How TikTok is Redesigning the Music Industry

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If you check out the current Top 50 chart in the United Kingdom right now, it’s likely the tracks you see before you can all be heard over and over again if you’re aimlessly scrolling through TikTok. So, is TikTok really changing the music industry?

Founded initially in 2016, TikTok only really took off in March 2020 across the world due to the COVID-19 pandemic which confined people to their homes with little else to do but go on their phones. The platform is quite a contentious topic; many adore the app, yet others say it’s bad for not only our physical health but also our mental health – promoting some questionable topics with minimal safety measures in place. What is clear, however, is the impact that TikTok has on the modern-day music industry. Where streaming has become commonplace, it has in more recent years been easy for music to become ‘viral’. Yet nothing quite compares to the power of virality at the hands of TikTok users across the globe. As TikTok bases its platform on video sharing, the use of sound comes hand-in-hand with what we see on screen, making music one of the most important elements of the platform’s success.

One of the clearest instances of TikTok’s influence upon the music industry was American pop-star The Weeknd‘s hit single ‘Blinding Lights’. The track became part of not only videos on the streaming service, but the song even inspired a viral dance trend that maintained its popularity for months on end. This year, ‘Blinding Lights’ broke history by becoming the first record ever to stay in the top ten of the charts for over a year, and is currently (at the time of writing this) onto its 79th week in the Top 50.

It’s not only The Weeknd whose music success has increased tenfold since TikTok became the hottest topic on earth, as British indie-pop band Glass Animals found themselves to be a worldwide phenomenon overnight due to the sudden virality of their lockdown track ‘Heat Waves’. While the band were known reasonably well in the UK prior to this, they were thrust into the mainstream by TikTok users, gaining fans by the tonne – so much so that they recently announced a huge 2022 American tour which would never have been possible without this newfound fanbase.

Other TikTok ‘successes’ include the new kid on the block Olivia Rodrigo, whose debut album Sour hit shelves recently. Rodrigo found herself storming to the top of the charts due to the overnight fame of the singer-songwriter’s debut single ‘Drivers License’, which moved quickly onto the platform after its release. The American actress-turned-singer is hard to avoid on TikTok and on our radio waves, proving just the power TikTokers hold over the shifting music industry and the way we find and listen to new songs.

The music industry is changing rapidly due to the impact TikTok has on the virality of songs. Tracks that would usually need to be ‘discovered’ by fans are now able to pick up the pace and reach the mainstream so much quicker than before. While this is incredible for smaller or lesser-known artists to be found by record labels and users, we must ask: is it lowering the quality of the music industry? Will artists need to rely on TikTok to find fame and success now, or will we still use platforms such as BBC Introducing to find our new favourites?

‘Heat Waves’ is available to listen to now via Wolf Tone Records. Check out the official video below. 

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third-year film student & records/live exec 20/21

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