TikTok is entering 2021 as one of the most loved and popular apps in the world. With one billion monthly users only a few short years after the app’s launch, TikTok seems to have impacted several aspects of our society.
In August 2018, the company ByteDance converted the popular lip-synching app called Mulsical.ly into TikTok. TikTok’s immediate success and constant growth can be credited to the marketing resources and creative ideas brought in by the company ByteDance. The features and set up of TikTok, though similar to the concept of Musical.ly, make the app such a massive success compared to what Muscial.ly was able to achieve. The wide range of content and unique algorithm makes this app stand out from any other form of social media that is popular right now. There is entertainment and aspects that will appeal to anyone on the app due to its extremely wide range of content.
The set up of the app is so popular compared to musical.ly or any other form of social media because it is like nothing else on the app store right now. It is so unique in the way that any person who uses the app has a good chance of getting famous or going viral. In the Rolling Stones article titled ‘If You Can Get Famous Easily, You’re Gonna Do It’ How Tik Tok Took Over Music written by Elias Leight, popular creator KevboyPerry explains how the open ended input concept for the app makes the possible outcomes and successes for a user endless. He spoke about how Musical.ly along with other social media platforms are set up in a way that new users hardly ever get famous, yet TikTok “allows people to get famous really easily”.
The popularity of this app because of its unique features has caused impact on many industries, and since the app is centered around music and clips from songs, we can see some major effects TikTok has made on the music industry especially.
Why Songs Can Blow Up in Such a Massive Way Through the App
Because of the way TikTok advertises and its unique promotion algorithm, it is extremely easy for songs to blow up in a short period of time on the app. Many of the app’s features are designed to help songs to grow at exponential rates. When clips are doing well on the app, TikTok will elevate the video and the sound that is used with it.
TikTok also has promotion features like internal playlists in the app with libraries of songs for users to choose from with easy access. There are so many different ways that TikTok users can discover new music and artists can blow up their songs through the highly effective marketing techniques and features within this app. Using things like banner ads or hashtags can draw attention to certain music or creators, and can be used as another way people get popular through TikTok.
The way that the royalties are set up in the app make it so that access and popularity of songs are widespread amongst every user on the app, creating a space for ultra-exposure for artists and their music. In the Rolling Stones article titled ‘If You Can Get Famous Easily, You’re Gonna Do It’ How Tik Tok Took Over Music written by Elias Leight, it is discussed how the royalties get paid out the same with every post or creation with a song, no matter the views or likes it gets. This makes it possible to spread the music to all the users on the app, instead of just the more popular ones.
Record labels have recognised the valuable payouts of songs being used and becoming popular on TikTok. There are even some situations where these record labels will pay popular creators to use songs from their artists in order for them to get exposure on the app. Devain Doolaramani, the manager of the popular creator TheBaileyBakery, had told Rolling Stone how they “get 10 to 15 inquiries a day from artists and labels wanting to pay [them] to use their song”. This goes to show how impactful the use of these songs in TikTok may have on the music industry.
TikTok Has Become a Career Changer for Many Artists
TikTok has created an environment where music and creators can get more exposure than they would ever be able to get somewhere else. If an artist puts their music on the app, they have a chance for their song to blow up, and fast. Unlike any other platform, once a song or sound starts to become popular on the app, the amount the song is heard will keep on growing to insane amounts. Pop music critic Mikael Wood told NPR’s Lulu Garcia Navarro in an interview that “you could hear the same song in five different videos in five minutes”. This kind of constant exposure to such a ginormous and widespread audience gets an artist more attention for their music than any radio station or top 40’s list would ever give.
These unique opportunities provided by TikTok have proved to be career changers for artists in several ways. Major record labels are becoming aware of the exposure and talent that is emerging from this app. They are now beginning to reach out to emerging talent after a single song becomes popular within the app. When they see how certain songs are resonating with users on TikTok in such extreme ways, music industry professionals are grabbing these songs and artists that have already created a sort of platform for themselves in the app and giving them the boost they need to set off their careers.
It's important to recognise the role that coronavirus may have had in this as well. “Yeah, I think it's all about COVID. Sort of normal places that labels and our folks are used to finding new talent were out of their hands. So they looked to TikTok, which had the added bonus that it had tens of millions of users just sort of locked in their houses, staring at their phones, making huge hits of these songs” said Mikael Wood in his interview with NPR.
Unlike any other time in the industry, new artists are getting promoted and given chances in the industry. Usually, the popularity and exposure of songs comes from major record labels putting money behind it so that it gains popularity, but now, opportunities are coming to new music without a huge backing from record labels. This is undoubtedly affecting the industry and how it functions.
We have already seen several artists take off and gain incredible opportunities with the app, and there are many more on their way to stardom. Last year, we watched the artist Lil Naz X gain huge success after his song Old Town Road became huge on TikTok. He made over 14 million dollars with that song, and his success was able to continue when his next single, Panini went to the top of the charts. American Rapper Ambjaay blew up after the #UnoDanceChallenge became popular on TikTok with his song Uno. Anbjaay has since gotten many opportunities and is now signed with Columbia records. Blanco Brown is now certified platinum after his song The Git Up became popular with when #TheGitUpChallenge started in 2019. Artista Records was quick to sign new indie artist Ant Saunders when his song Yellow Hearts gained major popularity on the app as well.
The effects that TikTok has had on the top 100 charts this year is undeniable. When you look at these charts, almost every song has come from or has ties to TikTok popularity and trends. Songs like “Blinding Lights” by The Weekend, “Say So” by Doja Cat, “Don't Start Now” by Dua Lipa, and “The Box” by Roddy Ricch that have dominated that Billboard hot 100 charts all year have huge connections to TikTok whether it is through dance trends or meme based content. According to TikTok in their article titled Year on TikTok: Music 2020, “Nearly 90 songs that trended on the platform in 2020 climbed onto the Top 100 charts in the U.S., with 15 of those reaching #1 on a Billboard chart”.
The success of songs through TikTok not only will transfer over to the charts, but Grammy nominations are showing major ties to TikTok popularity as well. TikTok is very responsible for the hitmaking in both 2019 and 2020, and these pop culture trends that go viral have definitely led to Grammy wins and nominations. This was evident last year with Lil Nax X’s “Old Town Road” nominations, as well as wins for artists like Lizzo with “Truth Hurts”. In 2020, new artists with nominations like Doja Cat with “Say So” and Megan Thee Stallion with “Savage” have gained most of their popularity and success because of TikTok.
TikTok is Changing What the Music Industry is Today
The popularity of TikTok is initiating a shift in how the music industry functions as well as the sound of popular music today. Although there are definitely clear short term involvements that TikTok has in the industry due to unique circumstances with coronavirus, TikTok’s involvement is also illustrating how online presence and the idea of an artist gaining popularity via the internet or social media is becoming a major part of success in the music industry as a whole.
The music industry relies on its presence on social media in terms of discovery and popularity with this shift in how it functions. If you take a look at the majority of pop music today, the influence that TikTok has on the sound is clear. Mikael Wood explains this well in his interview with NPR. “I think, though, that there is something of, like, a sort of a closed loop or, like, repeating effect where inevitably, a song happens, and then other people try to, you know, emulate that song. So for a while, there were tons of TikTok songs that have a sort of a transitional moment because people were using that to build a video around, and then you just saw tons of those kinds of videos with those kinds of songs.” Because artists are trying to embrace what is popular at the moment and emulate the current hits, a lot of the top 40 includes songs with this similar sound of what does well on the app, showing the direct effects that TikTok has on what pop music sounds like.
The idea of labels signing these artists solely based on popularity of a single song is starting to create worry for some people in the industry however. “I think the big one is that you are potentially creating a generation of one-hit wonders”, said Wood. When labels sign artists that gain popularity from a single song, some industry professionals worry that because they are so suddenly thrown into success and stardom, they will not have the experience or knowledge needed to create hits or deal with the reality of their next song not having the same success. Only time will tell what the effects of this new era in music will have on the industry, but what we know for sure is that apps like these are going to cause major changes.
When you look at the overall impact that TikTok has had on today’s music industry, it is seen that the app has opened up countless doors and opportunities for the music industry to grow, find new ways to connect with audiences, and boost up artists. TikTok has so much impact, that we even see artists to promote pre-releases, and more through the app in order to embrace the opportunities available with the app. Dua lipa asked fans on the app to help create her new music video by dancing along to her song, and some artists go as far as doing new music releases through the app. TikTok is certainly making a difference in what the industry is.
The widespread user base makes it possible for artists to reach audiences of all ages that they never would have been able to before. TikTok is providing new talent and creative minds constantly, and we can all look forward to the transfer of the industry to the new generation to come.