Tik Tok is Changing How Music is Released

If you’re anything like me, you probably spend more time than you should scrolling through the oh so addicting app Tik Tok (the average user spends about 50 minutes a day on the app). Despite what your interests are, Tik Tok’s algorithm does a magnificent job learning which videos you watch all the way through and which videos you like. This leads to your “For You Page” (also referred to as simply FYP) to be filled with videos that you are more likely to spend time watching. Forbes magazine even called Tik Tok a “Digital Crack Cocaine”. In their interview with USC Professor Dr. Julie Albright, she described it as being in a pleasurable dopamine state that is almost hypnotic. In my case, this means that the Tik Toks I see are almost exclusively music related. And I have begun to notice a new trend in music.

There are a plethora of talented musicians permeating through the digital world of social media and Tik Tok is no exception. The main difference between Tik Tok and other video release platforms is the time limit. When Tik Tok was first released, video length was restricted to 15 seconds. This length has since been updated and until recently, videos on the app could only be a maximum of 1 minute long. The app developers have recently extended that length again to 3 minutes. However, short form entertainment remains to be the majority of content. This is probably due to the shortened attention spans of the viewers who more often than not find themselves scrolling to a new video before even one minute is up. This has led to a new way of releasing music that careens away from traditional music release techniques: releasing music in short spurts as the ideas are created.

From singer-songwriters to hopeful playwrights, releasing new music on Tik Tok is a seemingly easy way to get original ideas out into the world. Often times in the case of singer songwriters, they come up with an idea for a song, but not all at once. Writing in spurts used to be a hurdle for artists as they weren’t expected to release a song until it was finished and refined in a studio. It was almost taboo to release an unfinished product. However, in this new digital trend, releasing short sections of songs is a sure-fire way of getting someone to follow you and keep checking back for more. If you release 30 seconds of a song every week, then you get to grow an audience as you grow the song. Adding layers keeps them wondering what will come next. These songs grow over multiple videos until a full song is completed. This often results in the Tik Tok artist recording an actual studio version of the song and being able to release it on streaming platforms such as Spotify and Apple Music. Because they already have an audience on the app, they are guaranteed listeners when the song is released. The audience feels invested in the song because they were able to experience it being written and provide feedback in real time that the artist may or may not have heeded.

A good example of this can be found with the Artist Lyn Lapid. Her song “Producer Man” was a product of this new multiple-video release style. The first video she released was simply the first verse of the song accompanied by her fist on a table and snaps as the percussion. This initial video reached 50 million views before the second verse was even released. “Producer Man” is now a full-blown record that reached over 9 million global streams as well as #13 on Spotify’s US Viral Chart back in December of 2020.

This new technique of releasing music will undoubtedly continue to change the landscape of the music industry as Tik Tok maintains its popularity and artists continue to find their big breaks through the app. I believe that it will begin to trickle out into the bigger world of music and more mainstream artists will start to see the value in allowing the audience to experience the process before the result.

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Professional music instructor focused on analyzing musical concepts and trends in popular music.

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Austin Testerman

Austin Testerman

Professional music instructor focused on analyzing musical concepts and trends in popular music.

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