We’ve all heard of TikTok, and how it seems to be being mentioned everywhere you go these days. The viral app’s combination of videos and music is clearly resonating with audiences. But how much impact is the app truly having on the music industry? Let’s jump into how TikTok is changing the music industry, from viral sensations to the use of music (and even how it compares to streaming services)!
What Is TikTok?
TikTok was created in China in 2014 and was originally known as Musical.ly. The platform combines music, video and micro-video content, with users having the option to create either 15 or 50-second videos. With over 80 million active users per month (and that’s just in the US), it has become a viral sensation. Users can add music, text and filters to create engaging and relatable content for others to easily stumble across.
Now we’ve covered what it is, let’s look at how the app is affecting the music industry!
How TikTok Is Changing The Music Industry
Use Of Music
Looking back at some of last year’s biggest hits, they have usually landed on TikTok in the form of a challenge or dance routine. ‘Challenges’ encourage users to get involved and mimic the original challenge, using the same music, filters, text and so on. Both this approach and the creation of dances allows tracks to go viral, and users to enjoy the music enough to stream it separately.
TikTok has also been leaning into the Livestream hype since Coronavirus rendered gigs non-existent in the past year. For example, BTS’ livestream pulled in nearly 1 million viewers, and Justin Bieber’s 4 million. BTS’ livestream was also a paid livestream, showing how many users are willing to pay for virtual concerts on the app.
Discovering Unknown Artists
Particularly during the Coronavirus lockdowns worldwide, TikTok has provided users with instant content to enjoy – whether it is educational, comedic, emotional or just plain entertaining.
The app’s cultural influence has continued to grow and grow, especially in the music industry. There are tales of artists whose music has gone viral on the app, from unknown folk singer Nathan Evans to Peach PRC (and the OG TikTok star, Lil Nas X). Nathan Evans, for example, uploaded a video of him singing a 19th Century sea shanty on the app. The video went viral, leading to him signing with major label record deal, TV appearances and more.
The platform is interesting because whilst it does heighten the impact of new releases from big artists, more often, unknown artists are being brought into the spotlight. The use of music on the app has also helped to bring older music to new audiences. An example is Fleetwood Mac’s 1977 album Rumours. The album placed back in the charts after a video of user skateboarding and listening to the track ‘Dreams’ went viral.
This has allowed users to find various ‘under the radar’ artists, and interest in unsigned artists is a clear side effect of this. Everybody wants to find great unknown artists, and TikTok is one of the best places to do so currently.
TikTok Vs Streaming Services
TikTok is not a music streaming app, but users can add music to their videos from a library of tracks (or create their own sound). This library includes chart hits, quirky remixes (perfect for challenges), unknown tracks from indie artists and so on. To get your music on the platform, indie artists will need to use a distributor (as with Spotify etc).
With its ‘For You’ algorithm based model, TikTok has a higher growth rate compared to other social media platforms such as Instagram. This is because it is arguably easier to ‘go viral’ or rack up millions of views on the platform, as user’s homepage is entirely other users’ content that they don’t specifically follow. The ‘For You’ set up means that users are constantly fed videos that are suggested for them, or are popular on the app.
Industry experts have estimated that around 50% of all music used on TikTok is unlicensed, which has caused some issues and even legal action from labels. However, in the past few months, TikTok has announced licensing deals with all 3 major labels (Sony, Warner Music & Universal Music Group). Therefore, it would seem that copyright issues seem to be being resolved! Whilst we don’t know the ins and outs of what these partnerships might include, statements have hinted at various features from A&R to talent-scouting services.
If you’re interested, check out our article about how TikTok royalties work.
Shaping The Music Industry
TikTok is truly shaping the music industry – from what songs are popular, to kicking off artists’ careers.
Going back to challenges, some artists are creating sounds and tracks specifically designed for challenges in order to get the track to reach more people. Therefore, the app is also changing how we see music, and what artists are aiming for when creating tracks.
Dylan Pasqua, the Music Partnership Manager at Fanbytes spoke to TechRadar on the ‘TikTok effect’ in Pop music. He said “There are some elements that just ‘work’ on the app. We look for a 15-second vocal hook, often with clear, actionable words – a call to action, of sorts. Something the user can riff on, or apply to their own life.” These guidelines are no doubt affecting new music released, or is at least in the background of artists’ intentions.
As somebody who has truly been sucked in by TikTok, it’s completely understandable why the app is having so much success. Challenges are fun and fairly simple to do, and almost everybody has had a video skyrocket to tens of thousands of views. That instant gratification is something that the younger generation strive for, and seeing overnight TikTok successes only fuels that for users.
I have personally discovered tons of music on the app that I like – whether it’s blasted all over my ‘For You’ page until it’s stuck on my head, or an unknown artist has appeared and gained my support. If you’re an artist, TikTok is definitely a great avenue to explore for promoting your music. Even if you just enjoy great content or want some creative inspiration as a content creator, I would highly recommend joining!