How TikTok is reinvigorating music
TikTok, the incredibly popular social-video sharing app loved by teens and loathed by the Trump Administration, is ultimately revolutionizing and redesigning music streaming amongst millennials.
Outdated tracks, such as Mariah Carey’s “Obsessed“ and the theme song of Nickelodeon’s formerly popular television series “True Jackson VP,” have been brought back to life through dance challenges, lip syncing and eye catching filters.
Newly released tracks, including Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s controversial yet highly streamed WAP, as well as Megan Thee Stallion’s Savage, have not only topped the music charts for weeks but filtered their way into most TikTok users’ experience.
One aspect of music and audio sharing which sets TikTok apart from other popular streaming services, such as Spotify, is the fact that anyone can create an account and instantly begin scrolling through hours of fresh content.
Spotify users typically go through a multi-step process inclusive of asking oneself “what do I want to listen to right now?” followed by searching an artist, song, genre, podcast, or playlist, and then listening.
However, TikTok is both appealing and addictive because users are not required to search for content — it is simply presented to them on the endless “For You” page.
Just as Instagram and Spotify utilize specific algorithmic recommendations to enhance user experience, TikTok’s “For You” page serves as a compilation of suggestions from past videos the user has interacted with. Many users often poke fun at TikTok’s algorithm for subscribing them content which feels too specific; yet, this is simply how the app keeps users mindlessly scrolling for hours upon hours.
Users begin to fall into different communities or ‘sides’ of the app depending on what they interact with most. The two major ‘sides’ of TikTok include “Straight TikTok” where many dances and mainstream trends are popularized and “Alt TikTok” which prides itself upon sharing original, eclectic content.
In terms of music streaming, many songs are born into the app via “Straight TikTok” yet ultimately spread to a massive array of users. While a snippet of a song may become popular in a certain context, various content creators may twist the original track for other senses of humor.
Beyond a rise to fame, many songs have seemingly found their true voice through the app. Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s “WAP” was consistently criticized since its release in early August, however many of the 500 million users of TikTok praised the feminist anthem. The track has become a theme song for embracing womanhood and sexuality through dance challenges and millions of audio shares.
“WAP” has embedded itself in the culture of TikTok, specifically after a dance routine choreographed by Brian Eperson, a dancer from Guam, who has been featured on the Instagram story of Cardi B herself, went viral. Both this sound and dance has reached every user’s “For You” page, as just the tag ‘#wap’ has well over 6 billion views.
Looking beyond the user-specific, highly browsable “For You” page, TikTok attracts participants to particular sounds through internal playlists and suggested tracks which are presented to creators when constructing a video.
Just as Spotify utilizes banner ads when marketing newly released albums, TikTok presents similar ads in order to highlight popular sounds. These advertisements not only notify creators of a new sound in the app’s library, but provide a direct link to content creators for easy access. Upon release of “WAP,” as well as Eperson’s dance, TikTok created a hashtag campaign — #wap — signalling the trend was worth hopping on to, especially if going viral was the creators goal.
While this image of TikTok as cringier, immature comedy for young teens exists, many artists have learned that fame, or hitting #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, may just be fifteen seconds away. Music streaming success lies within younger generations and this platform specifically focuses on content sharing among younger audiences, gifting space for new, fun tracks to truly take-off.
Here are some tracks which have found a completely new life through TikTok.