The impact that TikTok has had on popular music for students.

BY ANTONIA CAMPBELL, ’22. GRAPHICS BY LUCY O’BRIEN, ’22.

Many TikTok users relate to the feeling of finding a song on TikTok that they felt a connection with instantly, or better yet, finding a song that they already knew and already had a relationship with.

“Driver’s License” by Olivia Rodrigo broke Spotify’s record of most streams in one day, with many listeners discovering the song through the TikTok app. Some may feel excitement when finding one of their favorite songs on TikTok, while others may feel a sense of worry or annoyance when they realize that they will continue to hear a certain clip of this song over and over until whatever trend that goes with the song fades. A favorite song is now a “TikTok song,” whether they like it or not, and it will become another user’s favorite song as well.

TikTok has found a way to connect its users. Everyone is listening to the same songs, and it doesn’t matter if the song is objectively “good” or “bad.” Especially with the recent surge of music streaming services, apps like TikTok have become a hotspot for songs to blow up.

“I feel like the first question you ask when you get in the car is, ‘Do you want aux?’ so no one really listens to radio anymore,” junior Lucy O’Brien said.

It doesn’t matter if the song came out yesterday or twenty years ago, any song from any era can blow up on TikTok anyday. When asked whether the music they found on TikTok was newer or older, many students said it was a combination of the two.

“It’s a mix of both because I feel like there’s ‘MusicTok’ and they’re diving into a lot of old songs from the nineties like a lot of Weezer, Neutral Milk Hotel, Radiohead, The Smiths, so that’s the older stuff, but I’ve also found newer artists from it like Phoebe Bridgers,” O’Brien said.

TikTok has had such a large impact on the music industry that albums that have come out years ago are climbing back up the charts. Albums like My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010) by Kanye West and Rumours (1977) by Fleetwood Mac are ranking in the Billboard Top 200 even though they were released decades ago. Many students see this as a positive, with teenagers now having the resources to connect and listen to music that their parents or grandparents listened to when they were growing up.

“I think it’s a good thing because you see a lot of Queen and stuff on TikTok and especially since TikTok has such a younger audience, I think it’s good for them to get introduced to older music that they might not find otherwise,” junior Julia Molnar said.

TikTok has become a powerful tool for artists to push their music out to the community. This may be attributed to how easy it is to go viral on TikTok compared to other social media platforms, and once a sound is popular on TikTok, users are listening to it potentially several times every time they open the app.

“There’s a few really small bands that I’ve heard people using their music for TikToks which I’ve found interesting,” said senior Noah Louys, from the band Befriend Strange Creatures.
Many newer artists have recognized TikTok as a way to gain more of a following. Louys is considering promoting himself on TikTok.

“I should, I definitely should,” Louys said. “I’ve been mainly focusing on my Spotify. I follow a lot of music gurus on Instagram, and I’ve had good conversations with a lot of people in music before and they all say, ‘Even if you don’t like it, promote yourself on TikTok.’ So I need to start that.”

Not only are smaller artists taking advantage of TikTok’s effect on music, well-known artists are using TikTok as a tool as well.

“You see big celebrities like Justin Bieber on TikTok saying ‘Make a dance to my song!’ because they know that that’s how their song will get popular,” Molnar said. “It seems like now artists are trying to make their songs so that a 15 second portion of it can go viral as opposed to trying to get the entire song to be played on the radio.”

Whether this phenomenon is positive or negative is yet to be determined; however, some can agree that TikTok has brought teenagers’ music taste together.

“There was this weird period where it was just kind of like finding songs through social media and I feel like everyone’s music taste was pretty separate, but recently, because of TikTok, I think it’s kind of a new way to get music out,” O’Brien said.