As we all know to this point, TikTok has settled as a cultural phenomenon and a powerhouse in the world of social media. The platform’s influence on Gen-Z’s behaviour is remarkable, and has affected the way entertainment is perceived. Even for something as big as the music industry it has become increasingly evident, with many artists and content creators adapting themselves to cater to the tastes of “TikTok Generation”. As indicated for both artist and listeners, TikTok is now the preferred for discovering everything, even music and this is making content creators reshape themselves and, at the same time, the industry, to the algorithm. The music is “built” differently, now the chorus is adapted to the “trend-setting” filter and the marketing strategy involves influencers who play it on loops and memes, and that has priority over PR or interviews.
TikTok: A Music Discovery Hub
According to TikTok’s studies, 80% of those surveyed have identified TikTok as their preferred platform for discovering new music. This statistic places TikTok ahead of other digital platforms, streaming services, and even recommendations from friends. The most remarkable aspect of this trend is that over half (56%) of these musical discoveries happen organically through the “For You” feed, a testament to the platform’s ability to connect users with new, fresh, exciting music effortlessly.
- The Power of Influencers and Celebrities
One of the key drivers behind TikTok’s success in transforming the music industry lies in the support it has received from celebrities and influencers. Figures like María Pombo have thrown their weight behind songs and artists, propelling them to stardom and even securing spots on popular Spotify playlists – a practice known as “playlisting.” This phenomenon highlights the symbiotic relationship between TikTok and the broader music ecosystem, where artists, influencers, and the platform itself collaborate to create chart-topping hits.
- The Role of SEO and SEM
TikTok’s impact on the music industry is not limited to its own platform. SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and SEM (Search Engine Marketing) strategies on other platforms, like Spotify, have proven to be essential for positioning songs. These strategies also involve partnerships with influencers and content creators who play a pivotal role in boosting the visibility of music content and therefore impulsing people to look for terms related to the song or the artist. Many times, the tunes are viral because of a remix or a trend, even before the whole song is out. However, content creators are finding alternative ways to stimulate platform algorithms.
- Enter Playlisting
Iñigo Quintero, an Spanish artist in the music industry, has found his own unique approach to success, maybe by accident. His song “Si no estás”, launched in 2022, was featured on playlists created by small users and started to escalate the “trend” ladder, such as “Novedades Viernes” or “Éxitos España.” This allowed Quintero to reach broader audiences and gain recognition through TikTok’s impact on music consumption and discovery.
Soon, Iñigo became the #1 in the Global Top by Spotify, topping artists like Miley Cyrus. All he needed to do was hit the spot on TikTok, and the users did the rest. They connected to the lyrics, created a trend and the rest is story.
“Generation TikTok” and the Future of Music
TikTok has undoubtedly ushered in a paradigm shift in the way we consume and discover music. Unlike platforms like Instagram, where the creator’s identity is paramount, TikTok places more emphasis on the content itself. As Fabiola Guerrero Ros, Head of Brand & Campaign Strategy Europe, aptly puts it, “TikTok is pure entertainment.” It’s not about who you are; it’s about the content you create. This shift in focus has allowed for a more democratic and inclusive approach to music discovery, where talent can shine regardless of the creator’s background or fame.
This study released by TikTok identifies the three main factors driving the music experience on the platform: discovering, being discovered and rediscovering. People using TikTok possess a highly exploratory “discovery mindset” that drives their behaviour, but it also shows how TikTok is inspiring people to break out of their existing music bubbles. After hearing new music, nearly half of people on TikTok add the song to their favourites (47%), view the artist’s profile (46%), and even follow the artist on TikTok (43%), and this in turn has triggered a massive wave of discovery of new artists.
Artists targeting young audiences are compelled to incorporate this app as part of their song release strategy. Hootsuite’s July 2022 Digital Report reveals that TikTok also captures that more than a third of its advertising audience is between 18 and 24 years old.
TikTok’s type of hits: the old and the news
For example, we have seen many old tunes came back to life by creators; from Luis Miguel to Elvis and everything in between; actually, after TikTok creator Nathan Apodaca posted a viral video of Fleetwood Mac’s song “Dreams,” the piece, which was released more than 43 years ago, shot to No. 2 on Rolling Stone’s Top 100 songs list. This is a clear sign that one of the keys to success is that nostalgia is one of the main drivers of trends on TikTok.
The influencer Addison Rae is another example of how TikTok can relaunch your career or even open you up to new professions. The American went from being an influencer more than recognised by everyone to being a singer, and even Lady Gaga herself has given her songs that she has never published, such as Nothing On (But The Radio). Her most famous track, Obsessed, has 27 million plays on YouTube and almost 53 million on Spotify.
Also, the three-time Grammy Award-winning rapper Doja Cat debuted in 2016 with a mixtape, but it wasn’t until 2020 that she achieved worldwide fame for her virality on TikTok, but was not globally recognised until 2020, when her track Say So went hugely viral, earning her the number 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for her remix with Nicki Minaj.
Although it was worked to launch many careers in the concept of niche users, not all of artists are thrilled; US singer Halsey complained via her own TikTok account that her label, Astralwerks-Capitol, would not let her release a single if it failed to go viral on the platform: “I’ve been in this industry for eight years and I’ve sold over 165 million records, and my label says I can’t release a new song if they can’t force some viral video on TikTok. It’s all marketing and they’re doing the same thing with all the artists today”.
British singer-songwriter Lewis Capaldi, known for his humour, has also embraced TikTok. He often uses humour to engage with his audience and promote his music on the platform, making memes of how hard it is to have “good numbers” despite having such amazing talent. His playful and light-hearted approach demonstrates how artists can utilise TikTok not only for their music but also to connect with fans on a more personal level, making people empathise with him, and even being more understanding when the artist announced a break due to health reasons.
If there is something we all, even celebrities, are learning from the hit content of TikTok is that the profound impact on the music industry is evident, and the users are craving that human touch. If we all think about it, the trends are trends because they set a common place for many people, most of the time unknown among each other, and give them the sense of belonging to this “small but welcoming group” all through humour and memes, making it easier and less of a advertising space, and more like a place to connect with the artist behind the songs.