TikTok’s Influence on the Music Industry

Jack Till, Staff Writer

There is no doubt that TikTok is the most generation-defining and influential app of the past three years. After merging with the most popular social media platform at the time (Musical.ly), the app has seen continued success. In fact, a large number of students at GW use it. However, secretly, TikTok is causing shifts in the music industry that haven’t been felt since the virality of streaming and Spotify. But how could a video-sharing app cause a musician with 11 Grammys to surprise-release a song barely three hours after announcing it? Let’s take a look.


How TikTok Would Have An Influence On The Industry Anyway?

TikTok’s main gimmick may be its filters and its trends, but the sound is the driving force behind TikTok. All TikTok videos have a specific sound, and the artist of each sound (if it isn’t an original TikTok sound) earns money every time their music is being used. However, TikTok trends can change what songs people are listening to in the matter of days. Let’s make a hypothetical that artist Big BP released his song Big Bounce and people are using it to do flips on a trampoline. If the #TrampolineChallenge goes viral, more people will recognize the song when it is on the radio/on Spotify and will want to listen to it more and more. This causes more sales and more chart placements, causing it to become one of the most popular songs of the months, er, the year. Now that you know how TikTok could influence the music industry, let’s share three examples of artists who were influenced by TikTok and gained popularity because of it.


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Enter Montero Lamar Hill

The artist more commonly known as Lil Nas X made his debut into the music world upon the release of his first single, Old Town Road, in December 2018. After country artist Billy Ray Cyrus (father of American pop artist, Miley Cyrus) showed his interest in collaborating with Hill, the two released a remix of the song featuring Cyrus in April 2019. “But,” you think to yourself, “what does TikTok have to do with this?” Well, after the release of the original song, an internet challenge known as the “Yeehaw Challenge” was started on the app in which users would post themselves dancing to Old Town Road. The song debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 on the chart week ending March 16, 2019. The song would reach #1 on the chart week ending April 13 and would stay at #1 for 19 consecutive weeks before dropping to #3 the chart week ending August 24. 


No Punches Left To Roll With

Doja Cat is an American pop/hip-hop artist who made her debut into the music world in 2014, but first received wide popularity upon the success of “Say So”, which became popular on TikTok shortly after its release. It spawned the Say So dance which later became a cosmetic in popular battle royale video game Fortnite and peaked at #1 on the Hot 100 on the chart week ending May 16th, 2020. The song’s popularity is credited as hardlaunching Doja Cat’s career and creating her massive success that is still felt today with her new album Planet Her


Wildest Dreams (TikTok’s Version) [From the Vault]

Taylor Swift’s 2014 single Wildest Dreams may have been released 7 years ago, but that doesn’t mean it can become popular. After the bridge portion of the song was combined with the slow-motion filter on the app, a trend known as the #SlowMoChallenge was born. This trend caused Wildest Dreams to gain it’s most single-day streams on Spotify ever. This was enough for Taylor herself to notice, and boy, did she notice. If you haven’t heard already, Taylor Swift’s first 6 albums are not completely owned by her. Instead, they were bought from her label by Scooter Braun. Taylor felt like her albums had been stolen from her, and sought out to re-record them, which is a hard task. Infact, only one (two if you count Red) has been released so far. Red (Taylor’s Version) was released on October 22, 2021.  When Taylor saw that her song was trending, she was happy. What she was not happy with, however, was that people were not using her version of the song. Though, Wildest Dreams (Taylor’s Version) didn’t exist, so who could use it? Luckily, Taylor re-released the song the same day she noticed it was trending, and now she can own her sound that is being used on TikTok.


Looking into the Future

All in all, TikTok has certainly changed the music industry so far. It’s caused one Lil Nas X to show how utterly talented of a musical artist and a social media influencer he is, has caused Doja Cat to showcase her talent to a wider audience and grow more fans, and has caused someone regarded as one of the greatest artists of all time to make cat videos and release ones stating “feeling cute, might drop this later”. There is no telling what this video-sharing app will do next, and how it will change the game in the future.