TikTok & The Music Industry: The Impact of Viral Content

October 20th 2022
6 minute read
tiktok music industry

TikTok is changing the music industry in several ways, including how artists write songs, how agents find new talent, and how major labels market their songs – and it is the place to be if you are an aspiring artist of any kind.

The platform has had a significant impact on the music industry in a very short amount of time. As a result, musicians are starting to take notice of the app’s potential to reach new audiences. While there are some concerns about how the platform could be used to exploit artists, most people agree that it provides opportunities for musicians to reach more fans.

This blog post will look closely at how TikTok has shaped the music industry and what that means.

What does TikTok have to do with the music industry?

According to Apptopia, TikTok was the most downloaded social media app in the first half of 2022, with 37 million downloads. Therefore, there is a valid reason for the industry’s focus on TikTok.

Often, TikTok-trending songs make their way onto Billboard’s 100 and Spotify’s Viral 50 charts. In addition, an MRC Data study found that 67% of TikTok users will listen to songs on music streaming services (i.e. Spotify) after hearing them on TikTok.

The app is predicted to reach a whopping 1.8 billion daily active users by the end of 2022. Since the app gained popularity by starting viral dance trends, musicians and record labels are increasingly using TikTok to reach new audiences. As a result, it has become a significant source of revenue for the music industry.

TikTok has changed many artists’ lives

TikTok has completely changed the way that music is discovered and promoted. In the past, if an artist wanted to get their music out there, they would have to rely on radio play or hope that someone would stumble upon their SoundCloud page. However, thanks to TikTok’s incredibly sticky nature, people often now refer to songs they hear on the radio as “that TikTok song”. Let’s take a closer look at a classic example with Lil Nas X.

It’s not just about getting your song on TikTok; it’s about creating a viral TikTok challenge that gets people talking. That’s how Lil Nas X took his song Old Town Road from complete obscurity to the top of the charts. First, he started sharing his music along with memes; then, he created a TikTok challenge that caught on like wildfire (#yeehawchallenge).

tiktok music industry

As the icing on the cake, he teamed up with TikTok influencers to further promote the song. As a result, “Old Town Road” became one of the biggest hits of 2019 and got picked up by Billy Ray Cyrus for a feature. And now, Lil Nas X is one of the most influential artists of his generation.

He actually did this again when releasing his song MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name). Paired up with his organically funny and authentically-gen Z content, he teased the song in the back of all of his TikToks for months, fully hyping it up:


help small artists! click the link in my bio! 🤍

♬ MONTERO BY LIL NAS X – lil nas x

A new way to write songs

TokTok has offered singers new ways to create music. Once the industry realized the power of TikTok, everyone tried to use it to their advantage. Some artists integrate TikTok into their creative process even before they release a new track, making it a valuable platform for promoting a new tune.

On the app, you can find songs written with the audience’s help. This is the case for abcdefu by Gayle, which was created based on a suggestion from a fan:


Reply to @nancy_berman definitely not based off personal experience… #orginalsong #newmusic #plslikethisaccount #hastagsworkapparently #acoustic

♬ abcdefu – GAYLE

There are also the songs initially uploaded as little snippets or covers, which ended up on streaming platforms upon massive fan requests. An example is Fat Funny Friend by Maddie Zahm, which ended up empowering a whole movement:

Last but not least, there are songs that many people suspect were written with the actual intent of becoming a TikTok trend, such as the band TRAMP STAMPS. While none of the theories can fully be proven, it would not be a big surprise that it has come to this. This video explains it well:


Reply to @hard_cope #greenscreen @trampstamps Google is free yk…this y’all? Actual artists have dedicated their lives to real DIY communities. Corpo

♬ original sound – عِيسَى

Moreover, songs on TikTok often tend to be edited with different pop culture elements, such as lines from a film and mashed up with another track, sped up, slowed down, or layered. All of these edits help the songs go viral.

In addition to all these situations, some artists hire influencers to help their pieces take off, prompting user-generated content. It has even been reported that some artists have set up private listening sessions with TikTok influencers so that new songs can gain momentum on the platform.

Of course, songs can also organically get viral on the app; this happens all the time to modern tunes and songs from decades ago alike.

The hidden side of TikTok copyrights

It’s no doubt that TikTok can contribute to success, but there is also a growing concern that TikTok could be used to exploit new artists. Musicians and record labels may be keen to use TikTok to promote their music, but they must be aware of the risks involved.

On TikTok, once an audio clip is shared from an account, it’s free to use for all creators. Often, artists do not get compensated even if their song is featured in the most popular videos. 

Although TikTok has partnerships with major record labels and pays royalties to the authors of the songs, they do not check most trending sounds for copyrights because of the sheer volume of videos on the platform.

However, considering that most users will then buy the song or listen to it on streaming platforms, it is a worthy investment.

What does this all mean for marketers?

Now that we’ve established how big of a deal TikTok is, it’s crucial to understand how businesses can benefit from it.

According to a survey, 67% of small and medium-sized businesses indicated that they are most optimistic about their growth potential on TikTok.

The key to success on TikTok is creating original and relatable content. In addition, it would contribute to your success to ensure that your videos are short and to the point; after all, people’s attention spans are shorter than ever. Undoubtedly, the cornerstone of an excellent TikTok strategy is using relevant trends and sounds – make sure you’re ethically using them. If you can crack the code on TikTok, you’ll be well on promoting your business like a pro.

PS. Did you know you can advertise on TikTok? Check out our ad mockup generator for more information.

You can’t escape TikTok

There’s no doubt about it: the app is here to stay. TikTok has completely changed the music industry and offers businesses a unique opportunity to promote their brand. So if you’re not already on TikTok, now is the time to join the thousands of other companies and influencers reaping the benefits of its viral nature.

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