TikTok: Terraforming the Music Industry

Updated: Dec 24, 2021

TikTok is a modern phenomenon and it doesn't seem to be going anywhere any time soon, but what is it that makes TikTok so addictive and what does the presence of this dopamine-inducing platform mean for the music industry?


Founded in 2017, as Musica.ly, TikTok has been a prevalent part of Gen-Z culture ever since. The short video format, already established on platforms like Vine and the aforementioned Musica.ly, was already successful. This rapid-fire of content provides immediate gratification as it allowed the viewer to consume more content and information in a smaller time - making it easier to find yourself stuck deep in that Tiktok hole. With a clever algorithm, that consistently edits your suggested videos, it has made it easier for more niche 'sides' of TikTok's to form through hashtags - resulting in mini-communities with their own trends and aesthetics. These sides of TikTok include political, alternative, and cottagecore, to name but a few. But how is this app, accessible to everyone, shaping the current music scene?

TikTok's fast-paced delivery increases the content seen, so while the market is bursting at the seams with new talent TikTok presents more opportunity for your music to be heard - especially as there is no bias towards verified users. To be heard on TikTok you just have to find a way to stand out from the crowd, a challenging task; as many as fifty other videos could be viewed within the same hour. What really makes a song stand out is its involvement in a new trend. Trend's tend to be followed and repeated by different creators, so composing a soundbite that is utilised by everyone is what really makes for an earworm. These TikTok trends can be dance crazes, comedic or narrative or occasionally episodic. The sound that accompanies the trend can be heard over and over again during a short space of time and this increases artist exposure.

It's not just the continuous use of popular or humorous audio. Tiktok is creating a new generation of artists because it is so accessible. Music makers no longer need to depend on radio stations or management to get their music heard, seconds after posting song snippets can find their way onto someones 'For You' page. TikTok has made sharing music more achievable as you no longer need money to produce, release or promote and people no longer need to pay streaming platforms to access the single. So, although the app can often feel like it is congested with new sounds and artists this is just a reflection of Tiktok's accessibility. Some artists who found fame through the app include Lauren Gray, Baby Ariel and Dixie D'Amelio.

Pop music composition is being shaped by this social-media beast too, with TikTok accelerating the shrinkage of song lengths. Between 2013 and 2018 the average length of a pop song fell by 30 seconds. Due to the bite-size nature of the content artists are encouraged to create a musical hook that fits well into that space. Tiktok is not just impacting the way that music is composed but the way that it is advertised.

Many established celebrities have set themselves up on the streaming platform too. Stars such as Lewis Capaldi utilise the app to grow their own fanbase utilising their own audio and showcasing their own day to day life. This insight into stars daily lives and their off-stage personas creates the illusion of a more intimate relationship between artists and their audiences. This, however, allows stars like Capaldi to continuously grow their social media prevalence, something that has been a key part of the music industry during the Covid-19 pandemic as many artists have not had the opportunity to play live; thus losing that important point of contact with their audiences. Capaldi especially utilises his humour, something contrasting to the heavily emotive content of his first album, and this allows him to appeal to and reach a wider audience basis.

Many Radio stations have also established their own TikTok page to advertise new single and album releases as well as snippets of radio interviews and other content. this allows them to direct audiences to their content as a form of advertisement. Radio is not consumed passively by younger generations, as where it once defined long car journeys streaming apps like Spotify now hold that space, so utilising TikTok is a great way to redefine radio. The omniscience of Tiktok in modern life is encouraging well-established radio stations to utilise it as an advertising platform to direct Gen Z to their content and new artist releases.

Social media platforms come and go but it looks like Tiktok is here to stay and it is making drastic changes to the way we consume media. Tiktok is the only virtual space to go to keep up with recent musical trends and it offers excellent opportunities for equality in the music industry, just so long as you can find a way to stand out from the crowd.

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