The ByteDance-owned entertainment app TikTok has made its way onto almost every teenager’s phone since its release in 2016, but what users don’t often contemplate is the effect it has on the modern music industry.
TikTok has changed the way new music is elevated through the charts. Being a platform that enables mass exposure in a short time, songs popularized by the app find publicity at a much less gradual rate than music has throughout history. Such instantaneous exposure of songs that blow up on the app garners fame in an unprecedented manner. “It’s very influential on the music industry since, if one song becomes a trend, then it becomes streamed and that artist makes a [ton] of money,” sophomore Katherine Xu said. “It’s a menace to society. I downloaded it once and I just never got off of it.”
Take Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road,” for example. Following its release in December 2018, this song became a hit on TikTok, taking it to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song stayed at No. 1 for 19weeks, the longest period of time in Billboard history. Such record-setting fame would not have been possible without the app. “It’s not terrible. It’s pretty entertaining,” junior Martin Siles-Diaz said. “I think it definitely makes a new outlet for many artists who blow up and make a lot of success, just like Lil Nas X or even Doja Cat.”
The app is centered around user-produced video content, similar to most social media apps. The most typical post involves the user recording themself lip synching to a song of their choice. Over time, posts on the app have evolved from the typical lip synching type to popular dance videos or meme formats.
This is where TikTok ties into the popularity of music. A common way songs find their fame is through these dances. Users will find a song, create a dance to its beat, then share it. These dances are then recreated and reposted by other users, accounting to the spread of the song. As these songs are spread and heard by more and more users, their streaming outside of the app also increases, directly leading to their rise in the charts.
What makes TikTok so appealing to its users is the creative freedom it gives people. Even if users are simply reposting a trendy dance, they have the ability to do whatever they want with it. Sophomore Nuha Talukder loves TikTok. “It’s a wonderful app. I love it so much. [The music] kinda sucks, but it’s OK.”
“TikTok describes its appeal as the following: ‘to capture and present the world’s creativity, knowledge, and precious life moments, directly from the mobile phone. TikTok enables everyone to be a creator, and encourages users to share their passion and creative expression through their videos,’” Josh Corder of Esquireme.com said.