Arts and Entertainment

TikTok’s Abrupt Change to the Music Industry

TikTok is the biggest app right now, and it has drastically affected the music industry.

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By Ismath Maksura

When asked where she first heard the Lil Nas X’s smash hit “Old Town Road,” sophomore Naya Mukul said: “I think I first heard the song on TikTok. I remember hearing it on the app when it wasn’t that popular.” This legendary song started numerous trends and changed the Billboard Chart scene forever. “Old Town Road” went on to be the longest-running number-one song on the Billboard Hot 100 for a record-breaking 19 weeks and shot Lil Nas X into superstardom. This was just one of the first songs that would blow up through the app. Since then, TikTok has greatly impacted the music industry and is continuing to do so.

TikTok is the reinvention of the social media app, bought by the company ByteDance Ltd., which completely revamped the app and transformed it into TikTok on August 2, 2018. Like its predecessor, TikTok allows creators to use songs and audio clips to create up to 60-second videos. Unlike its predecessor, TikTok is targeted to a wider range of interests. While mainly stuck to lip-syncing and dancing, TikTok has almost anything you can think of. From makeup to comedy to dancing, there’s something for everybody. This universality has led the app’s popularity and influence to spiral worldwide.

Four of the songs in the top ten of the Billboard Hot 100 were linked to TikTok during the last week of March. One of them was Roddy Ricch’s “The Box,” which holds the number one spot at the time of writing this article. The song has an entire dance routine associated with it and 2.4 million people—including the app’s most popular creator, Charli D’Amelio—on the app have currently created a video using the song. As more people started doing the dance, the song grew and spent 11 weeks as number one, beating out artists like Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez, who released new music during that timespan.

In addition to Roddy Ricch, TikTok has helped several other artists grow. Doja Cat has been a lingering name on the music scene with not much recognition for years. TikTok has played a huge role in her growth and the popularization of her songs. Doja Cat currently has five songs that are extremely popular on the app, the biggest one being “Say So.” User “YodelingHaley” created her own dance to the song, which eventually became one of the biggest dances on the app. Haley’s help in the success of the song did not go unnoticed, as she was featured in Doja Cat’s music video for “Say So,” where you can see her doing her dance to the song.

So, what is the recipe for a TikTok hit? Looking at some of the songs that have grown primarily on the platform like “Say So,” BEENE’s “Supalonely,” and Dua Lipa’s “Don’t Start Now,” they have many musical similarities. When breaking down the chords, one might realize that they all heavily use seventh chords. These chords convey a sort of old-school pop vibe. A majority of the pop songs from the ‘90s seems to include a funky bass and certain drum patterns, shared by many TikTok tracks today. With a combination of these elements, these songs are easy for creators on the app to create dances for, making them go viral. Rap songs are also big on the platform for two reasons. One: a lot of the popular dance moves incorporate the beat drops and changes present in rap songs. Two: the lyrics. If a user finds a relatable lyric in a song, they’ll create a sketch using it, usually from rap songs due to their highly interpretive nature.

Other than being catchy and having relatable lyrics, the popularity of something on the app can be based on what’s displayed on the “For You” page. People scroll through it for hours, watching randomly curated videos. Once a song is introduced by a user, if people enjoy it, they can use it in their own videos and introduce the song to more users on the app. Singer Sub Urban is one artist who has had luck in having one of his songs thrive on TikTok with his track “Cradles.” In an interview with YouTube channel FBE, he said, “The fact is the people choose the songs and what gets popular.” He is 100 percent correct. Many times, the virality of these songs has been purely due to luck.

As the influence of TikTok continues to grow, bigger artists are joining in on the trend. The Jonas Brothers created an account to publicize their Happiness Begins Tour. Camila Cabello came on the app and started her own viral dance to her song “My Oh My!” Artists like these have caught on to the power of TikTok in the music industry.

The statistics and numbers have spoken: TikTok is the biggest app right now, and it will be for a while. As a result of its influence, the music industry is changing drastically. With the success of songs like “Old Town Road” and “The Box,” it’s clear that the app is controlling the Billboard charts. As for the future of the music industry, it would be in most artists’ best interests to join the app as soon as possible.