Big Catalog of Sounds Helps TikTok Disrupts Radio as We Know It

With its immense catalog of sounds that range from oldies to the most current hits, TikTok has become a driving force for music today. 

The app has become a go-to destination for discovering new music.  Songs that trend on TikTok often end up charting on the Billboard 100 or Spotify Viral 50. 

According to a study conducted for TikTok by the music-analytics company MRC Data, a staggering 67% of the app’s users are more likely to seek out songs on music-streaming services after hearing them on TikTok.

The social media platform crossed the 1 billion users mark this past August, which was around the same time the app announced a partnership with Ticketmaster to help users find and buy concert tickets right on the app. 

With the partnership, TikTok users will be able to buy tickets for events directly through TikTok and creators can now search for relevant Ticketmaster events and add destination links to their videos. 

According to Ticketmaster, the new feature will only be available to select creators at launch and will scale to more users. Eligible creators can select the “Add link” option after tapping and selecting the new Ticketmaster option before they post a video. 

Creators can then search for any event on Ticketmaster and then select “Add to video” to add the link. When the video is shared by creators, it will then display the event link on the bottom-left to allow viewers to click and purchase tickets via an in-app browser.

It was in May of this year that TikTok filed to trademark “TikTok Music” in countries including the U.S., New Zealand, and the U.K. Such a move indicates that parent company ByteDance may now be trying to compete with streaming giants like Spotify and Apple Music. 

But unlike streaming services like Apple Music or Spotify, TikTok users can take a more active and playful role interacting with music on the platform. This new modern culture is changing the way hits are made. 

“TikTok has really become a critical part of artist storytelling,” said Kristen Bender, SVP of digital strategy and business development at Universal Music Group. “Our labels have been extremely leaned into the platform.”

Miley Cyrus was preparing to release her single “Midnight Sky,” in the summer of 2020 when her team partnered with TikTok to schedule two private Zoom calls with around 15 creators to give them an early listen to the track.

“These creators are needed in the process,” said Olivia Rudensky to Insider. Rudensky is the founder and CEO of Fanmade, a marketing and fan engagement upstart that works on digital strategy with clients like Cyrus. According to her, TikTok users are “the audience that’s making or breaking music right now.”

Lil Nas X’s song Old Town Road has become one of the most successful songs of all time and was the first ever song to reach 15 times platinum. Much of this success can be credited to the song becoming an early TikTok “meme”, picked up by millions of users.

Artist Doja Cat also really became a known name due to TikTok. Her latest album, “Hot Pink”, has three songs that are commonly used on the app. 

It comes as no surprise that TikTok even has an internal music division dedicated to monitoring music trends on the app that is led by former Warner Music digital chief Ole Obermann. The company’s music team handles artist and record label relations, licensing deals, and newer products such as SoundOn and Resso.

While some artists have no issue collaborating with TikTok, some are feeling the pressure to balance social media and tours. Halsey and Charli XCX have both posted videos expressing frustration at being asked to make TikToks by their labels. 

“Tik-a-Tok-a-Who?”, was Adele’s response to her management’s suggestion to promote her music to younger audiences on Tiktok.  “If everyone’s making music for the TikTok, who’s making music for my generation?”, she asked.

Rising artist Taylor Upsahl has told Insider it can be “really stressful” to be expected to balance social promotion with touring and writing and recording new music. 

“TikTok has now become a whole other part of our job that takes up such a significant amount of time,” Upsahl said. “As artists, we’re all still in a transitional phase of like, ‘Okay, cool, how do we find time and energy to now be essentially content creators and influencers?'”

For artists who had hits decades ago, TikTok can be an absolute game changer in bringing their music back to the masses.  Songs can rise organically on the app even if they’ve been outside the mainstream for a long time.

Kate Bush’s song “Running Up That Hill” was given a whole new lease of life by the young fans who love the show “Stranger Things.” A thirty-second version of the song from the Netflix show had been posted and reposted on TikTok, gaining millions of views in just over a week. Kate Bush’s song has been used in over 500,000 short videos since.

What does this mean for radio? Do you ever turn on the radio and instantly recognize the song that’s playing? Chances are, that song’s big on TikTok. 

In 2020, TikTok claimed over 70 artists who first emerged on the platform had secured record deals and the Billboard charts now frequently feature songs that went viral. This makes sense as the Internet and social media are a big part of our world. If a song is trending online, the radio stations must play it.

Viral TikTok hits seem to be played on the radio pretty much because they’re viral. Streaming numbers on platforms, especially TikTok, are the first thing that networks look for when deciding which songs to choose for radio station sand Billboard charts.

As with other musical TikTok phenomena, the 1985 song “Running Up That Hill” became the biggest song in the world after being aired on radio stations again. It was No. 1 on the Billboard Global 200 chart.

TikTok is influencing the world of radio and music as we know it. The app has flipped the script on the music industry and now everyone from music artists, analysts, to even marketers are trying to catch up.