TikTok breathes new life into the music community

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Graphic illustration by Emma Cionca

TikTok is becoming a useful tool for up-and-coming musical artists.

Emma Cionca

Trends on TikTok come and go — some are loved, and some are hated — but there will always be users who claim that TikTok ruins certain songs with trends or dances. Music, however, is meant to be heard and appreciated. TikTok actually helps musical artists and viewers alike, and condemning creators who follow the trends or gatekeeping certain songs only stunts the growth of upcoming artists and discourages listeners from expanding their musical tastes. 

Every trend on TikTok has a certain “sound” or song associated with it. For example, Ariana Grande’s new song “pov” has become associated with a popular trend in which people transition by changing their hair and makeup. Recently, creators introduced trends and created dances using songs such as “Take Me to Church” by Hozier and “Money Trees” by Kendrick Lamar. Some fans of these artists were upset and as a result, attempted to gatekeep the songs. Gatekeeping is an attempt to prevent others from partaking in a certain activity or hobby to maintain its sense of originality. In this case in particular, it is driven by a feeling that people should not be dancing or doing trends to songs that are written about such impactful subjects. “Money Trees” is about Kendrick Lamar delving into consumerism to escape his material struggles, and Hozier compares a significant other to religion in “Take Me to Church.” Fans felt the songs’ deeper meanings were not being appreciated and that TikTok was ruining them.  

“I do understand where [the people who gatekeep are] coming from. I feel like there’s two sides to it,” junior and TikTok creator Manya Marri said. “Of course there are people who just use the song for the trend, but the reason why it got so popular is because it is a song that deserves all the attention, and [the artist] put in the effort. [The artists are] still getting the fame that they deserve because they made a good song.”

The fact that these songs went viral does not necessarily mean that their audience is not truly listening to them and grasping the message behind it. If anything, it spreads the message further so more people can appreciate the artist’s vision, benefitting both the artist and the listeners. 

“Obviously an artist is going to profit and reach a greater audience with TikTok, it’s such a great tool,” said singer, songwriter and producer Gavin Hudner, who gained exposure through TikTok. “The song is already going to be created, written, produced; it’s going to go through the process of being distributed. Just because [the song] is on a social media platform after it’s created doesn’t change anything about it; it was made to be a song.”

TikTok is also a particularly special place for up-and-coming artists, because the platform provides a unique way to promote music and help gain popularity. This was the case with seventeen-year-old Olivia Rodrigo, who recently released a song titled “driver’s license,” which went viral on TikTok, with more than 180,000 videos using the song. There is no doubt that this popularity on the app helped Rodrigo’s song make its way to the top of Spotify’s U.S. and global charts, Apple Music’s overall track chart and Amazon Music’s overall top songs chart. The song, which is now heard all over the radio, even earned praise from Taylor Swift, one of Rodrigo’s idols. 

One of the first videos to go viral using Rodrigo’s song was created by a regular user, who is now credited with starting the “driver’s license” trend. This idea that songs or videos can gain immense popularity on TikTok and thus create promotion for an artist is a concept that many people are aware of, which is why many members of the music community use TikTok specifically as a marketing platform. It gives small artists with no marketing experience opportunities they wouldn’t normally have, and it can be very successful. After one of his videos on TikTok went viral, Hudner’s song “Dandelions” eventually reached over 100,000 streams on Spotify. Artists like Claire Rosincranz, singer of “Backyard Boy,” were also discovered through TikTok. 

“[I came to TikTok] just for promotion,” Hudner said. “You can go in a week from being nobody to having a record deal with one of the three major labels. It’s crazy how the app works. It’s a really accessible algorithm compared to Instagram or Twitter. It’s super valuable as a platform compared to other social media, especially for artists.” 

TikTok is meant to be a platform where creators can express their creativity and spread positivity. Just because some have chosen to appreciate a song through a trend or dance does not make their experience with it any less valuable. While some songs may have deeper meanings or stories behind them that the average user wouldn’t know, that’s no excuse to criticize creators who use them. The app is the perfect place to create a community that promotes the discovery of new music, so, to put it simply, detractors and those who have a bone to pick with music being used in this format should simply leave it be and let the people dance.