The Music Industry is Finally Figuring Out TikTok

The music industry is in a constant state of change, and TikTok is undoubtedly the most powerful new tool that has emerged in the last few years. The catchiness, brevity and ease of TikTok trends allow for an artist to go viral almost instantly.

In 2019, Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” became the most popular song of all time, winning two Grammys and spending 19 weeks at Billboard #1, due to becoming a viral TikTok trend. Lil Nas X, who was an unsigned independent artist at the time of releasing “Old Town Road,” has since become one of the most influential pop stars in the world.

For a long time, most overnight TikTok sensations seemed to follow a similar format: the virality came first, and the inevitable record label signing and attempt to capitalize on the trend came second. The algorithm of TikTok is seemingly impossible to predict, and record labels, managers and marketing teams struggled. Various attempts at manufacturing trends to promote already-signed and established artists mostly met failure, while tiny independent artists like 17 year-old Jawsh 685 hit hundreds of millions of views almost overnight.

Certainly, some already popular artists like Charlie Puth and Jason Derulo have seen great success on TikTok. But these exceptions always felt more like the artist personally having a good grasp of the mysterious ways of the app, or even just having fun, rather than success by the massive marketing team behind them.

Until now. It’s 2021, and TikTok has been around for a while. The music industry, which has been playing catch-up for the last few years, finally seems to be catching up. Massive artists like Billie Eilish and Taylor Swift are successfully writing songs with “TikTok parts;” short, catchy sections specifically designed to become a viral trend.

It seems that finally, the industry is starting to exist on the backend of these popular TikTok trends, rather than just watching them happen and then trying to respond. Olivia Rodrigo, the current TikTok sensation, skyrocketed to fame with her debut single “Driver’s License” becoming a viral sound. However, in a break from past trends, Rodrigo was signed to Interscope Records before the release of this single.

 

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Labels that probably didn’t even know TikTok existed two years ago are finally figuring out how to make it work in their favor. It is becoming a legitimate marketing tool for the music industry at the highest level. Does this mean big labels and artists will take over entirely, and we’ll see a decline in nobodies becoming cultural icons, the end of independent artists achieving stardom overnight? Let’s hope not.

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