Do You Want Your Music to be Famous? Just Make it Viral on TikTok!

Aris Setyawan
Aris Setyawan
Posted undercriticcultural studiescultureethnomusicologyetnomusikologimusicmusik

In December 2020 the song “Mayonaka no Door / Stay With Me” popularized by singer Miki Matsubara suddenly went viral on TikTok. The song, which was actually released in 1979, suddenly became a hit on the platform made by the Chinese company ByteDance. As a result, this city-pop genre song suddenly became a new sensation and took the number 1 viral position on the music streaming service Spotify.

The song that Miki Matsubara sings is not the only city pop music released way back in ancient times and gained new life on TikTok. Another city pop song—perhaps the most famous song of this genre—“Plastic Love” which was popularized by Mariya Takeuchi and actually released in 1984 has suddenly gone viral on TikTok.

City pop is an easily recognizable music genre. This music is a mix of American music such as funk, yacht rock, boogie, lounge music, R&B, and Jazz. This genre grew and thrived in the late 1970s to 1980s in Japan. On TikTok, this music spreads thanks to the services of creators like Bastian alias @tokyoage widely, this 18-year-old figure is a big fan of anime and city pop music. After listening to “Plastic Love” on YouTube, Bastian then tried hard to popularize it on TikTok. In the aftermath, Bastian’s post about city pop gained more than 2 million likes on TikTok.

Not only city pop. In recent years, we have often had cases where certain music or songs have gone viral and become famous because of TikTok. Another example outside of City pop is FN Meka’s fame. His appearance had made a commotion throughout the universe of the music industry. Why? Because Meka is not a human creator. Meka is the world’s first robot rapper. FN Meka works by collecting thousands and even millions of data from video games and social media, then composing a piece of music. One of his hits “Florida Water” was ranked first on TikTok. The view is not half-hearted, the video for this song has been viewed more than 1 billion times.

A year after appearing on TikTok, Meka gained 10 million followers on TikTok. Meka also made history as the only musician robot who signed a contract with one of the biggest music labels in the world, Capitol Records aka Capitol Music Group.

Another example of fame can be seen in the existence of teenage singer Olivia Rodrigo and her hit “Driver’s License”. Popular TikTok users like Gabe Escobar (@gabesco) went into great detail about the song, creating a two-part video on the app about how it’s about Bassett. With over 2.5 million followers, this video went viral fast. Another popular user, Charli D’Amelio (@charlidamelio) created a video with a dance routine for the song, which has over 3.6 million likes. A user went viral after creating a video with her up-tempo TikTok dancing to the song (@aripine). This video got more than 1.5 million likes and 5.6 million views. Rodrigo’s song is also one of the top trending songs on the app; when we press the discover button, the first thing that appears at the top is Olivia Rodrigo’s “Driver License”.

When it comes to music, TikTok has done at least two things. First, TikTok breathes new life or spirit into music that existed in the past. An example is the song “Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac. This 1977 classic hits the charts again after an unknown creator posted a video of him skateboarding and using “Dreams” as the soundtrack.

Second, TikTok provides opportunities and stages for new rising stars, alias new musicians, to be successful in the music industry. Examples of cases are also not small. Take Nathan Evans, for example. Previously unknown folk music singer. Evans recorded the song “The Wellerman” in a 19th-century style of singing. In the aftermath, Evans became very famous, got a contract with a record company, and appeared on television in mainland America there.

These cases of the emergence of musicians on TikTok certainly raise an important question: how far does this TikTok trend affect the music industry?

First, we had to discuss what TikTok is. Although it has caused a lot of controversies and has been widely accused of being a data collection tool for surveillance capitalism, it cannot be denied that TikTok is a new and interesting social phenomenon. Maybe because of the democratization factor where everyone has the same chance of being famous and successful on this platform. Unlike other social media such as Instagram or Twitter where the hierarchy between influencers and ordinary users has different castes. On TikTok, caste is gone. Anyone can be famous as long as they are able to create interesting and good content.

TikTok is available on both iOS and Android. As of this writing, TikTok has been downloaded 3 billion times. With such a high number, TikTok’s valuation is truly extraordinary. Even though it has not been able to overtake Facebook, whose valuation has reached $ 1 trillion, TikTok is worth considering because it has a valuation of $ 50 billion. In 2021 TikTok issued a report that the active users of this platform are as many as 1 billion users.

Back to the previous question, how far has this TikTok trend influenced the music industry? With 1 billion active users, and a valuation of that size, of course, TikTok is very possible and can influence the music industry. Examples of TikTok’s influence on the music industry are as explained earlier. TikTok gives new life to old music, TikTok helps musicians who are just starting their careers to introduce their work.

The next question is: What are the effects? Do musicians need to consider TikTok/exposure of a song for social media?

The answer is, yes, musicians need to consider TikTok/exposure when creating tones and rhythms. equivalent to the case on Spotify, where music paid by Spotify to musicians is if the music is listened to for at least 30 seconds. So musicians then consider making songs that are catchy and sound fun in the first 30 seconds, so listeners will be comfortable and stick with listening to the song so musicians can earn money. Then TikTok will create the same conditions. The tendency is that musicians will create music suitable for accompanying dance or dances, the most common content model on TikTok.

This is not without problems. One thing that we should then highlight is the similarity or homogenization of musical works made especially for TikTok. Viewed from the perspective of the music industry, this homogenization is a good thing because the music created will be easily accepted, reproduced, and distributed by creators. From an artistic perspective, this is a nightmare because it will give rise to epigones. There are no more creative songs, and no need to explore musical possibilities anymore because what matters anyway is how this piece of music can go viral.

This homogenization is a nightmare that has infuriated singer/songwriter Halsey. She was angry on Twitter because her record label stated that the label wanted to release Halsey’s new music with one condition, Halsey must first compose one song and make it viral on TikTok. Yes, the homogenization of music that is widely circulated on TikTok castrates the artistic quality of music.

But yes, the name is also an industry, right? Everything must be done because the main goal is to collect as much revenue as possible. So, it could be that, apart from Halsey who is angry at her label, many musicians just give in when asked to make music that is ‘TikTok-able’. One of them is Megan Thee Stallion. Her song “Savage” is used in 31 million video clips circulating on TikTok.

Then, apart from changing how the music industry works, has TikTok also changed the consumption patterns of music listeners? The answer is again yes. At least if we compare it to the 2000s generation and backward, who usually know interesting music from conventional media such as magazines, then buy physical releases such as cassettes, CDs, or vinyl. The TikTok generation does not experience that condition. Regarding the way music lovers listen to music, usually this younger generation finds a song that is viral on TikTok, they will then search for the song on Spotify or YouTube to listen to the full version.

Consumer behavior data collected by Cirisano shows TikTok users are more likely to spend money on music and invest more in it. 40% of active TikTok users pay a monthly subscription for music, compared to 25% of the general population. And 17% buy artist merchandise monthly, compared to 9% of the general population.

In Indonesia itself, there are also several musicians whose names are famous after their music has gone viral on TikTok. Brigita Meliala, known by her account Idgitaf, for example. She has a lot of fans on TikTok. Starting from her unique song to creating Odading Mang Oleh, his name began to be widely discussed. It didn’t stop there, he made several other videos that were no less viral, including a collaboration with Nessie Judge.

Another musician is Dere, whose song “Kota” was very viral on TikTok some time ago. Now Dere’s name has been counted as one of the musicians who deserve a standing ovation.

Recent research results from MRC Data show “75 percent of TikTok users find new musicians through TikTok”. That means if you want your music to be known by many people, you have to be diligent about promoting it on the application. But how? Yes, just follow the formula that has been practiced by other musicians before. Make your music as catchy as possible, music that can be used for dancing, and music that relates to Gen Z as the majority of the biggest TikTok users.

Want your music to be famous? just make it viral on TikTok! Forget about artistic beauty for a moment, and make trendy music. Undoubtedly, fame will come to you.

Ps: Previously featured in Bahasa Indonesia on Kumparan Plus.

Taggedcity popdereFN Mekaidgitafmariya takeuchimegan thee stalionmiki matsubaraMusicmusic industryolivia rodrigo


More Stories

Cover Image for Dismantling Hyper-Masculinity in the Indonesian Music Scene

Dismantling Hyper-Masculinity in the Indonesian Music Scene

It’s time for us to dismantling hyper-masculinity and sexism, which is toxic in the Indonesian music scene.

Aris Setyawan
Aris Setyawan
Cover Image for The End of Protest Music in Indonesia?

The End of Protest Music in Indonesia?

When Slank release a song called “Polisi yang Baik Hati”, is it the sign that protest music in Indonesia has been ended?

Aris Setyawan
Aris Setyawan