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Tik Tok and The Music Industry

Tik Tok is a content creation app that debuted in 2016

Let’s Talk About Tik Tok

Described as a “monstrous force” in the music industry, Tik Tok has changed the way that music distribution and discovery happens amongst the younger generation. Although Tik Tok is marketed as a platform for content creation, its backbone is music. After all, it originally started as a lip-syncing app. As influential as Tik Tok is, it is only the most drastic in a long line of actions that have led to the algorithmic personalization of music.

Before Spotify, music recommendations came from three main places:

  1. Word of mouth (Hey Pal! Have you heard *insert artist here* on the radio?)

  2. The mainstream entertainment media (Rolling Stone, NME, etc…)

  3. Attending live shows (Opening acts, concert promotion)

When streaming services became the norm, practically everyone had all the world’s recorded music at their fingertips. This wide array of choice led to different standards for musicians to start trending. Today this typically happens through:

  1. Curated playlists from Spotify/ Apple Music (Discover Weekly)

  2. Going viral on social media (“Did you hear that new song on Tik Tok?”)

  3. Attending live shows (something greatly impacted by the pandemic)

Nowhere is this change more evident than Tik Tok, which has become a hitmaker for the music industry. Driver’s License by Olivia Rodrigo, Say So by Doja Cat, and Zanzibar by Billy Joel are just a few of the songs that reached the top of the Billboard charts after they gained popularity on Tik Tok. Some critics of the app argue that being expected to go viral in order to gain fans puts pressure on musicians and devalues the art form, while others believe the random nature of Tik Tok’s algorithm puts all artists on even footing when they’re starting out.

Talking to an Expert: Kira Lise

Kira Lise is a music teacher and artist based in Orange County who has managed to find some of her own fame off of Tik Tok. In February, she experienced her first bit of internet fame after a cover of her singing “Take Me Home Country Roads” in a minor key garnered over 2.5 million views on Tik Tok.

Her video also gained the attention of some celebrity musicians. “I peaked when Joe Jonas reposted me”, Kira joked when I spoke to her last week about her overnight success. But that video was not her peak, not by a long short. One month later, a video of Kira and her boyfriend playing the “Up” Theme Song on the marimba more than doubled the success of her first video with 5.4 million views and 1.5 million likes. For an independent artist like Kira, those numbers can be life changing.

The success from those two videos alone earned Kira 80,000 followers on Tik Tok and about 1200 additional followers on her instagram. After going viral, she has capitalized on what she describes as “instant fame” by performing her original music on Tik Tok live.

“I’ve had supporters from Tik Tok say they can’t wait to hear my

original music”

Kira performing some of her songs in 2019

“I’ve had supporters from Tik Tok say they can’t wait to hear my original music, Kira told me. The fans she gained from going viral have given her a new audience that is invaluable as an indie artist. Some people believe that Tik Tok as a music platform is fleeting, but artists like Kira see it as a new norm in the industry that won’t be going away any time soon. Thousands of small artists are now using Tik Tok for their chance to blow up and gain an overnight audience. Despite its controversial aspects, Tik Tok and other social media platforms have become a necessary tool to help small artists promote during the pandemic.

To watch the video story (with bonus interview content), click the link below:

To check out some of the songs Tik Tok has brought into the mainstream, click the playlist below:

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