REMEMBER when everyone was obsessed with sea shanties last year? You can thank TikTok for that, as the feverishly popular video app became the leading platform for music discovery in the world in 2021. And across the seven seas, evidently.
TikTok is now a launchpad for artists to bypass conventional ways of promoting music, gaining millions of new listeners in staggeringly short periods of time. One day you’re blissfully unaware of that Oh No song’s existence, the next it’s stuck in your head for what feels like months.
Meme music aside, TikTok is becoming a force to be reckoned with in the music business. A 2021 study found that 75% of TikTok’s US users say they discover new artists via the platform, and if that number is anywhere close to the same for the rest of the world’s estimated one billion users, it provides literally anyone with the means to reach an unprecedented audience size.
Gone are the days of artists relying on word of mouth, radio airplay, and other antiquated forms of promotion. TikTok’s music-infused videos have a knack for creating trends that spread like wildfire through the ether and can take forgotten songs from a gone-by era to dizzying new heights.
Take Fleetwood Mac’s 1977 song Dreams, for example. A classic in its own right but brought back to prominence by the famous doggface208 video, spawning thousands of imitators and millions more plays for the original artists.
Another one – Upside Down by Jack Johnson released in 2007 exploded onto the platform after TikToker h1t1’s vlogged experience of buying a TV that was stolen from Arby’s. The post was soundtracked by the song and gained 3.5 million likes, with Arby’s corporate account even replying: “We’ve been looking for this! ❗️ 👀.”
TikTok is now unquestionably the platform that artists look to exploit for rapid promo, with 430 songs getting more than one billion video views as TikTok sounds in 2021, marking a threefold increase over the number of singles in 2020.
TikTok’s 2021 Top Global Track was the Australian rapper Masked Wolf’s Astronaut In The Ocean, originally released in 2019. The song has soundtracked 7.7 million TikTok videos and racked up billions of views as it reached a Top 10 Billboard placement.
The Sydney rapper’s meteoric rise is optimised by his inclusion on the 2021 Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve on ABC, a show he didn’t even know existed until he was invited on.
“I mean, our New Year’s Eve is, like, the Harbor Bridge in Sydney and, the fireworks there,” he told ABC. “They do a massive fireworks show, which is like $7 million or something, it’s huge. But the New Year’s Rockin’ Eve? No idea.”
He went on to say: “I feel like if you’re an Australian and you’re included in anything American internationally, it’s something you should be privileged to be in. So for me…I’m taking everything as it comes, but I hope they like the Aussie sound and how natural I am and what I speak about.”
Other new artists like Pop Hunna, Olivia Rodrigo, Oliver Tree, and Erica Banks have seen their songs gain an unprecedented amount of plays almost overnight. Rodrigo in particular saw her brand take off last year with singles drivers license and good 4 u gaining huge traction on the app.
The app’s influence on music trends has become formidable. It shows up on Spotify and Apple Music, where TikTok playlists have tens of thousands of followers. It can also be seen on YouTube where the comments section is full of people saying they found the song on TikTok.
In the music industry, promoters are learning to use the app as a facilitator for new music. Labels have cottoned on to the trend and are pushing major influencers to play their artists’ songs during videos, spending big money in the process.
We are seeing the beginning of a whole new movement that shapes the way we access music and how it’s marketed. Further investment in the app, which was valued at $50 billion in November 2021, is inevitable, but it remains to be seen how this will affect the medium’s current form. For now, finding your 15 seconds of fame has never been easier.
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