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Day to Night to Morning: What’s TikTok Doing to Music?

Words by Luna Zabala and Cyrene Roque

Art by Cyrene Roque

What do Megan Thee Stallion, Doja Cat, and Lil Nas X have in common? One word: TikTok. These music giants got their big breaks thanks to the Chinese-owned app that allows its users to upload three-minute-long videos of themselves doing just about anything: drawing fanart, cleaning swimming pools, making ice cream sundaes, sewing dresses, and of course, dancing. It’s an avenue to share our daily lives and interests in the pandemic-safe bubble of our own homes. But at the background of every trending video is music – ensuring that even virtually unknown tunes have a chance of blowing up alongside the TikToks they accompany. Meg, Doja, and Nas are a testament to this power.

TikTok is music’s next big thing, and it’s slowly shaping the industry one hit at a time. If you’re still skeptical, hit the pause button on Castaways real quick and we’ll tell you why.


Why TikTok?

As an app, TikTok stands out from its competitors Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube due to its specialized algorithm. While the latter three also tailor content to the user’s habits, they rely on your search terms and followed accounts. TikTok, however, takes personalization to a whole new level: it observes how long you watch a video before swiping away, the number of times you’ve let a video loop, if you check out the original poster’s account, and a myriad of other parameters which exist to breathe life into your For You Page, or FYP for short (Forbes 2021). Kinda crazy, right?

In a nutshell, this algorithm sees you. Because of this, even less-viewed TikToks can wash up on your FYP as long as it aligns with your interests, no matter how niche they seem. Even smaller content creators can make it big and take their background music with them on their 15 seconds of fame.

TikTok’s editing interface also lends itself to music discovery. While editing a video, the app suggests pre-made and pre-uploaded audio as background music or dialogue to lip-sync. Just looking for the right song to fit a video’s vibe could lead a user to discover a budding artist. In a recent music perceptions study conducted by MRC Data, it was revealed that a whopping 75% of TikTok users discover new artists on the app, while 63% say they use TikTok as a music resource, similar to Spotify (Haulix 2021). This equates to more than half of its user base utilizing TikTok as a way to actively look for fresh, trendy talent.

Music, then, is easily transmittable throughout the app and even beyond it, thanks to its algorithm and its dedicated users–with emphasis on its users (because, obviously, the alg