TikTok has had a profound effect – for good and ill – on society and how we consume media and content. It has created seismic waves within the music industry, too, with major labels initially scrambling to figure out how to stop the platform users featuring their music without having obtained a license.
We have a look below at how this situation is changing, the ways in which TikTok is disrupting the music industry, and what’s next for the TikTok music revolution.
The Disruptive Element
TikTok has had a huge impact on the way in which music is produced, discovered, and enjoyed; singers, songwriters, musicians, vloggers, and video makers can now DIY their productions, adding sound effects, visual elements, voiceovers, etc., and creating and distributing music tracks and content from their own living rooms. With about a billion active users around the world at any one time, the platform’s reach is virtually unprecedented.
While major labels, in the early days, panicked about their lost revenue stream, studio heads quickly realized that they needed to get on board with the trend, and now TikTok holds the licenses required to allow for the legal inclusion of the various tracks used by their members. This has proved lucrative for both the studios, TikTok, and the users creating and uploading content to the platform and is evidence of how the line between old and new ways of music production is blurring.
TikTok has proved highly effective in getting the work of unknown artists in front of the general public in a way that can’t be underestimated; unsigned musicians such as Games We Play, and Muni Lang have had huge viral hits via TikTok in recent years, and the platform’s capacity to catapult such artists to prominence will undoubtedly make it a huge draw for unknown acts for the foreseeable future.
Of course, TikTok is well known for its creation of viral phenomena that have thrust a multitude of artists into the limelight- some of whom were not even users of the platform!
In some cases, vintage classics have been brought back into mainstream popularity, such as Dreams by Fleetwood Mac and Boney M’s Rasputin, getting bands from back in the day in front of a new and massively wide audience.
But even more revolutionary is the way in which TikTok brings new, unknown, and unsigned artists to the eyes and ears of millions of potential new fans, as is exactly what happened with Lil Nas X. His single, Old Town Road, is now widely accepted as being the biggest-selling US single ever after it went viral on TikTok.
The Nigerian popstar CKay didn’t even use the platform when his 2019 single, Love Nwantiti, was discovered and used by TikTokers; by November 2021, the song had scored more than fifteen billion streams, and CKay’s track was topping the music charts in Asia, Europe, and North America.
The Power Of Influencers
Influencers and the creators of popular content can have a profound effect on the popularity of a single; just using a small segment of a song can help get the music and the musician noticed and even set it on the path to viral superstardom. An example of this phenomenon was the success of Olivia Rodrigo’s single, Driver’s License; the song gained traction after popular TikTok creators incorporated it into their videos. The song exploded almost overnight, amassing Rodrigo more than ten million views on her account and helping her music to become a streaming sensation on Spotify, Amazon, and other platforms.
How TikTok Has Changed How We Consume Music
How we listen to and enjoy music has fundamentally changed in the internet and streaming era, and TikTok is changing things even more. Now, listeners tend to discover new music by hearing a snippet of it on a Tik Tok video, perhaps as the music used as part of dance choreography, or as a background melody used in conjunction with a presented piece. Many music consumers are increasingly specifically seeking out songs that are current viral hits.
TikTok offers a different proposition here; whereas other streaming platforms will usually recommend songs and artists based on what it thinks are your preferences, TikTok works more organically so that users are more likely to find music they’ve never heard before.
Tantalizingly, the signs are that TikTok will soon be playing a similar role to that of a record label; SoundOn, the platform’s latest service, is designed to help unsigned artists upload content, get paid, and find distribution channels.
The Head of Music for TikTok, Ole Obermann, has also got his sights set on revolutionizing the way in which songs are used in advertisements and has plans, too, to live-stream concerts and adjust the platform to allow for increased opportunities for direct selling.
Staying on-trend, relevant and innovative is something that TikTok knows is vital to avoid a sudden disappearance similar to that suffered by MySpace – but with its plans to upend the music industry seemingly only just in its beginning stages, it’s hard to see this platform losing its lucrative and cultural traction for a very long time.
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