15 Seconds of Fame: How TikTok Is Reshaping the Music Industry

In October 2020, millions of TikTok viewers watched as a skateboarding man named Nathan Apodaca wistfully lip-synched the Fleetwood Mac hit, “Dreams.” In no time, the 43-year-old song vaulted back onto Rolling Stone’s Top 100 while the band reported its best-ever week in streaming.

How did this whimsically-named social media app become such a point of influence? Here’s a look at TikTok and how it’s reshaping the music industry.

What Is TikTok?

Launched only six years ago by Chinese start-up ByteDance, TikTok hit the big time in 2017 when it acquired rival app and its account list of 200 million users. With its worth estimated at $50 billion, TikTok is considered the most valuable startup in the world.

TikTok’s function is simple and addictive. Users can create, watch, and share short videos shot on cellphones. Available length started out at only 15 seconds, then expanded to 60 seconds, and is now up to three minutes long.

Creators can personalize their content with TikTok’s assortment of filters, background music, sound effects, and stickers. People can even collaborate and make split-screen duets without being in the same location.

TikTok and Its Effect on the Music Industry

While platforms such as Facebook and Instagram connect with a broad spectrum of age groups, TikTok captures the always desirable younger demographic. Approximately 60 percent of the U.S. audience is between the ages of 16 and 24.

With those numbers, it’s not surprising that the music industry has capitalized on the massive marketing potential of TikTok. Here are some ways the platform has had a major effect:

  • TikTok is changing consumer habits. Spotify and other streaming services use algorithms based on what you’re already listening to. With TikTok, consumers will listen to songs that go viral, so they’re open to a much wider range of product. 
  • Just as YouTube and Instagram have created social media celebrities known as influencers, TikTok has its own influencers who play a major role in promoting songs. There are even influencer agencies who will create an entire campaign aimed at building your brand. 
  • Listening to music has traditionally been considered a passive activity. TikTok flips the script by making it interactive thanks to the user’s ability to make their own videos, which creates a deeper level of engagement. 
  • Yes, older songs can find new life on TikTok, but the platform is relatively democratic, providing equal opportunity for all. Independent artists are free to upload and promote their own songs and videos, without the backing of a record label. According to a survey by TikTok, 75 percent of their users discover new music primarily on this platform.

TikTok Success Stories

  • Lil Nas X has become the textbook example of musical success via TikTok. As a 19-year-old college dropout sleeping on the floor of his sister’s house, Lil Nas X bought a $30 beat and created the country-rap hybrid, “Old Town Road.” TikTok creators used the song as background for videos where they donned Western gear, and “Old Town Road” ended up as the most popular song of 2019. 
  • Over two days in 2021, Justin Bieber gave the first full-length single-artist live performance on TikTok, drawing more than 4 million unique viewers.   
  • “Not Your Barbie Girl,” a minor song by singer-songwriter Ava Max, exploded when women started using it as backdrop for Barbie-themed videos. When Ava’s song, “Sweet but Psycho,” had even more success, it ultimately picked up 550 million streams on Spotify.



Professional and Cost-Effective Recording Services

Is your music TikTok-ready? Contact us to learn about the comprehensive selection of services available at Clear Lake Recording Studios.