Hitting the Beat: How TikTok is Changing the Music Industry

Picture of Ricky Montgomery's Genius profile.

The music industry and consumption of music has seen plenty of change in the last fifty years. From radios, to cassettes, to CDs, and now online streaming, we can never predict what will come next for the industry and its consumers. As music evolves and changes, so does the way people discover and produce their music for potential listeners. Gone are the days of finding an artist on the radio, and instead have been replaced by Daily Discovery mixes on streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music, recommendations from friends, and social media. No better example of this has been TikTok, and how it has helped dozens of artists make their mark on the music industry. 

TikTok is a social media platform that specializes in short videos ranging from fifteen seconds to one minute. TikTok came into popularity as a ‘dancing app,’ however has since evolved into one specializing in having communities for any sort of interest imaginable. One of the ways TikTok has thrived as a place for new and upcoming artists to share their music and get some buzz. 

In the last year, several musicians have seen their music thrive on TikTok. Ricky Montgomery, most famously known for his song “Line Without a Hook” which blew up last year due to a trend revolving around users using the lyrics “she’s a, she’s a lady, and I am just a line without a hook” to show off their relationships or favorite fictional couples, has seen immense popularity since the song went viral. Montgomery recorded his debut album, Montgomery Ricky back in 2016, but thanks to the success he has had on the platform, he was able to re-record “Line Without a Hook” as a slightly remixed version, with the help of a fellow musician that gained a significant amount of traction on TikTok, mxmtoon. This new version of “Line Without a Hook” had just been released a few days ago. 

TikTok is being used as a way to bypass the traditional route of the music industry and share their music directly to fans. Artist Mothica shared her process of creating her album "Blue Hour" with all of TikTok, as well as a snippet of her song “VICES,” which went viral soon after. Mothica, like many musicians striving for success, did not have an agent, but wanted to show what the process of creating an album was like so fans could have an inside look. Eliza McLamb, who went viral for her song “P*rn Star Tits,” which reflected on how women and girls are objectified in modern society, gained a following for writing songs people her age could relate to. Her EP Memos was released in late 2020, and she continued to write catchy songs based on people's suggestions, such as the commitment issues song. 

Unlike some mainstream artists, who have to cater to their record companies and the radio stations, these artists can write about whatever they want - however raw and real it may be. Mothica’s “VICES” discusses her struggles with addiction and “Mr. Loverman,” another song by Ricky Montgomery that saw TikTok success, focused on his father’s alcoholism and questioning his sexuality. While songs on the radio may cover topics similar to these, they may often glorify the topics at hand, and ignore the real, pressing issues beneath them. 

However, some artists use creating music on TikTok as a playful way to share their talents. Amber Louise, or @rainbowfrogbiscuits, uses her platform to write fun songs about her pets, her love for Christmas, her obsession with cow print and making everything in her room the familiar splotchy pattern, and other catchy, silly tunes. 

In the wake of Broadway being closed, creators on TikTok have also taken to having fun and using their talents to create full-length musicals out of their favorite movies and TV shows. The collaborative Ratatouille musical saw immense amounts of success - going so far as being performed by Broadway stars on New Year's Day in order to raise money for the Actor’s Equity Fund - and since then, many users have tried to create a musical of their own. Though many tried, only one musical has made significant progress, revolving around Netflix’s latest hit show, ‘Bridgerton.’ Abigail Barlow, with the help of Emily Bear, has been the spearhead for the ‘Bridgerton’ musical, in addition to writing her own music, and has created twelve mini-songs for the musical, which she calls parts. These parts have been used as audios for dance numbers in the show, to show off costumes, or ideas for the playbill. 

In the next few years, there will probably be a shift in the music creation and production company to focus more on the person and the content is made, rather than the music and the name and “brand” behind it. Musicians will take the time to show their fans the process in its entirety, rather than snippets in order to create buzz.  Music may also begin to focus more on bolstering smaller creators, such as these, rather than larger names who have a reputation and fans behind them, and realistic topics. Wherever music creation and production shifts to, TikTok has definitely had a hand in this, and will continue to do so as the app continues to have popularity and give small artists a platform.



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