TikTok’s Drastic Influence on the Music Industry

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Artist Lil Nas X at TikTok headquarters in Los Angelus. Source: TikTok (tiktok.newsroom.com)

In 2017, TikTok was introduced to the world. Originating from a similar app called Musical.ly, Tik-Tok’s gimmick is that it’s a short video sharing platform for lip-syncing, comedy, and basically any other kind of video you can think of. What started as a small platform where users shared short and innovative videos, has quickly blossomed into one of the biggest social media platforms today, competing with the likes of Instagram and YouTube, with over one billion users worldwide, and 123 Million in the US alone. And, as TikToks users grow by the day, so does the influence it brings with it.  

Due to the nature of the app, songs (or “sounds”, as referred to by TikTok) are used in practically every video. These sounds could range from popular songs, voice-overs, or various sound-effects and noises. A large portion of the videos on TikTok, however, are tons of different dance videos, where the creator would play a song and create a dance to it, which would then be copied from millions of other users. An example of this phenomenon would be a dance done to the song “Lottery” by K-Camp, which has blown up in the last couple of months. Known as the “Renegade”, the dance has become one of the most done dances in the app, even done by various celebrities around the world. Subsequently, the song has been streamed a great deal, with 55,312,265 streams on Spotify at the time this article was written. That’s what TikTok’s secret weapon is, it’s essentially a fame-machine of sorts for any artist lucky enough for a song to blow up on the app.

“Lottery” artist K Camp in a video with the two girls who created the “Renegade” dance
Source: K Camp – Twitter

A fine example of this is an artist known as Lil Nas X, a name that no one would have known even a year ago. However, Lil Nas X made a song called “Old Town Road” and everything changed. It didn’t take long for the song to end up on TikTok, and soon after, there likely were few who have not heard Lil Nas X’s unique mix of country and rap, with 574,624,607 streams on Spotify on the original song alone, and with a whopping 913,490,634 steams on the remix with country star Billy Ray Cyrus. It didn’t stop there for the up and coming star, as “Old Town Road” went on to win two Grammys and also broke a Billboard record, being the first song to go seventeen weeks at number one on the US music charts, dethroning Luis Fonsi’s “Despacito” and Mariah Carey’s “One Sweet Day”. Nas would later go on to release an EP to critical acclaim, racking up a total of 6.1 million Instagram followers, and even went on to star in a Super Bowl commercial for Doritos. It goes without saying that Lil Nas X’s quickly found fame and award-winning and record-breaking song is largely due in part to its original popularity on TikTok, and Lil Nas X would likely have found much less success without it.

Lil Nas X at the 62nd Grammy Awards, proudly showing off his two Grammy wins for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance and Best Music Video.
Source: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

This hasn’t only happened a couple of times either, as there are countless other examples of songs that blow up in popularity due to their use in oftentimes viral TikToks. “SUGAR” by BROCKHAMPTON, “Truth Hurts” by Lizzo, “Lalala” by Y2K and bbno$ just to name a few. Oftentimes, these songs come out to less popularity but get picked up by TikTok sometimes even years later, and they get a huge rush of streams on music platforms. A fine example of this is Lizzo’s “Truth Hurts”. A song originally released on platforms in 2017 with little streams and attention, however, last year it TikTok, and blew up, with 522,703,759 streams on Spotify and put Lizzo into the mainstream, an artist who is beginning to become a household name. Lizzo isn’t the only artist this has happened to, artists like Lil Nas X, Doja Cat, and Roddy Rich are all artists who have been making music for years to little attention, but thanks to TikTok they have extremely notable musical careers, each with at least three million followers on Instagram, something they likely wouldn’t have had if it weren’t for their songs blowing up on TikTok. 

TikTok changed the music industry and will continue to as long as the app continues its popularity.  TikTok is essentially a fame-machine, if your song blows up on TikTok, you likely will too, which is why so many lesser-known artists find themselves into the spotlight out of nowhere. This app changed the way that artists make their music, as more and more artists start to cater their music to the TikTok audience, and frankly, they’d be foolish not to.


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