What is Tik Tok?

Tik Tok is a social media platform and video sharing app that lets you create or share 15 second, 30 second, and 60 second videos. These videos can be set to music, “sounds,” or just your own audio. To navigate Tik Tok you scroll up and down on the vertical videos in your feed that are meant to fit your phone screen. In the app, your feed is called a “For You Page.” This FYP is specifically catered to videos you have watched and liked. Tik Tok has really taken the world by storm. Looking at the app store today on my iPhone, you can’t miss Tik Tok. This app is the first app recognized on the “Top Free Apps of 2021” and ranked second on the App Store’s Top Chart right after YouTube.

“Video creators have all sorts of tools at their disposal: filters as on Snapchat (and later, everyone else); the ability to search for sounds to score your video. Users are also strongly encouraged to engage with other users, through “response” videos or by means of “duets” — users can duplicate videos and add themselves alongside” (Herman 2019).

Tik Tok is probably best known for its dances. Tik Tok dances are dances with specific movement that people choreograph to popular music. What’s really cool about using songs on Tik Tok is that anyone who views your video can see which song your using, whether it was created by a fellow Tik Tok user or by a known musical artist. This is what really opens the doors for up-and-coming musicians who haven’t had music discovered yet. Same with underground artists, this was an easy way for their music to be heard more regularly. If you wrote a song and someone used it for a Tik Tok dance that went viral, the song would also go viral.

The original Tik Tok dances that really paved the way for the viral Tik Tok dances of today was “The Renegade” and “Savage.” The song Savage by Megan Thee Stallion and Lottery (Renegade) by K Camp. These two dances really started what we know today as “Tik Tok Trends.”

Quarantine Trends

To understand how Tik Tok is impacting the music industry today, I think it is really important to note how Tik Tok became powerful enough to affect any industry. Tik Tok really blew up during the pandemic lockdown in 2020, this is what we call the “quarantine era of Tik Tok.” I personally was on Tik Tok during this time, so I got to witness and partake in the Tik Tok trends of quarantine.

Before we get into what was trending during quarantine, let’s breakdown what a “Tik Tok Trend” really is.

I described a Tik Tok trend to my baby boomer father as almost like a meme he might see on Facebook, but put it to a specific song and make it a video instead of a picture with words on it. Somehow, he understood this logic.

Dances, Banana Bread, Bored in The House in The House Bored, Amazon Favorites, Family Walks, Tiger King…. Is any of this taking you back to March 2020?... These were just a few of the things that completely took over everyone’s For You Page during The Pandemic.

This was the start of users creating music that went viral. Curtis Roach is the creator of the infamous “Bored in the house…” sound on Tik Tok. Curtis sat at his kitchen table in March 2020, set up his video, made a beat with his hand, told us he was bored in his house, and then posted it. The video’s original sound has over 3 million videos made to it. That means that 3 million other people listened to Curtis Roach’s sound, and then used it in their own video… Overnight Curtis Roach became a known musical artist. His song was not only seen by millions of everyday Tik Tok users but also celebrities. Musical artisit, Tyga, heard this viral song and made a collaboration with Curtis Roach. Roach now sits at 2 million followers on Tik Tok and has released his own music album.

You can find the almost exact same story with another Tik Tok creator named Jake Miller. During quarantine there was a joke circulating social media about everyone being so bored in their homes, parents would ask the other members of their family to go on family walks.

I was a personal victim of the quarantine family walks

We even tried to get the animals in on the walking action....

Well, Jake Miller took this joke and made it into a very catchy song. In his video he includes his whole family, his disdain for the walks, he also mentions some other quarantine struggles everyone went through during this time. After his Tik Tok blew up, his sound did as well. The story from here is the same as Curtis Roach’s. Jake Miller also now has a music album released all because his silly song went viral.

Music Industry

We’ve talked about how easy it was to randomly go viral and create a song everyone loves, but now we need to talk about the effect of how easy it was.

“The [music] industry's attention on TikTok isn't unfounded. Songs that trend on TikTok often end up charting on the Billboard 100 or Spotify Viral 50. And 67% of the app's users are more likely to seek out songs on music-streaming services after hearing them on TikTok” (Whateley 2021).

“TikTok presents a perfect platform for unknown, aspiring musicians and songwriters. Musicians can post videos of themselves singing covers of popular songs, and each post has a possibility of going viral if it receives enough engagement. In addition, composers can post their original songs through TikTok to get attention, rather than releasing songs traditionally through a record label. TikTok is the ideal platform for hopeful musicians to quickly and easily get their names out in the open” (Magaud 2021)

Many unknown music artists are constantly trying to put their music out on Tik Tok in hopes of catching their big break and going viral. "Music marketing on TikTok is huge," Jesse Callahan, founder of the upstart marketing firm Montford Agency, told Insider. "It's a big way that labels have brought artists into the spotlight the last couple of years. It's also a big way that creators have made a lot of money” (Whateley 2021).

You can see the direct impact Tik Tok has had on the music industry if you take a look at this year’s Grammy nominations. “The fact that so many of the major category nominees were TikTok famous is a testament to how much the app is becoming a reflection of pop culture” (Haasch 2021). Seven out of nine of the nominated “Song of the Year” candidates were hits on Tik Tok. “While many of the nominees sparked distinct trends, others became popular more generally on the app. Doja Cat and SZA's "Kiss Me More,"one of the best songs on Doja Cat's album "Planet Her"(also nominated), was one of Tik Tok's biggest hits of 2021” (Haasch 2021). Even a Tik Tok creator who created an arrangement of the Beatles’ song “Eleanor Rigby,” was nominated for a Grammy under the Best Arrangement category.