The impact TikTok has had on the industry is massive. According to TikTok’s 2021 annual music report, “Over 175 songs that trended on TikTok in 2021 charted on the Billboard Hot 100, twice as many as last year.” According to the same report, approximately 430 songs surpassed 1 billion video views on TikTok. This big interconnection between hot sellers and TikTok virality has led to music labels promoting new music on TikTok through influencer agencies.
One-way record labels are responding to the rise of TikTok is the usage of marketing funds to get users to use their songs on their TikTok. This may include paying influencers thousands of dollars to get their songs included in their TikToks.
Due to the fact that getting a major influencer to use a song might be expensive, record labels have employed a new strategy of paying the price of several micro-influencers to market their music. The logic follows: why pay $100,000 to get content from a D’Amelio when you can pay $200 to get 500 micro-influencers to include your song? This increases the range of viewers you show your content to.
2. Working with non-influencer accounts
To further reduce costs and increase awareness, labels will pay general-interest accounts to play their music in the background of the account’s TikToks. For instance, have you ever seen a video of someone playing with slime, destroying cans with a hydraulic press, or playing one of those games that never seem to be on the App Store?
At first glance, these creators seem unlikely to be sponsored by a label. But these individuals provide massive amounts of reach at cheap costs.
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3. Working with TikTok users
Labels have even found ways to pay TikTok users to market their songs through challenges. New platforms like Pearpop and Preffy have allowed labels to create, a sliding-scale payment system to use their songs in video challenges.
Writing songs for TikTok
Record labels have even gone to the extent of keeping TikTok in mind as they write their songs. They might incorporate short but catchy choruses that appeal to certain niches and microniches of people. Or use poppy sounds that historically go famous in their songs.
An example of this is Tiagz, someone who makes songs that appeal directly to trends on the TikTok algorithm.
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Remix and Mashup culture
Record labels have learned that they can get views and listens on several variations of songs that have different speeds, pitches, and reverb. The best way to describe the recent popularity of this trend can be summed up with this quote from Natcha, a sped-up fan.
“I soon switch off with content that’s too long on social media. Whereas the fast pace of sped up makes me want to move. I’ve been listening to electro and hyperpop, but sped up transforms any song into something I want to listen to. It’s become an automatic reaction: If I like a song, I immediately look for its sped up version on YouTube.”
On the other hand, slowing down a song and adding reverb it, helps to put emphasis on certain melodies, bass lines, or harmonies. They also make the song more relaxing to listen to.
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Examples of how musicians promoted their music
TikTok has become one of the means by which users discover new music, this has been important for record labels who are actively pushing to promote new releases and revive old ones. According to the TikTok annual music report:
“75% of TikTok users in the U.S. say that they use TikTok to discover new artists, and 63% say that they hear music that they’ve never heard before for the first time on the platform.”
While there are examples of standalone artists that have marketed their own TikToks to the billboards, most of the notable successes come from the efforts of record labels teaming up with TikTok adjacent companies.
When “Cradles” went viral on TikTok in 2019, Warner Records signed Sub Urban to create music oriented towards TikTok. Warner Records then went with Songfluencer, an influencer marketing agency, to help manage and promote music. This would result in explosive growth for the song “Cradles.”
Songfluencer used software to collect and quantify the value of influencers and analyze the aggregate value of several marketing strategies. For instance, they might use this data to analyze the aggregate value provided by their influencers, micro-influencers, non-influencers, and user-generated content.
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Against the Grain
Another example of superb marketing for songs comes from a company called Against the Grain, whose whole strategy revolves around creating trends and hype behind viral songs and artists.
A notable example comes when they tried to promote Rich the Kid’s “New Freezer.” In this promotion, they used a meme surrounding a kid whipping his head back and forth to the song. They then paid a major hip-hop account on TikTok to share it.
This resulted in a major trend called #NewFreezerChallenge, which was later picked up by Snoop Dogg.
TikTok stars turned singers
While many record companies try to market their songs to TikTok, much like an outsider looking to get in. The opposite has also occurred, where a record company has capitalized on the popularity of certain influencers by signing them. Here are a couple of examples:
- Bella Poarch: After becoming famous for her M to the B video, this influencer made waves by signing with Warner Records in May 2021. She would later release a debut single called “Build a B*tch”
- Lil Nas X: Lil Nas X is known far and wide for being an ingenious marketer. He started off on Twitter and TikTok posting memes and developing relationships with other major meme accounts. He then created music that worked with memes to make funny content.
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This article was written by Benjamin Byun