Arts and Entertainment

TikTok’s Impact on Music: The Surprising Path to Artist Success

TikTok has played a significant role in providing a platform for emerging artists to gain exposure and catapult their careers in the music industry. The platform’s unique algorithm, which allows for content based on user engagement rather than followers, has permitted a more level playing field, allowing lesser-known artists to shine. The short-form video app TikTok has been home to many viral trends and challenges, and its global user base is often responsible for creating the ‘next big thing.’ Occasionally, a catchy tune becomes the soundtrack for thousands of TikTok users worldwide, sparking creativity and driving engagement on the platform.

Doja Cat is one of the most prominent artists who has had many of her songs go viral on TikTok. Doja Cat’s “Say So” of 2020 and her hit “Paint the Town Red” of 2023, along with many others, have caught the attention of many TikTok users. Over roughly four years, “Say So” has accumulated over 8.4 million TikTok posts using the sound, with this being one of her first hits. Her songs combined have gathered over 12 million views over the years since the app became popular. TikTok has played a significant role in the success of some of Doja Cat’s tracks, as TikTok users create dances and participate in challenges using her sounds. She provides a clear example of how an artist’s career can truly take off using TikTok to create a widespread platform. 

In addition to Doja Cat, many artists have gotten their start on TikTok. Artists like Paul Russell had very few followers before his start on the app. He released his song “Lil Boo Thang” in 2023, and it became a TikTok sensation. Russell posted a 21-second teaser of the track via TikTok on June 28. The post received over 5.3 million views and launched over 800,000 uses of the song from new fans who’ve paired it with everything from dances to pet videos. Russell later posted the same teaser on Instagram Reels, where his video of dancing to the song got another 10.4 million views. Over time, his popularity spread to Spotify, as well. People became very interested in hearing the rest of his song, causing the song to have over 144,000,000 streams on Spotify.

Furthermore, his song gained so much traction across social media, between Instagram and TikTok, that his monthly listeners on Spotify jumped to 12.8 million. This illustrates how TikTok’s user-generated content and virality can propel relatively unknown artists and their songs into mainstream success. The platform’s ability to build off specific songs by creating trends and challenges for many to partake in has proven to be a powerful tool for artists looking to make a breakthrough in the music industry.

In addition, users’ interest in an artist’s complete discography is often increased by TikTok exposure, resulting in the growth of the artist’s fanbase. Nevertheless, releasing an artist’s music to TikTok is also controversial. Some artists have actively been working with TikTok to promote their songs, like in the summer of 2020, when Miley Cyrus was preparing to release her single “Midnight Sky.” Her team partnered with TikTok to schedule two private Zoom calls with around fifteen creators to give them an early listen to the track. Other artists like Khalid, Demi Lovato, and Marshmello have joined similar events.

On the other hand, music corporations like the Universal Music Group (UMG), which represents artists like Olivia Rodrigo and Taylor Swift, have pulled music from the platform due to TikTok’s inability to protect their music. UMG has expressed apprehensions, saying that TikTok has responded indifferently to their raised concerns, which include fair compensation, safeguarding artists from AI-generated music, and ensuring the online safety of artists and users.  In an open letter, UMG condemned TikTok for providing disproportionately low compensation rates for artists and songwriters compared with other social media platforms. According to the group, TikTok has sought to establish a music-centric business without compensating musicians, as well as pressured music labels into accepting unfavorable contracts. Ultimately, this dispute left a lot of users of the app unhappy since the clips of the songs are no longer on the app, and they may never come back. Using TikTok has been widespread, but the situation has pros and cons.

Overall, the platform has been successful for many artists as they have gained a broader fan base. A plethora of artists have achieved success on this app and have built careers out of this success. Despite removing many songs, many artists continue to use the platform to promote their music due to its benefits for new and returning artists.