A 20-year-old rapper, singer-songwriter, a college dropout, sleeping on his sister’s floor. A 20-year old rapper, singer-songwriter, with his song as No. 1 on the Billboard Top 100 Charts for 19 weeks. Two scenarios, one rapper, Montero Lamar Hill aka Lil Nas X.
The artist displayed the popularity of cowboy culture online through his country-trap song Old Town Road via memes on Twitter and Instagram. After several months, TikTok was flooded with creators due to the song’s Wild West imagery. It attracted young users and inspired them to make a 15-second video challenge called #YeeHaw where they transformed to wranglers and/or cowgirls.
The two marketing trends that stood out contributed to the independent artist getting signed in 15 days after he released his first song. Also, the traction it saw was purely organic.
The rise of Lil Nas X represents a larger phenomenon that exists in the digital space. A song reaching the audience to the level of being contagious is currently the best form of popularity.
In May 2019, the original video for Old Town Road original was released. As of July, the song had 200 million views. Nas released his debut EP on June 21, 2019, landing directly at No.2 on the Billboard 200 chart.
A week after Lil Nas X was signed to Columbia Records, the song broke Drake’s record for the most U.S. streams with 143 million streams. Drake’s In My Feelings had 116.2 million streams in one week in July 2018. In My Feelings too was a very popular trend on TikTok, where the challenge was to dance to the song by getting out of a moving vehicle onto the street.
The new age A&R machinery- TikTok
The juxtaposition of music on a content-driven platform marks a bizarre recipe of success today. What TikTok is doing for artists is using other people to make content for them. The massive strength the users have to make a song viral takes place without any augmentation or forced viewership on the app.
Sueco the Child, a 22-year-old, was No. 1 on Spotify’s Global and U.S. Viral charts due to his song Fast going viral on TikTok in April. It featured in more than 2.7 million clips on the app. The video creation helped the song get 7.4 million plays on Spotify and 3.1 million views on YouTube so far. His fame on TikTok cracked him a deal with Atlantic Records.
Sueco’s moment of eureka happened in April this year when he watched Lil Nas X vault to overnight success with Old Town Road through the challenge-driven social media platform TikTok. No sooner the video was on the platform than, thousands of followers and TikTok influencers lifted the track, using the first bass-heavy 15 seconds of the song as the backdrop for lip-syncing with loose choreography and other effects the app provides.
Close to four months now, the song has been used in more than 3.2 million TikTok videos and streamed on Spotify more than 16 million times. By then more the artist, it was the song that was going viral.
Supa Dupa Humble is another name who rose to fame through TikTok. A 27-year-old DJ turned rapper, released his song called Steppin’ to a disappointing audience. However, a year later he noticed the comment section on YouTube being flooded with “TikTok brought me here” comments. Obviously, the views on his songs had undeniably increased.
His music had formed the soundtrack to a viral meme, thereby boosting views on his song. And as TikTok users found the song on OTTs, the numbers on Spotify and other streaming platforms shot up too.
How is TikTok working for artists in India?
In April 2019, the High Court of Chennai banned Tik Tok which at that time had 120 million Monthly Active Users (MAUs). This ban pushed the company through a setback of $500,000 daily and risked jobs of approximately 250 personnel.
Although the app returned two weeks later, data piracy and user safety mechanisms were discerning. Despite the imposition and uplifting of bans, TikTok has a great fandom amongst users, especially in Tier II and III cities. The stunts performed involve a tiresome process to make videos stand-out. Nonetheless, the fandom does not limit there. The duress due to massive competition toughens for every user believes TikTok is their one shot to fame.
TikTok has acted as a catalyst for musicians by leveraging the songs. A song on TikTok increases the viewership/listenership on platforms they are available on.
In 2018, The Doorbeen hit, Lamberghini became an anthem for “Tik-Tokers.” So much so, the comment section on YouTube had most viewers acknowledging how TikTok encouraged them to listen to the original song. Obviously, TikTok acted like an influencer without influencing anyone. Thus, the reaction the app brings forth is inevitable. Currently, Lamberghini has 299 million views on YouTube while 98 million hashtags were used on TikTok. Naturally, the coexistence of these platforms has cognitively helped one another in garnering and boosting revenue.
Here is a compilation of celebrities and TikTok influencers following the Lamberghini challenge
Similarly, TikTok’s way to build user-engagement is through continuous challenges and trends. These trends have worked successfully thereby, bringing celebrities to indulge in. For users that just limits to building a connection with the artist while the traffic keeps on increasing for every music consumed.
#MyTikTokStory, one of the trends, included a variety of videos where users indulged in activities beyond lip-syncing and mainly using various songs. The hashtag has 1.6 billion users as of today. Similarly, #SwagStepChallenge, initiated by Pepsi had Badshah to sing for the slogan. Badshah’s voice was an immediate cause of interaction for users to dance to. Also, today 21.4 billion users of the challenge have already been tried, meaning the numbers for the streams innately went up too.
Amongst popular artists, Neha Kakkar and Tony Kakkar are household names for “TikTok-ers”
Neha Kakkar is often seen dancing or lip-syncing to popular songs either of herself or other artists. Her fan-base on TikTok includes 10.3 million followers. Most of her videos on an average have a viewership of 1-2 million. Her song Aankh Marey on TikTok has 119.7 million users alone. Aankh Marey was undoubtedly a massive hit, the traction TikTok brings, however, cannot be neglected.
Similarly, Tony Kakkar’s songs have a massive following. Despite having 3 million followers on the app, his song includes challenges such as #LudoChallenge after his song, Ludo, which had 81.7 million users. His recent release, Dheeme Dheeme, came out with 1.1 billion users, highest so far. Coca-Cola, Tony’s original has 584.8 million users on TikTok. Coca-Cola’s uses on TikTok has a double effect due to the remake version which might have increased the remakes viewership too.
The siblings’ duo is seen making videos on TikTok with each other’s songs frequently. Here is her TikTok on Tony’s song, Dheeme Dheeme.
The more a song trends on TikTok, the more users try it to incorporate it on their own videos. Due to syncing rights the more the song is synced, the more revenue it generates. Synchronisation contributed to 6% of the revenue of the Indian music industry in FY19. Therefore, all the stakeholders involved in the royalty chain become recipients.
TikTok has now taken the shape of being more than just a content-driven platform.
TikTok’s punch of user-engagement has made the app a crucial conduit for discovering artists. However, the main question that arises is how does one define popularity for the videos they make? Also, with millions of followers watching, copying and competing, this app surely acts as a catalyst for songs and artists. The shelf-life of the content available is, however very short.
With smartphone penetration deepening in Tier II and III cities the most, this new audience will be the most adaptive and resorting to apps of popularity. Also, internet data being cheap, it becomes cost-effective while being user-integrating.