikTok is a leading social media platform that relies on video-song content. When ByteDance Corporation incorporated TikTok with the now-defunct Musical.ly app, the 2017 merger exposed the Chinese social media platform to a bigger global audience.
Musical.ly leaned heavily on monotonous and non-diverse lip-syncing music content. On the other hand, TikTok’s unique use of sound was a breath of fresh air to its predecessor. Social media experts credit TikTok’s success to an algorithm that ensured social mobility and allowed users from all walks of life to grow their online personas indiscriminately.
Notably, the music industry’s use of TikTok to promote its work was unprecedented. According to Rolling Stone, like other enterprises, music industry players also leverage TikTok’s systems to promote their work.
How TikTok’s Features Promote Music
TikTok has a library of licensed music that lets users add favorite audio tracks to their videos. TikTok’s song page automatically attaches music-streaming links to the full version of songs the platform features. Its stitch feature allows TikTokers to duet or collaborate and add their preferred audios. The share button helps music creators to cross-promote content. Lastly, TikTok hashtags on the platform present songs to an audience in different niches.
How TikTok Disrupted The Music Industry
People discover new music on TikTok
People discover music in different ways. In the past, TVs and radios introduced us to fresh beats. TikTok is the latest platform to feature new music in the internet age.
Social media experts usually encourage TikTokers to use trending sounds in their posts to improve their reach. TikTok videos that feature a trending song constantly expose the sound to new audiences.
In 2021, Ckay and Joeboy’s remix of the song, Love Nwantiti, featured in social media challenges that amassed millions of views, shares, and TikTok likes. TikTokers used the track in over 3 million videos of the #LoveNwantitiChallenge dance. The Nigerian artists released the record-breaking remix in 2020, yet it gained traction a year later because of TikTok. Ckay’s Spotify follower count grew exponentially, and the song topped global music charts as new and curious fans embraced his afrobeat style.
Musicians change their artistic expression
TikTok’s short video format influenced artists to create fun and creative music that keeps people jamming. Naturally, musicians want to emulate the success of TikTok tracks like Megan Thee Stallion’s hit song Savage and Olivia Rodrigo’s debut single Driver’s License. Some artists make music that fulfils TikTokers’ interests.
However, music critics claim the tactic interferes with originality. In an interview with Apple Music’s Zane Lowe, British singer Adele once stated that her labels are concerned with Gen Z’s reception of her music. She insisted that she’ll create soulful music for her generation and won’t conform.
Changes in music marketing strategies
According to Business Insider, songs that trend on the app are more likely to top global music charts. People search for their favorite TikTok tunes on music-streaming apps. Record labels reportedly use TikTok as a promotional tool and flood it with new releases.
Music labels partner with TikTok influencers in music promo deals. TikTokers add music tracks to their content and earn thousands of dollars. Entities like Sony Music have divisions that constantly monitor reactions to soundtracks and music trends on TikTok.
Although some tunes gain popularity on the app organically, some media companies boost song performance through strategic content. For instance, Flighthouse Media hired TikTok influencers to popularize Surface’s song Sunday Best on the app.
TikTok has greatly influenced creativity, marketing, and distribution strategies in the music industry. Record labels use the app to launch new songs and music careers. Artists can use features like TikTok’s stitch function to fast-track the success of their next song.