Photo Credit to Getty Images Article by Kayla Bride
The short-form video-sharing platform TikTok was released globally less than two years
ago, but it has already become one of the most popular apps in the world. Sensor
Tower , a company that specializes in market intelligence and insights for mobile apps,
estimates that TikTok has now surpassed two billion app downloads.
TikTok’s immense user base presents both established and aspiring musicians with a
tremendous opportunity to reach new audiences. Music is a core part of TikTok’s DNA -
TikTok has a feature that allows content creators to easily add music clips to their
videos, and the app has become well-known for its viral challenges where users
perform choreographed routines set to music. TikTok has reached various licensing
agreements with record labels to distribute royalties when songs are used on the app,
but the cross-platform effects of having a song featured in viral TikTok videos can prove
to be much more lucrative for artists. The app has become a remarkable vehicle for
increasing plays on music streaming services like Apple Music and Spotify. Users hear
a song they like on TikTok and then stream or buy that song wherever they typically
listen to music; Apple Music and Spotify even have playlists dedicated to songs that are
trending on TikTok. TikTok-trending songs sometimes experience such exponential
growth in popularity that they make it all the way onto Top 40 radio and the Billboard Hot
100. Recently, a dance challenge called the “Toosie Slide” ran rampant on TikTok,
helping Drake’s track of the same name debut at number one on the Billboard Hot 100.
Lil Nas X’s 2019 smash hit featuring Billy Ray Cyrus, “Old Town Road,” provides
another case study on the enormous impact TikTok can have on music industry
success. Lil Nas X, who at the time was an unsigned, aspiring rapper, posted “Old Town
Road” on TikTok, and the country-trap anthem inspired a trend in which users suddenly
transformed into cowboys and cowgirls after the song’s base drop. Millions of TikTok
users uploaded their creations set to “Old Town Road,” and the full-length version of the
song began racking up streams. Mere weeks after posting his song on TikTok, Lil Nas X
was signed to Columbia Records and “Old Town Road” continued to rise up the charts.
The song hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and stayed there for 17 weeks,
becoming the longest-running number one single in Billboard’s history.
Lil Nas X’s runaway success proved that TikTok is capable of generating incredible
exposure for unknown artists, but many music industry executives are still wary of
TikTok’s ability to launch sustainable careers. Jeff Vaughn, VP of A&R at Artist Partner
Group, told Rolling Stone , “The jury is out on whether this launches actual artists. I’m
curious to see if there’s anyone that cuts through and sustains. [TikTok] moves songs so
fast that it can be difficult to put any foundation underneath the act if there wasn’t one
there before.” TikTok can be an effective way for fledgling artists to get their name on
the map, but once they strike TikTok-gold, it’s up to them to cultivate a fan base that will
follow them even after their top TikTok hit is overshadowed by someone else’s. Only time will tell if TikTok becomes known as a legitimate source of new superstars for the
music industry, or is synonymous with a string of one-hit wonders.