Musicians and artists are being pushed to go TikTok-viral.
Pretty much everything “trending” these days has its origins on TikTok in one way or another. That song you’ve been listening to on repeat for a week? Millions of people are dancing to the same song on TikTok. The necklace you see everyone wearing and the books your favorite influencers are reading are also likely made by TikTok.
We have already discussed how TikTok trends can attract more customers for brands, but what deserves special attention is how the social media platform influences the lives of musicians who contribute to certain of his most used music. Let’s dive into the world of TikTok musicians and how the platform has shaped their careers and the music industry.
The rise of the TikTok singer
Have you heard the song “Heat Waves” by Glass Animals? It goes something like “sometimes all I think about is you, late at night in the middle of June…” – does that ring a bell now? Well, this song started gaining momentum on TikTok last year because of this exact line with people making videos about unrequited love with as background music. These videos catapulted the song into mainstream popularity, with “Heat Waves” topping the Billboard Hot 100 chart for four consecutive weeks in March 2022.
Glass Animals aren’t the only artists to find success as their song has gone viral on TikTok. Others, like Doja Cat, Olivia Rodrigo, and Tai Verdes, have all seen their songs explode on the platform.
TikTok has such an influence on the popularity of music that artists go the extra mile to make their songs go viral on it. For example, most K-Pop artists today are doing TikTok dance challenges to get their songs to reach more listeners and thus expand their fan base. Zico is one of the Korean artists who has seen the positive impact of these dance challenges. Her 2019 release “Any Song” topped the Korean charts after going viral on TikTok.
What makes an artist popular on TikTok?
Despite the power of TikTok, not all songs posted on the platform will explode. The reason is not as complicated as one might think.
If you look at songs that caught fire on TikTok, there’s a formula: memorable, hard-hitting lyrics that people can quote in multiple situations and danceable refrains (and in the case of K-pop, dance challenges easy to follow).
The song “Heat Waves” is a pretty good example. He has the first half of that equation down, which in his case was good enough to make the song go viral. And if you look at Doja Cat songs, they often capture both parts of the formula pretty well. Take a look at her hit song “Woman”: The song has a popular dance challenge on TikTok and also has relatable lyrics like “They want to pit us against each other, when we succeed for no reason, they want to see us finish like us Regina on Mean Girls.
TikTok virality issues
Pressure artists to become content creators
TikTok gives artists a chance to be popular with a clear formula they can follow. So far, everything seems positive, doesn’t it? But due to this easy ticket to popularity, many record labels are now increasing the workload for their artists, forcing them to create content on TikTok for their music.
In May this year, American singer Halsey made a video on TikTok to express her frustration. She explained how her label, Capitol Music, told her he wouldn’t release his single “So Good” until he had a viral moment on TikTok. Ironically, this TikTok video helped her get that viral moment, and the company decided to release the song on June 9, 2022.
Not only is this extra workload too much for the artist, but it also likely ends up stifling their creativity. Record labels know that there is a formula for becoming famous on TikTok and invariably force artists to create songs that fit that niche or market their music in a way that makes them famous on TikTok.
Pay your place in virality
Today, music marketers are paying TikTok creators to make videos with an artist’s song in order to make their way to virality. This not only includes TikTok celebrities but also non-influencers. Using non-influencers makes the algorithm aware of the song and gradually gets people hooked. Suffice it to say, the average TikTok user is becoming aware of how music is marketed and has been quick to call them “factories of the industry” – musicians who exude the quality of an artist. independent while being associated with a major record company.
In 2021, TikToker and musician Gayle were called to be an industrial factory. This all stemmed from his creation of the song “ABCDEFU” in response to a comment asking him to write a breakup song using the alphabet. What made people so suspicious of Gayle was how “ABCDEFU” was released by Atlantic Records just a week after the TikTok video gained traction.
So, is TikTok bad?
Despite what it may seem, TikTok is not so bad for the music industry since it allows artists to be discovered by more people. Additionally, with the introduction of its Sound On distribution service in March this year, TikTok is opening the doors for more independent artists to have full control over their music. Sound On will allow artists to easily upload their music to TikTok and other streaming platforms, like Apple Music and Spotify. The artist will not only retain full rights to their music, but will also get 100% of their song royalties for the first year (and 90% thereafter) using the distribution service.
Even for artists who work with labels, becoming “TikTok famous” makes sense. The social media platform’s user base is known to be extremely artist-friendly, with 40% of TikTok users paying for subscriptions to the music platform and 17% buying artists’ products. This figure is significantly higher than that of the general population, as only 25% of people in this group pay for subscriptions and 9% buy products from artists.
Given the response to the industry’s factory-calling trend, it’s fair to say that forcing artists to adhere to the TikTok-inspired cookie-cutter pop formula won’t work — artists need to creative freedom. Hopefully the industry will take this into account in the future so that record labels and artists can make the most of what TikTok has to offer.
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Header image courtesy of Freepik