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TikTok’s symbiotic relationship with the music industry

You’re driving to dinner with your squad. The friend who called shotgun also called dibs on playing the music, and after a moment of confusion about pairing their phone to the car radio, they pull up their playlist on Spotify. Everything is normal. After a few songs, you begin to notice a common thread: “Panini” by Lil Nas X, “Truth Hurts” by Lizzo, “Say So” by Doja Cat—Oh! It’s a TikTok playlist.

As a platform, TikTok has perfected the art of unintentionally popularizing the music of many up-and-coming artists.

Artists like Doja Cat experienced large bursts of fame from their content being used repetitively in TikTok videos. After songs like “Say So” and “Candy” became popular background choices for videos, Doja Cat’s music began to top the charts in late 2019. Now, she’s much more well-known with a Grammy to show for it. Most people have probably heard of at least a few of her songs if they’re at all familiar with TikTok music.

What does this mean for the music industry, though?

It is near impossible to predict which songs will have a greater chance for production of memes.

Sometimes all it takes is a little nostalgia.

This may be the reason why songs like “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen consistently make it into top TikTok songs lists, despite not necessarily having much meme value.

However, songs like “Truth Hurts” by Lizzo are very obvious choices for memes. This is evident by the “Turns out, I’m 100% that” meme that circulated on the app, where TikTokers would replace the line of the song with their own jokes. “Replayability” and adaptability also make for great original content.

Many artists benefit from being discovered on the platform, causing them to overlook TikTok users profiting off of their work. Those who would otherwise go down the old-school Taylor Swift route of banning their songs on Spotify might begin to see the brighter side of letting others copy their work with a twist and a bad lip-sync.

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