The Tiktokification of the Music Industry

The 1980s one-hit-wonder Video Killed the Radio Star by The Buggles has proven itself true over the years. Yet, the advent of TikTok only further complicates the role of video-sharing in the modern music industry.


The growing popularity of TikTok has altered how music is produced, shared, and consumed, forcing music labels to rethink the power that this social media app holds. Capitalizing upon this power can ultimately skyrocket upcoming artists into fame. But, at what point does going viral start to matter more than integrity in pursuing social media stardom?


The nature of TikTok’s algorithm gives artists an easy and inexpensive opportunity to promote their new music. But, in reality, it’s all about creating an authentic narrative, or, at least, the illusion of one.


Having a compelling story, relatable lyrics, or catchy beat in a song stimulates more interaction, supplying more exposure for the artist. However, when music labels begin to prioritize marketing over music, the quality of songs lessens.


By measuring success in terms of going viral on TikTok, songs lose their meaning as music labels demand more superficial social media content.


The tiktokification of the music industry represents a new era in which a social media app can dictate the direction of music careers and charts. A trending song that dominates everyone's "For You Page" enables artists to grow their online presence effectively.


With each new video that uses an artist's audio, they gain the necessary traction to propel their career forward. In the past years, TikTok success songs like Doja Cat’s Say So, Jack Harlow’s What’s Poppin, and Olivia Rodrigo’s Driver’s License have demonstrated why going viral can be so crucial to a career.


Whether you are an upcoming artist or an established pop star, TikTok has become the new platform to promote music. As a result, we witness an influx of people looking to achieve stardom with this change.


In a way, it is reminiscent of the YouTube days when people would post covers in hopes of becoming discovered by a music label. Yet, TikTok’s rapid and overwhelming presence in pop culture accelerates this rise to fame. Therefore, pressure to create a trending song only increases.


A common theme within most trending TikTok songs is the phenomenon of the “earworm.” An earworm is a catchy sound that lingers in your head long after hearing it. Essentially, the TikTok For You Page thrives off of earworms, enticing users to keep interacting with these addicting sounds.


The way 24kGoldn sings “Why you always in a mood?” with vibrant guitar strums in his song Mood or the way Flo Milli sings “La La La” with a heavy trap beat in her song In The Party represent how if you capture the catchiness in just a small portion of a song, TikTok can carry it a long way.


However, artists who have not experienced this success or encountered controversy in pursuit of fame include the pop-punk band Tramp Stamps and the singer GAYLE. Tramp Stamps gained criticism for their awkward pseudo-riot grrrl persona, causing some people to accuse them of being an industry plant.


Similarly, GAYLE, the singer behind the song ABCDEFU, faced some backlash after people speculated that the supposed TikTok comment that inspired her song was just a marketing ploy from Atlantic Records. Because of the tiktokification of the music industry, such practices would not be difficult to believe.


Even TikTokers have attempted to hop on this music bandwagon. Most notably, stars like Dixie D'Amelio, Chase Hudson, and Addison Rae released music to expand their careers.


Although most of their songs, like Dixie’s Be Happy, Chase’s 21st Century Vampire, and Addison’s Obsessed, received negative reviews, their songs still performed well due to their popularity on TikTok. Whether people were listening to these songs satirically or seriously, the streaming numbers are indicative of TikTok’s influence on controlling the music industry.


If you happened to look at the songs featured on TikTok’s Viral section and compare it with the Today’s Top 40 Charts, you would find significant similarities between the two. After hearing certain songs repeated over and over again on the For You Page, they will inevitably find their way into mainstream music.


Perhaps one of the most compelling pieces of evidence showcasing TikTok’s influence is the app’s ability to revive old songs. From Fleetwood Mac’s Dreams to Billy Joel’s Piano Man, TikTok has reintroduced these songs to a new generation.


The tiktokification of the music industry displays the power to which this app controls the music that defines our generation. Evidently, the For You Page remains a formidable force.


Regardless of what the future of the music industry may be, it seems to be resting in the hands of TikTok.




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