Is TikTok changing the music industry?

Words: Laura Mills 

TikTok is an app that most people are obsessed with nowadays, if not at least aware of, but what a lot of people don’t know is it was actually created in 2016. Despite the global pandemic we find ourselves in, TikTok is one of the few art platforms that’s not only survived but in fact prospered in these times. They’re mission statement describes them as ‘the leading destination for short-form mobile video. Our mission is to inspire creativity and bring joy.’

I believe they have done a whole lot more than that: TikTok has changed the music industry.

For the people who have this app, you’ll know a whole range of videos are on there – from pets to politics, comedy to cars, food to fashion, and pretty much whatever else you can think of. Wherever you are in the algorithm, I can guarantee you will have seen at least one of the dance trends, which is where the biggest influence on the music industry comes in. However, it is much more than the viral dances that affect our music industry. To try and break it down into four points is as follows:

– Dance trends and relatively new artists not only being successful but going viral
– Tracks we know and love are returning
– Artists no longer with us still being celebrated
– Songs that seem as if they were almost made for TikTok

Before I joined TikTok, I’d never heard of artists DaBaby or Popp Hunna and even if you don’t recognise those names now, the dance trends which contain their songs on TikTok, ROCKSTAR and Adderall (Corvette Corvette), have gone viral and got these artists in the charts around the world. It’s not just the dance trends that have sent songs viral, some videos just use the song in the background or have creators lip-syncing to them. As I’m writing this, even just checking the UK Top 40, the number one is currently ‘drivers license’ by Olivia Rodrigo – a song which again has gone viral on TikTok, by an artist I’d never really heard of before.

We all love a good throwback, and it seems this is something that TikTok is becoming renowned for. Only recently, a remix of the 80s hit ‘Love Shack’ by The B-52’s has gone viral, possibly for some younger people on the app being the first time they’ve heard this track. Another classic, ‘Rasputin’ by Boney M., which was released even further ago in the 70s also made a comeback through TikTok trends. It almost seems bizarre that these songs have come full circle thanks to this app, but it’s also incredible because it means we can enjoy songs that we may have forgotten about. Sheffield stars Arctic Monkeys released their fifth album AM in 2013 and amazingly have got back in the charts with a song, the fantastic ‘Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?’, after being featured in videos on this app.

American drill artist Pop Smoke, who sadly died last year, is still being celebrated on this app through his music. On 20 July 2020, which would have been his 21st birthday, his album titled Shoot For The Stars Aim For The Moon was released and many of the songs from the album went viral on TikTok, including ‘Mood Swings’ and ‘What You Know Bout Love’. His music also entered the top of the charts around the world and for a lot of people it gave them the opportunity to enjoy this artist again; for others, the chance to discover him and pay tribute.

Finally – and this is pure speculation – there are several songs that almost seem as though they were made exactly for this app. I’m sure many people know the artist Billie Eilish. For someone who’s just turned 19-years-old, she’s had the kind of success in the music industry that most could only dream about. Any time Billie releases a new track, there’s always a massive response and because of this she’s proven whatever she produces will do well. When she released Therefore I Am, in November 2020, I saw it on TikTok before I’d even listened to it on Spotify. From the intro, the lyrics “Stop, what the hell are you talking about?” seemed particularly popular on TikTok; in fact, it was so popular there were around 3 million videos featuring the lyrics. This then led me to think if it was made with the platform in mind? Or was it just luck that it went viral on this app as well as reaching number one in the charts?

Whatever your views are on TikTok, you cannot deny the huge effect it’s had on the music industry globally; it’s purely for individuals to decide whether they see this in a positive light. One thing that’s absolutely certain: this influence isn’t going to change anytime soon.

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