In just over four years, the TikTok phenomenon has transformed the way we create, produce and consume music online and offline.
If this was a 15-second video, we could start with the sound of Love Nwantiti (ah ah ah ah) by Ckay— and I would probably be doing an embarrassing little dance to explain how TikTok is transforming the music industry. But as, fortunately, this is not the case, I invite you, dear reader, to prepare your favourite playlist and embark with me on this visit to the biggest hit factory of the moment.
A few months ago, I was casually listening to a radio station. Surprisingly, Beggin’ by Måneskin was among the most requested. “That’s weird!” — I remember thinking — ” Have we gone back in time?” (For those unfamiliar, the song in question was quite successful between 2017 and 2018, but has been “recycled” recently in musical challenges within TikTok).
A few tracks later, a much more recent hit, Astronaut In The Ocean, which I had already heard somewhere… “Oh yeah! That song!”, I commented mentally as I rehearsed a shy choreography by myself.
On another occasion, I stumbled on Billboard’s Hot 100 and the top was also composed of some songs that exploded on the platform. All of this piqued my curiosity, and here we are. What an interesting app! Especially for musicians and music fans.
TikTok is the new generation MTV
Millennial or not, you may know that MTV played an important role in pop culture for an entire generation a few years ago. Irreverent, good-natured, cool, a cradle for new artists and unlike anything that was on the market before. Does this sound familiar? Well, I could use the same words to define TikTok — not just in terms of music, but entertainment in general.
Of course, there’s something new now — TikTok’s dynamic in relation to MTV is very different, not just in the type of media, but in the speed and order of importance of the actors in this new scenario.
Also, for this reason, it can seem so difficult, for those who are already on the road of social media, to adapt to TikTok.
TikTok’s algorithm is different
Think about it: in recent years, all networks (basically all Facebook products ) had a similar logic for displaying posts. In addition to resources, while all other networks cultivate our bubbles as a priority, TikTok puts us face to face with new things all the time, but in a relevant way.
When I decided to write this special, I started to police myself to check the app every morning, to get used to the platform’s logic, and now I just do it because I like it — and too much.
Designed to addict
When it was asked what TikTok’s big secret was. Of course, there is no magic formula to follow. But according to Kim Farrell, Marketing Director for TikTok, TikTok’s biggest difference is its community.
There is more than brand positioning behind this line. As technology expert Matthew Brennan put it in an interview with the BBC late last year, “the executives and engineers behind the app knew how to turn this short video service into one of the most addictive social networks in the world.”
Brennan explains that TikTok has the best recommendation engine in the competitive Chinese market. Through machine learning, the app seems to be your thinking and delivers exactly what you were looking for, often unconsciously.
Amidst all this, music is, in fact, an intrinsic component of TikTok’s DNA — which makes perfect sense, considering its evolution since the acquisition and absorption of Musical.ly, the dubbing app that was among the most popular. young people a few years ago.
For all ages
No, TikTok is not a Generation Z social network (and, amazingly, it doesn’t position itself as a social network either). Perhaps, for this reason, the strategy of ByteDance, the company behind the application, is to serve TikTok advertisements on prime time TV.
TikTok is a very important platform as it reduces barriers to content creation […] We often say that TikTok is a platform for everyone and fun for people of all ages, interests and cultures. It’s a place where users and brands can be authentic and form communities motivated by interests that bring joy and reward as a result.
A factory of musical hits
A survey conducted in the United States in 2020 revealed that 52% of Generation Z people (aged 13 to 23) used apps like TikTok or Triller, and 48% of them consumed music-related videos on the platforms.
According to a report, 7 of the 10 most listened to songs of 2020 on Spotify went viral first on TikTok.
According to a recent study commissioned by TikTok to Nielsen, 60% of users use TikTok to make new discoveries and 92% of users discover new content on the platform like what they find there.
No wonder the music industry is on hand to take full advantage of TikTok. Several companies and entities are already rushing to adapt to the new possibilities it offers. Sony Music, for example, has a distribution agreement with the platform.
Through the Content ID tool, inside TikTok, if any user in the world makes use of any part of a specific song, it is possible to identify the audio in their system, claim the audio and pass it on to whoever is entitled.
Composing for TikTok
You might not know it, but artists now write songs with TikTok in mind.
I have what appears to be a basic formula for all hits that go viral on TikTok.
Of course, there are several complex factors involved in the success of a song, on and off the platform, but the research has reached some crucial stages that most songs go through before they break out there. So if you’re thinking about exploding in the app, it’s worth considering the following points:
- Choreography/challenge: the famous “dances” are a key tool to help pump a song on the platform. But the challenges can be different, not necessarily a choreography.
- Duets: sometimes a song base with a backing vocal melody, or even just the instrumental, encouraging other people to sing along or react to the video with the song by sharing duets.
In this sense, companies that take care of the artists’ careers can help find the best solution for each style.
Of course, all this should be used for a projection beyond TikTok, as hits pass as quickly as they appear, and artists must always be aware of what comes next.
Before, music had a shelf life of a certain period which was an ‘ok’ period. With TikTok, you’ve slaughtered that time. It got smaller. People start working more frequently, launching music, products, games, dances, challenges. Artists are more concerned about this.
Given this, tying together all the steps from production to distribution is probably the key to a career well underway. The internet allows you to reach people who wouldn’t necessarily be there by buying tickets and watching shows, so you can revert to another audience, attracting other people, there are several platforms that communicate to different audiences many different. I think the artist’s great idea is to be in all of them and communicate in all of them to attract more and more new people.
Another peculiarity of TikTok is that the musician does not necessarily need to be an influencer, a great personality, for his works to be heard by millions of people. In the app, the music ends up standing out and finding ways to go viral through content creators, in the most diverse formats.
There are artists who are more influencers, and others like to be producing, writing, making music more, and they don’t like to show up as much.
People will always remember the music […] Every artist has to think that their music is their heritage, their legacy. When doing this work, it’s for the music, not necessarily for the artist’s ego. It’s cool, it’s nice to be recognized, to take a picture. But it’s your music that will tell your story for the rest of your life.
And you, who embarked on this musical journey with me and made it this far — have you surrendered to the pleasures of TikTok? Did you have any difficulties adapting to the platform?