The Rise of TikTok in the Music Industry

Written by: Sara

Edited by: Chris

Visual by: Issy

In 2018, an app emerged that took the world by storm: TikTok. In the blink of an eye, it became the home of many new trends and viral videos spreading across the internet. Now, TikTok is extending its influence into the music industry, changing the ways music is promoted and discovered.

TikTok’s main appeal is that it allows users to film short dance videos accompanied by addictive soundtracks. Often, the soundtracks users select are songs by musical artists, whether they be popular or relatively unknown. With nearly 700 million active users worldwide, every video posted to the app using a song is free promotion for the artist. Once a video goes viral, the app will repeatedly show users other videos that use the same soundtrack. This has the effect of exposing the song to a wider audience, as well as tempt the users to search up the song out of curiosity. In this way, virality on TikTok has proven to be a highway to commercial success. Many artists, such as Camilla Cabello and the Jonas Brothers, have taken advantage of the app to directly promote their songs, hoping for TikTok to work its magic and propel them to the top of the charts.

A notable example of successful promotion through TikTok is Say So by Doja Cat. When the song was initially released, it did not receive much attention from the public. However, this changed when a TikTok user’s video of herself dancing to the song went viral on the platform. Before long, many other users hopped on the trend, and to this day, more than 19 million videos have been made using the song as its soundtrack. The TikTok remix of Say So eventually went on to become Doja Cat’s first song to hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

TikTok has also changed the way listeners discover new music. For a long time, radio stations and other streaming services have been the main platforms through which people have been listening to music. These platforms are limited in that their focus is not on providing users with personalized music, but rather, to simply increase exposure of songs to the public. In comparison, TikTok is able to overcome this limit by providing users with a diverse selection of music that encompasses both their personal tastes and the crowdsourced trends. This is possible through the For You page on the app, which is programmed to show videos matching the latest trends, as well as videos the user is predicted to like based on their previous activity. This makes music more accessible, and overall, more exciting for listeners. “Through TikTok, I’ve been able to discover a lot of music that I otherwise probably wouldn’t have thought to listen to,” says a sophomore, who wishes to remain anonymous.

TikTok is at the forefront of the rapidly evolving music industry. Its wild popularity has revolutionized the ways music is shared between artists and their audiences. As we watch its effects unfold in real time, it will be interesting to see how TikTok will shape our lives in the future.