Whether you crunch your nose in apprehension or are already a TikTok addict, one cannot deny the powerful influence this relatively new player has on the music industry. In three short years, TikTok has amassed 800 million active users - 150 million of which are in China and called by another name Douyin. It took Instagram six years to get to the same amount of active users on Tiktok now, and four years for Facebook.
TikTok: An Amalgamation of Social Media Up Till Now
The beauty of TikTok is in two main things: the content and how it is being distributed.
With content, ‘Sounds’ is the core of the experience. Sounds are 15s to 60s clips of audio, ranging from music to tv shows to conversation clips, that are overlaid on top of your TikTok video. These sounds can be used in many different ways such as video montages, comedic vine-like videos, short baking/beauty/crafting videos or to start another TikTok dance challenge.
A ‘sound’ starts to go viral usually because a TikToker would shoot a short video with a repeatable format (like a dance or joke) so that others may create their own versions. What ends up happening is that a large bulk of the popular videos on TikTok are people doing the exact same thing, and over time these formats change as TikTok trends evolve.
“Up until now everyone on social media has strived to create unique content, so your newsfeed may have different content coming from people you follow. But on TikTok everyone is making the same content. It’s almost like living in a world where you get to see what everyone would look like if they all posted the same thing. Like your favorite TV show with a different cast. It’s weird. It’s super weird. But it’s also strangely addictive.” - Matt Schlicht, The Complete Beginner’s Guide to Tik Tok
Apart from the large array of content, TikTok uses AI to determine precisely just how good your video is based on the level of the engagement it gets. When you upload a video, TikTok shows the video to a handful of TikTok users. Your video will be shown in between strings of popular videos, so the user does not get bored (e.g. popular video, popular video, your video, and then back to popular videos). Because the focus is solely on content, you can download TikTok today, upload a clip, not tell a soul about it, and still get a viral video when you wake up the next day. Now everyone has a shot at having their 15 seconds of internet fame, and all that matters is how good your video is. No existing follower base needed.
Current Hits Aren’t Everything
How many times have a song popped into your head because its lyrics match exactly with your current life scenario? These would have been the perfect moments for TikTok. An example: A friend could film me while I dramatically push cafe doors open and walk out in full swagger; flat white in hand, pair of shades resting on face. Fergie’s ‘Glamorous’ is playing in the video with the caption “second $6 coffee of the day”. You see, to use sounds effectively, one has to ask: “How do I pair the perfect audio to what I’m about to say?” Think of it as an audio emoji that enhances your message.
You can see how this changes the Discovery game. While current hits still trend on TikTok, it isn’t always the case. Hits of the past and lesser-known songs have become resurgent either due to their relatable lyrics or infectious beat. For example, Christina Perri’s 2013, “I’m Only Human” is often synced to dramatized reenactment of people failing at something. Before Lil Nas X’s ‘Old Town Road’ held the title of longest-reigning Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 in history, it first went viral on TikTok. The song was used to show users sipping “Yee Yee Juice” before changing into old western outfits when the beat drops. Independent artists like Arizona Zervas and Sueco the Child earned deals with recording labels after striking the TikTok viral jackpot.
Which begs the question: are there patterns amongst famous TikTok songs, which can help us craft the next “Renegade”?
We took the top 120 songs based on TikTok’s ‘TikTok Trending’ playlist on 18 May 2020 and ran it through our tagging data. This is what we found:
- Popular TikTok songs can come from many genres, but Hip Hop makes up a staggering 50%. Pop comes second at 17.5%.
- Majority of the songs lie within 2 groups, in the lower range of 60 to 80 bpm, or midrange of 105 to 130 bpm. Perhaps high tempo songs are harder to dance to?
- When crafting the next viral TikTok sensation, it might be worth it to channel a Powerful, Energetic and Quirky mood. Avoid negative moods such as Sadness (2.6%), Neutral (1.7%) or Scary (0.7%).
Do these insights surprise you? Or do they confirm what you already know? As this Zoomer-heavy platform continues to grow and entice more Millennials and Boomers, we can expect TikTok to change the discovery game more than it already has. We continue to keep our ears peeled.
We’re big fans of technologies that move the music industry forward. TikTok is reshaping the music discovery experience through a mix of AI and user behavior. If you’re curious about how AI changes the music experience, you can play around with our Musiio App to tag and search through your catalogue and streamline playlisting. Write to us at email@example.com to find out more.