TikTok has drastically changed popular culture and the music industry in a variety of ways. That fact is indisputable, but there’s still a standing question:is this impact for better or worse?
I’m not going to sit here and act like I haven’t gotten lost on TikTok for hours or have never found a song from TikTok I enjoy, but with that being said,TikTok sucks. I enjoy the app just as much as the next person. My FYP (For You Page) knows me better than I know myself; I can sit cracking up and enjoying videos for hours on end. That doesn’t change the fact that I believe TikTok is one of the worst things to happen to this generation and the music industry — qualitatively speaking.
Great songs and artists have come from TikTok. Thanks to the app, I found a new appreciation for Sueco after hearing “Paralyzed” and discovered new artists like the all-girl group TRAMP STAMPS known for their song “Sex With Me.” Those artists, along with many others, are great — or at least some of their songs are — but that doesn’t take away from the fact that TikTokers like Chase Hudson, Dixie D’Amelio and Addison Rae are finding record deals and releasing music just because they’ve become big names in pop-culture.
When assessing the impact of TikTok, we need to look at more than just the music being produced there. The app serves as a beneficial promotional tool and overall has proven to have a positive financial impact on the music industry. Big name artists like Lizzo and Lil Nas X have utilized the platform for promotional and financial gain, as well. In fact, TikTok is one of the biggest contributors to putting Lil Nas X on the map with his hit “Old Town Road” in 2019.
In an article for Business Insider, Dan Whateley wrote, “The industry’s attention on TikTok isn’t unfounded. Songs that trend on TikTok often end up charting on the Billboard 100 or Spotify Viral 50. And 67% of the app’s users are more likely to seek out songs on music-streaming services after hearing them on TikTok, according to a November study conducted for TikTok by the music-analytics company MRC Data.”
Music marketing has taken over TikTok, often in subtle ways. It is not uncommon for artists to curate songs towards the demographic of TikTok users in order for the release to blow up on the platform. Influencers on the app are often paid to promote new tracks by simply including the song in a video or coming up with a viral dance to accompany the song. Many of today’s favorite TikTok creators can earn thousands of dollars with a single promotional video for an artist’s song. Music marketing on TikTok is financially beneficial to not only the music industry but influencers as well, and it has created a new era in popular culture.
People today have an attraction to TikTok that has not been seen with many other platforms. This can most likely be attributed to the platform’s similarities to Musical.ly and Vine, and the ability to become famous rather easily. TikTok has a strategic algorithm that curates FYP’s with specific videos relevant to the user’s interests. Unlike Instagram’s latest updates, the platform does not always try to push verified, big name accounts to the forefront of the page; users see what the algorithm believes they are interested in, whether it’s a large account or a user with ten followers. That’s not to say that the app cannot or will not promote a video for personal gain, but it is not as obvious or annoying as other social media platforms that seem to solely be driven by financial gain regardless of the impact it will have on users.
Smaller scale users serve as promotional tools just as much as verified accounts. Users tend to include trending hashtags or songs to create a larger viewing audience for their videos. This results in a larger quantity of users hearing the song without having to worry about paying the creators.
In an article for Rolling Stone Magazine written by Elias Leight, the CEO of Create Music Group, Jonathan Strauss, informs readers on the inner workings of the platform’s financial and promotional relationship with the music industry.
“Royalties get paid through posts — every single new creation that occurs, that’s the amount that gets paid out to the rights holders. It doesn’t matter if a post gets a million views or not,” said Strauss.
TikTok’s newsroom states that, as of Sept. 27, 2021, with one billion active TikTok users and counting, it’s commonplace for creating new videos to result in rights holders getting paid royalties.
Yes, there are songs and artists I’ve found on TikTok that I enjoy, but overall, I think the app has created a time where music is being created to be trendy rather than honest, meaningful and unique. While I believe content is what’s important when it comes to music, I know a lot of people in the industry don’t agree. The platform seems to be having an undeniably positive impact for people in the music industry. If we lived in a society where money was not as important, that might not be the case, but in today’s world it’s quantity over quality. Such a large sum of money put into the industry thanks to platforms like TikTok would definitely qualify as a positive, game-changing impact.
Alexis Barrick is a fourth-year English major with a minor in Journalism. AB910606@wcupa.edu