The TikTok timeline of a music artist

What happens when your track trends on the platform?

By Nana Frimpong

Monday, 31st of January 2022

TikTok has become the place to be when discovering new artists. 

Music is vital to the short-form video app, and the peak of the pandemic showed us just how big of a presence it is on the platform. This is evident by how many viral or trending tracks featured on the app have then been featured in music charts and on mainstream radio.

It’s no secret that the platform has become a haven for artists to preview their latest single, and for up-and-coming singer-songwriters to show off their talents in the hopes of being picked up as a trending track. But what happens when an unknown artist’s song goes viral?

A lot of the time, if your song takes off on TikTok then it will be because there is a challenge attached to it, whether it is a dance routine or as the backing track to a story. After hearing a track repeatedly, users will go on to wonder who the artist is who made the song and where they can stream more of their music. The app also allows users and other artists to duet, remix or collaborate by putting their own spin on the song. Singer songwriter Stacey Ryan is a great example of an artist collaborating/duetting with others on the app to create an amazing musical experience for all. 

DIY music artist and student Pink Pantheress saw her music go viral on TikTok, with her song just for me inspiring dance routines. Even UK Drill artist Central Cee jumped on a sample of the track. Pink Pantheress has since signed with Parlophone Records and recently won BBC Radio 1’s Sound of 2022, making her an artist to watch out for this year. She continues to use TikTok to preview samples for users on the platform before going on to write and record a song.

Tai Verdes is another artist whose songs have gone viral on the app. Tai was working in a phone shop when he recorded his viral hit song stuck in the middle. When he posted it to TikTok, it blew up with more than 2.3 million people using the song as a soundtrack to their own content. He has since worked to turn viral success into a sustainable career which has seen him soar in US charts, release an album, and tour around the States.

It is fair to say that TikTok has become an essential tool for music artists, as well as a place for labels and listeners to discover new music. 

The Fifth’s ​​Commercial Partnerships Manager for Music Jonnie Owen says “TikTok helps break songs and emerging artists, creating ripples within an artist’s entire ecosystem driving engagement on social platforms, streams on DSP’s (Spotify, Apple, etc), seeing more people at gigs, and opens up opportunities for live streaming and e-commerce.”

Going viral on the platform has many benefits for an artist and it’s important for them to learn ways they can utilise the beneficial aspects of having a viral hit song. Jonnie says “Brands are leaning into the platform, and artists should look to having their new track used in sync placement for brand campaigns that can help create incremental revenue, rack up streams and cast the net further in growing an audience through association”.

Once a song does pick up traction, there often comes the opportunity for an artist to choose whether to sign with a label or remain as an independent artist. Whilst some might think a label might not truly represent the artist and their art, and simply be beneficial for monetary purposes, many believe the connections provided from labels support them to grow and build themselves up as a global artist.

For many up-and-coming musicians, there are lots of tools and services available to them which allows them to work as an independent artist. With complete control of their music, they can easily utilise social media platforms like TikTok, label services such as Tunecore and/or Distrokid, DSPs, live streaming services, e-commerce and even the metaverse to launch and maintain their music career.

A report in 2020 by UK-based MIDIA Research identified that, ‘the ‘artist direct’ sector (i.e. self-releasing acts using services like Amuse, TuneCore, CD Baby and Ditto) generated an estimated $821m globally in 2019”  displaying a large growth in this area and a radical shift away from the traditional label model.

Jonnie says “When used in an effective way, these tools and services can provide an artist with more options. A track record of DIY success can put an artist in a very strategic position i.e to licence their music to labels on more ‘artist friendly’ shorter terms rather than the antiquated long album deals (ultimately obtaining more control). In 2021, over 70 independent artists who started sharing music and growing their audience on TikTok have signed successful record deals.”

Tom Rosenthal is a musician whose remake of Edith Whiskers’ Home went viral on TikTok. Since then, he’s shared with his followers how remaining as an independent artist has actually helped him to build his music career. Through his success, he has since started his own independent record label, Tinpot Records, which signs emerging Indie artists. He has also told his followers and fellow independent artists that “there’s never been a better time for us, believe in yourself and never give your work away on a long term basis”.

Jonnie also offered more of his thoughts on labels vs independence, and says “a label can offer support in terms of investment in infrastructure, marketing, and opening new markets, audiences and driving more sales. 

“It’s an exciting time to be a musician and artists who are lucky to find themselves in this strategic position should enjoy utilising the tools they have available to them and not necessarily be in a hurry to sacrifice their independence.”

With this in mind, TikTok has truly proven its dominating effect and contribution to the music industry. With many artists choosing to preview their songs on the app in the hope of increasing streaming and reaching younger audiences, it has also taken over as the place to be for new artists to be themselves and share their talents to billions of people. 

The platform has also aided the push of music of different genres and cultures going viral, with the app becoming the centre of music discovery, and has birthed countless new artists such as Coi leray, Gayle, Foushee, Lauren Spencer-Smith and many more. It really is the place to be for music.