If you haven’t heard of TikTok or never came across it, you are probably living under a rock. TikTok is a video-sharing social media platform owned by ByteDance, a Beijing-based company founded in 2012 by Zhang Yiming. The app was launched for iOS and Android in markets outside of China in 2017. Tiktok has increased in popularity since the company incorporated the lip-syncing video app, Musical.ly, in August 2018 and merged the two apps into one. The deal was an acquisition allegedly worth up to $1 billion, according to The Wall Street Journal.
In September 2018, it became the most downloaded app of the month, surpassing Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Snapchat.
Even though the app thrives from viral trends, memes and comedy, music discovery has become a significant part of the app’s identity.
The app is widely popular amongst teenagers and teenagers at heart.
Users film videos of themselves lip-syncing or acting out sketches up to 60 seconds long, and you can choose from a database of songs, effects, or sound bites. Collaborations constitute a significant incentive; you can do duets with other “TikTokers,” which creates a split-screen, therefore feeding into an endless chain of reactions. Users can also upload their own sounds. These all give you a platform to express yourself in any shape you want, whether it’s a comedy, choreographed dances, makeup tutorials or fluffy cat videos.
Based on statistics updated on February 2020, TikTok is available in over 150 countries, has over 1 billion users, it has been downloaded over 123 million times in the United States alone.
Scrutinizing Billboard and Spotify charts, it’s clear how much of a significant effect this app has on songs’ popularity. From Lil Nas X’s Country/Trap Old Town Road, the country/trap track which holds the title as the longest-reigning Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 in chart’s history, to Arizona Zervas’ hit song Roxanne to Roddy Ricch’s history-making song The Box which debuted on top of Today’s Top Hits-the biggest playlist on Spotify-and additionally peaked at number 1 on Billboard Hot 100.
This isn’t exclusive to rising stars. Established artists are also taking advantage of this app. For instance, Camilla Cabello’s new track, “My Oh My,” went viral after the 15-year-old famous TikToker Charli D’Amelio uploaded a video of her dancing to the song. Later on, it moulded into a trend on the app and propelled the song to Billboard’s Hot 100 and granted the song 200 million streams on Spotify.
Another name worth mentioning is Doja Cat. The American rapper, singer, songwriter and record producer took the wheel to stardom after not only one but multiple tracks from her went viral on TikTok. She recently appeared on The Tonight Show and delivered a jaw-dropping performance of her hit song “Say So”. She also turned heads with her colourful, mischievous video to “Boss Bitch,” her contribution to the soundtrack of the new Harley Quinn movie Birds of Prey.
TikTok, or as some people call it the slightly cringe-inducing spiritual successor to Vine, is rewriting how hits get made. However, the initial purpose of the app was not music discovery.
As demonstrated in the post above, five out of ten top songs on Billboard’s Hot 100 are songs that went viral thanks to TikTok.
The huge role this app is playing right now regarding music discovery is indisputable.
With all this being said, Billboard doesn’t track the platform. NYU professor Larry Miller said Billboard does count streaming on other platforms, but it takes a lot of listens to “equal” one album or song sale, and that’s still the measurement that matters to the charts.
So even though TikTok doesn’t have a direct influence on billboard charts, an artist’s exposure on TikTok certainly boosts their listens on Spotify and other streaming platforms.
If you are an artist dreaming of hitting the big time, get your songs to go viral on the platform. And don’t forget the “foryou” hashtag.