TikTok and the Music Industry: a trend or transformation?

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TikTok, Gen-Z‘s version of marmite. You either love it or you hate it. Either way, the app has overtaken Twitter & Snapchat to become the 9th most popular social media in the world. But how has this app impacted the music industry, and is it dominating how artists can be heard?

TikTok started its life as lipsyncing app Musical.ly back in 2014, but after being bought out by ByteDance in 2017 the platform was transformed and rebranded into TikTok in August 2018.[1] The app is no longer just a platform to make fun videos, but is now a career for many creators and influencers and popularity on the app is highly regarded by companies and brands.

Advances in technology have been changing the way we listen to music for a while, whether that’s streaming via YouTube Music or sharing our favourite songs on Instagram. We are now very unlikely to sit and listen to an album in full like generations before us, and the popularity of playlisting has made individual songs far more important in recent years. However, TikTok has taken it one step further, to giving fame to tracks based on just seconds of music.

TikTok is unique as a social platform for musicians, as it allows everyone, whatever their follower size, to have the chance to feature on user’s For You pages, meaning upcoming artists can reach hundreds if not thousands of people just with a soundbite of 15 or 60 seconds. If the sound is used for a trend, then the song can reach millions and end up on the charts because of its popularity on the app.

Creator, @Joyy.li recently used ‘Lemonade’ by Internet Money as a sound on a makeup transition, a sound which has since been used for over 2.4million TikTok videos including by Charli D’Amelio who is the most popular TikTok user at 86.7 million followers. The single hit Number 1 on the UK Top 40 at the end of October, a spot currently taken by Ariana Grande, yet the band only have 150,000 followers on Spotify compared to Ariana’s 52 million.

‘Lemonade’ is not alone in the charts as TikTok hit, with other current songs in the Top Ten such as ‘See Nobody’ by Wes Nelson (234k videos), and ‘You Broke Me First’ by Tate McCrae (618k videos) finding fame from the TikTok For You page. This poses the question: Is this popularity retaining listeners and creating loyal fanbases or is TikTok simply paving the way for one-hit wonders to dominate the music industry?


its the getting out of bed at 3pm for me

♬ Lemonade Internet Money - joy:)

Maybe, the answer lies in how artists are reacting to TikTok. It is hard to ignore the chart success of artists that have had sounds trend on the app, however for independent musicians, writing music to fit a demographic or that will have the possibility to trend will often end up destroying their musical vision. However, there is no doubt that many upcoming artists are flourishing on TikTok and creating a community of fans in the process. 

Are you an independent or upcoming artist? What are your thoughts, let us know in the comment section below!

[1] https://www.vox.com/culture/2018/12/10/18129126/tiktok-app-musically-meme-cringe