by Katie Nalle
TikTok has become a valuable tool for up-and-coming artists, musicians, and actors to showcase their talents and gain a following. In addition to the rise of talented new creators, earlier established artists such as Yung Gravy, Joji, Mitski, and many others have had songs go viral and gained additional listeners due to the use of their music on TikTok.
The app tends to popularize older songs as trending audio as well. This brings new popularity to artists who may have fallen out of the spotlight or have not been as well-known in the past. Bôa’s “Duvet,” for example, was released in 1998, but charted on Spotify’s Viral Top 50 after becoming a trending audio on the video platform over 20 years after its initial release.
Smaller creators, many of whom have never officially released any music, have also taken advantage of the platform’s tendency to create viral music. These creators will often post a video using a short clip of a song they plan to release as a teaser of sorts to get people talking about the song. The clip of the song can then be used in other videos as an audio and gain popularity before it’s even released. Quinnie’s “Touch Tank” and Leith Ross’s “We’ll Never Have Sex” were both released and promoted using this method.
TikTok has also caused a shift toward fans becoming more involved with the music they’re listening to. In the case of Leith Ross’s release of their first teaser for “We’ll Never Have Sex,” users began to eagerly await the song's release. Their followers then began posting videos of what they thought the rest of the song might sound like using their ideas for the lyrics. This collaborative style of creating and releasing new music is introducing a feeling of closeness and involvement between fans and their favorite artists. This format also allows small artists to stay independent while maintaining relevance. Artists have the option to be creative with their music on their own without having to be under the control of a record label.
Although the popularization of songs via TikTok is not inherently bad, many have expressed frustration at the effects that this phenomenon has caused. Some users have complained that the popularity of TikTok has led artists to produce songs they feel are made with the intent of becoming viral audios on TikTok. This leads to the creation of new songs that feel almost formulaic. Listeners also express disapproval or disappointment toward their favorite artists for “selling out” and creating songs with TikTok in mind. This frustration is not exclusive to listeners either. Some artists who use the platform to communicate with their fans have also noted that their record labels have pushed them to create content for the app and conform to TikTok’s content style. While TikTok is on track to reach its one billion user milestone, we will inevitably see these artists continue to cultivate growth and popularity.