From TikTok to the charts: How the app is changing music forever

Kira O’Boyle

TikTok is one of the most popular social media platforms of 2023 and it has great influence over so many elements of popular culture, including the music charts. Impact’s Kira O’Boyle gives us a rundown on the impact TikTok has on the music industry as well as examples of viral hits that have climbed the charts due to their success on the mobile app.

After Kate Bush’s Running Up That Hill re-entered the music world by storm in 2022 at the hands of TikTok, I was alarmed to see the amount of people referring to it as “that TikTok song”. Whilst this does not seem to appear as a crediting label for a music classic, falling into the “TikTok song” category highlights great success for a song in the current music industry. With a current 1.5 billion users worldwide in 2023, TikTok has become a powerful tool for effective music marketing in the digital realm, where the artists can rely on user-generated content on the app to create trends and videos using their music, circulating them into success. So just exactly how has TikTok done this?

2021 statistics claim that a huge 67% of TikTok users search for songs from certain trends and content on the app, on other music platforms, driving streams and downloads, having a large influence on the music charts. In 2022, singer and song-writer Raye went viral on the app with her song Escapism, featuring 070 Shake, after paving her way through the music industry as a newly established independent artist and departing from her old record label. TikTok users fled to the app to share their own heartbreak content using a multitude of different slow and fast edits of the song. As a result of the TikTok’s promotion, Raye found herself with her very first number one in the UK official charts as well as charting in the top 40 of the Billboard Global 200.  

Going viral appears to be the new key way on reaching chart triumph, where songs have been used on the app as a means to indulge in popular cultures and trends

Raye is not the only example where going viral on TikTok has led to chart-topping success, in 2022, TikTok reported that 10 out of 12 number ones in the UK Official Singles Chart had gone viral on the app on their release, as well as 13 out of 14 number ones on the Billboard Hot 100 also being successful due to a circulation of trends created on TikTok.  Going viral appears to be the new key way on reaching chart triumph, where songs have been used on the app as a means to indulge in popular cultures and trends, as well as being a tool for creativity and fun within the app.  After his release of As It Was in 2022, Harry Styles found himself in top position in the charts after a wholesome trend circulated on TikTok. Users created videos showcasing pictures of themselves with friends or family for every year they had known each other, to show that “you know it’s not the same as it was”.

TikTok is continuing to be a prime source of musical consumption. Currently, Troye Sivan’s recently released single, One Of Your Girls, is sitting in the top 20 of the Official Charts, after a snippet of the music video which sees Sivan transform into a drag queen, alter-ego has gone viral on TikTok. Fans have generated over 50,000 TikToks to the song and it appears to have had a triumphant effect on his chart positioning. Cruel Summer by Taylor Swift is also currently at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 3 on the Official Singles Charts despite being released in 2019. However, videos of Swift’s current Era’s Tour has teased fans with explosive and emotional live snippets of the song, reviving it back into the charts.

TikTok’s power to drive musical streams of the old and the new has always been there, however continues to grow at a rapid rate

It is not just the songs of present pop idols and artists that are being resurrected back into the charts via TikTok, the social media platform has seen old classics from decades ago making a reappearance in our chart music. Through the hit Netflix series Stranger Things, fans took Kate Bush’s Running Up That Hill, from the soundtrack into their own TikTok edits of the show, which meant that the song finally got to Number one after 37 years, in 2022. Fleetwood Mac also gained a number one title in late 2020 with their song Dreams after a skateboarding video emerged on the app using the song. TikTok’s power to drive musical streams of the old and the new has always been there, however continues to grow at a rapid rate.

However, is TikTok’s influence on the music charts excluding a different demographic of music listeners? With artists and musicians seeing just how powerful the app is in providing a global reach for their music, they are aware that their music needs to please and satisfy a certain type of audience. The nature of TikTok is to provide short bursts of content to keep the user scrolling and engaged, thus artists are shaping their musical releases to tease users with short snippets. Adele has been open about her criticism of making music for TikTok. In her interview on Apple Music, she has said “if everyone is making music for the TikTok, who is making music for my generation?”. With the younger generation predominantly engaging with TikTok, they have a lot of power to choose which songs are streamed and which ultimately end up in the charts beyond TikTok.  Non-users of the app are feeling unrepresented and ignored in the music charts, where music is now largely TikTok-centred.

TikTok’s influence shows no sign of slowing down any time soon. The app has become the most popular way for musicians and artists to market their music and is changing the music industry as it continues to grow in popularity. Becoming a chart-topping music star no longer relies on the likes of music labels and promoters, rather going viral on TikTok appears to be the most efficient path to success. Who knew that a social media platform would change the music industry forever?

Kira O’Boyle 

Featured image courtesy of Solen Feyissa via Unsplash. Image license found here. No changes made to this image.

In-article images and video courtesy of @tiktok via instagram.com. No changes made to these images.

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