Exclusives 25 May 2020

GRM Exclusive: Why the music industry needs to pay attention to TikTok

25 May 2020

TikTok is taking over the world.

Like it or not, the app is one of the most popular social media platforms available and thanks to its appeal – brands, artists, record labels and influencers are working around the clock to utilise the platform to boost their popularity and their profits.

Users spend an average of 52 minutes a day on the Tik Tok app – just 1 minute shy of the average time spent on Instagram – another app where music is prevalent in the form of challenges.

A quick look at the trending chart on the app will show you what tracks are most popular on TikTok and every week, the TikTok chart tends to reflect that of the UK Top 40.

Currently, Drake’s “Toosie Slide”, “Say So” by Doja Cat and “Blinding Lights” by The Weeknd sit in the UK chart’s top ten and they are doing the same on TikTok.

The tracks all share a catchy and theatrical chorus and all have been pushed forward by dance challenges or trends.

The #blindinglightschallenge has over 207 million views on TikTok as of Tuesday 5th May and the track has been a permanent fixture in the chart top 3 every week since December 2019 – back when life seemed less futile due to lockdown.

Other popular examples include Megan Thee Stallion’s “Savage”, “Lottery” by K Camp (which thanks to the 15-second loop on TikTok which only featured the producer tag “Renegade” has been renamed) and of course, Young T & Bugsey’s track with Headie One, “Don’t Rush”.

The #dontrushchallenge hashtag has 366.3 million views on TikTok (as of Thursday 30th April) and the YouTube videos sits on over 17 million views.

Thanks to the TikTok trend which took off in the US where the app has its third-largest audience of over 123.8 million users in comparison to 173.2 million in China and 466.8 million in India, “Don’t Rush” has become a transatlantic urban radio hit – nearly 6 months after its release.

The Rolling Stone ran a feature on the track in April and the American publication said, “Thanks to another Internet Challenge, Young T & Bugsey’s ‘Don’t Rush’ is a surprise hit”.

The article talks to Radio DJ’s about the challenge and they explain that seeing the track take over TikTok convinced them to add it to their playlists.

Michael Powell, the programme director at Washington D.C’s WKYS radio told the Rolling Stone, “I kept watching short videos, Shazamed the joint, went on a mad search looking for it”.

“Don’t Rush” is 5th on the American Shazam chart and remains a fixture in the top 10 of Shazam’s global track chart.

People are looking for the track thanks to the challenge and it can only be good for UK music moving forward that collective global audiences are searching for our music.

The below data from Google Trends (Data source: Google Trends (https://www.google.com/trends) looks at “Don’t Rush” as a Google search term and visually illustrates how searches for the track peaked in the US in early April as the track’ TikTok challenge took off.

Data source: Google Trends (https://www.google.com/trends)

The challenge’s success can of course also be attributed in part to social distancing and self-isolation.

The challenge encourages social media users to get dressed up and show off their swag. With everyone cooped up inside and missing out on nights out, the challenge allows us escapism through glamour and a positive sense of narcissism.

Megan’s “Savage” and Doja Cat’s “Say So” have both received A-List remixes from the likes of Beyoncé and Nicki Minaj respectively.

Both tracks have received new leases of life following their time doing the rounds on TikTok and the remixes are set to take the tracks to new heights.

Drake’s latest single “Toosie Slide” is, of course, an example of this. The main difference though is that Drake’s “Toosie Slide” is a direct product of TikTok culture.

The Canadian superstar has already had his fair share of accidental viral content thanks to “Hotline Bling”, Shiggy’s help on “In My Feelings” and of course the #fliptheswitch challenge but “Toosie Slide” was different as it was deliberately created to adhere to viral culture.

Viral tracks need tongue in cheek imagery, a dance challenge and catchy lyrics.

“Toosie Slide” ticks all of these boxes and the formula worked. The track topped the charts in several countries and the challenge broke records by achieving 2 billion views on the #ToosieSlide hashtag in just under two days.

The power of TikTok is undeniable and it is clear that many of today’s chart hits can thank their success in part to TikTok itself or its culture.

Triller is another app that relies on similar theatrics and music integration. Aside from videos of the beautiful Maya Jama jumping on beds abroad as she lip-syncs to her favourite songs, your favourite artists can also be found on the platform promoting their tracks in fun and intimate ways.

Take Ramz for example who famously got a feline fan involved as he teased new music on the platform.

Social media has always been integral to the marketing of music but platforms like TikTok and Instagram are making this more important than ever.

Perhaps this trend of tracks blowing up and receiving accolades months past their release in the style of “Don’t Rush” and “Lottery (Renegade)” may become more common, or we might see more tracks like “Toosie Slide” which are created to adhere to social culture.

Whichever occurs, the power of TikTok is one that everyone in music needs to pay attention to.