As a catalogue owner, it’s your job to maximise every single track in your back catalogue. TikTok users aren’t just looking for the latest mumble rap hits, they are looking for storytelling opportunities, and using older tracks is a fantastic way for creators to stand out while reinvigorating well-loved songs.
When a throwback hit spikes in popularity this can spawn popular remixes and further success. For example, the Bee Gees’ “More Than A Woman” was remixed by artist SG Lewis, while Boney M’s 1978 quirky pop hit “Rasputin” was remixed by UK producer Majestic.
If you’re wondering where to focus your attention, here’s some guidance based on our AI analysis of TikTok’s biggest vintage tracks of 2021.
We looked at TikTok’s list of top throwback tracks in the US from 2021. These were split into two categories. Tracks released more than 25 years ago are categorised by TikTok as ‘Classics’ and those released between five and 25 years ago are ‘Comeback’ tracks.
Keep it positive
In line with our previous TikTok analyses, mood valence for the top 10 Comeback and Classic tracks of 2021 was an overwhelming 96 per cent positive. The remaining four per cent was neutral. Essentially, the likelihood of a track with negative mood valence blowing up is very unlikely based on current trends, so focus your attention on uplifting tracks.
Another stark – if not entirely surprising – insight is that 19 out of the top 20 tracks had a vocal. The key exception here was “The Hustle” by Von McCoy. So, while an instrumental can become one of the most viral vintage tunes on TikTok, it needs to have a solid hook and high levels of recognition. It also helps if it can be associated with a filter-based challenge, such as the Photo Crop challenge, which “The Hustle” scored.
Energy and mood
Energy in Musiio’s vocabulary measures how many instruments are playing and the complexity of the material. For these throwback tracks, the most common value was Medium (at 85 per cent). Tracks that tend to perform well don’t tend to have lots of highly complex musical elements. This could be so the audio doesn’t stand out too much when a user is scrolling.
For mood, we split the data into Comebacks and Classics. For the Comeback tracks, romantic, powerful and energetic mood tags come out on top, accounting for 70 per cent. Even though a song’s lyrics might not necessarily match, these AI-categorised moods for tracks from this era may have a higher chance of performing well.
Based on the 10 most popular Classic tracks, we can see that the most popular moods are happy, relaxed and exciting, accounting for nearly 80 per cent of all mood tags. Tracks with these attributes may have the best chance of finding a useful placement with influencers.
Genres to look out for
Top-performing throwback hits have a vastly different genre make-up than TikTok hits more generally. We’ve consistently seen hip hop coming out as the most popular genre on the video creation platform, but that’s not true for throwbacks.
Among Comeback tracks, pop and contemporary pop dominated, accounting for 35 per cent of total tags combined. Meanwhile, R&B made up 14 per cent. Because we can tag tracks with multiple genres using the Musiio tech, a search for R&B in the top 10 would return five results.
Looking deeper into the archive, genres for Classic tracks are primarily soul and early soul (24 per cent combined), with disco showing at a disproportionately high 18 per cent. Among Classic tracks, hip hop made up only nine per cent.
Tying up with trends
Our analysis of these 20 tracks reveals that only six correlate with dance challenges. However, for those dance-linked tracks, Classics have tempos ranging from 105 to 150 BPM. The tempo variance was smaller for our Comeback tracks, at only 100-128 BPM. If you’re partnering with an influencer who is known for dancing, limit the tempo ranges.
With Musiio’s tag technology, you can add or exclude the criteria above to filter tracks and create a shortlist with the most desirable traits.
From there, though, lyrics are critical. Although our AI-powered tech doesn’t recognise words, lyrical themes can make the difference between tremendous TikTok success and getting only a half-dozen sympathy views.
Prescriptive or image-laden lyrics can work well to describe a dance routine. That’s how Billy Joel’s “Zanzibar” gained prominence with its vivid description: “She’s gonna pull the curtains down for me / I’ve got the old man’s car / I’ve got a jazz guitar / I’ve got a tab at Zanzibar.”
Lyrics that describe the traits of a person are also prime TikTok fodder. “Rasputin” is a case in point; “He was big and strong, in his eyes a flaming glow” lets the TikToker portray themselves as the big, strong central character in the song.
Equally, in 2022, “Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)” by Edison Lighthouse (1971) found fame again by perfectly soundtracking whimsical, feminine photo montages with its lyrics: “She ain’t got no money / Her clothes are kinda funny / Her hair is kinda wild and free”.
Ultimately, filtering using Musiio’s AI-powered tags works best in this context when paired with lyrical analysis. It might be the best chance for labels and other catalogue owners to make the most from their catalogue deep cuts.
Prepping for TikTok with AI
Once you’ve decided which tracks have the highest potential for TikTok success, you still need to figure out which sections to upload.
You can do this manually, or there’s our Segment Selection tool which automatically selects the best sections and outputs timecodes at scale.
We’ve trained the AI behind the tool using segments of songs that have performed well on TikTok, so it can find segments with similarly high potential in your chosen songs. While exporting segments might take a person a few minutes, the Segment Selection tool can process millions in a day.
That leaves you with more time to fine-tune selections to give influencers the best chance of creating viral videos with your music or placing high potential tracks with appropriate remixers.