Are Musicians Chasing Virality? 🤔
& Why It's Not Helping them! 🤐
"I'm watching this because I can't get enough of its OST on Reels," said someone while watching Makoto Shinkai's latest, Suzume.
It's incredible how a 30-second tune holds enough power to drag you to movies today! You may not remember an artist's name or a song lyrics — but you foot tap to that tiny part of the song that went viral on TikTok or Reels.
This brings us to the conversation: are musicians composing music to go viral on Reels now? 🤔
According to TikTok's annual report (2021), 175+ songs that trended on TikTok hit the Billboard Hot 100 (this doubled since 2020).
Success on Socials ➡️ Success Outside Socials
Say So by Doja Cat came out in December 2019, but it was the fifth-most used song on TikTok throughout 2020. Its hook step became so popular that celebrities like Dua Lipa, Laura Dern, Charli D'Amelio, Mackenzie Ziegler, and Sofia Wylie embarked on this trend. This traction resulted in radio features.
And then, there's Blinding Lights by The Weeknd! After going viral on social media, the song saw roaring success on streaming channels like Spotify and Apple. It was on Billboard Hot 100, and The Weeknd even performed it at the Super Bowl Half Time (2021).
Despite an old number, Fleetwood Mac's Dreams scored high on charts in 2020 when Ocean Spray Cranberries (a brand) collaborated with a TikToker Nathan Apodaca, to recreate his already viral TikTok, which featured Dreams.
Read more about it. 👇
Content creator and comedian Viraj Pradhan says, "Today, you call a song a hit only when it goes viral on Reels. These songs usually feature 15-second hooks and dance for internet users to recreate them. Content, in general, even TV shows and movies, cater to virality on Reels."
👉 Recommended read: How to promote a song on TikTok
Shephali Bhatt, an internet culture reporter at The Economic Times, in her piece Music in the time of algorithm, writes, "Artists and labels overwhelmingly agree that a clip trending on Reels often leads to a sharp increase in traffic for the song on streaming platforms, boosting earnings. And a clip trends because of the much-talked-about algorithm."
Read the full piece. 👇
Do you primarily listen to music you discover on Reels/TikTok?
Talking about Platforms
I spoke to Sana Afreen, CCO & Asst. director of program management at Rizzle, an AI video tech platform which was initially a short-form video app. Sana says, "When Rizzle was a short-form video platform, we did work with creators to produce music albums. Music played a vital role in the App. We were associated with music entities and individual musicians. Tony Tarz exclusively created Aardukyam for Rizzle, which later was used in over 100K Reels. Music licensing has gotten huge following TikTok's implosive success. Besides, music is the oxygen for short-form video platforms and Instagram — hence, the entities had the pricing surge accordingly.”
A CNBC article states that in terms of the current flow of dollars in the music industry, TikTok’s main influence lies in its ability to push listeners to services like Apple Music and Spotify. TikTok has partnerships and licensing agreements with major labels such as Universal, Warner, and Sony. The article mentions these were signed between 2020 and 2021.
Who's to Blame?
Internet users? Algorithm or the artists?
Platforms might say the algorithm is crafted to best serve creators and its users — but if we're being honest, the algorithm serves its platform. End of the day, it wants you to linger longer.
Basudhara Choudhuri, a qualitative market researcher at Purple Audacity, says, "I think it is a combination of internet users and recording labels. I can't really blame musicians for wanting to push their music. I think the hope is if they can hook new listeners through a few viral songs, they will explore more of their work. Recording labels often demand an "Instagrammable" section, I think, which means musicians have no choice but bend to the will. Can internet users perhaps support their favourite artists more without only needing reel-worthy music? I don't think it's impossible to do."
Viraj adds, "This just shows our patience and attention levels are now really low. 15 seconds is the perfect dopamine release point which is why we enjoy stuff. If the same audience had seen songs in the early 2000s, they'd have hated everything because songs would be 6-7 minutes long on an average, and the first minute was a literal set up with just music.”
Basudhara also resonates with this thought, and says. "I'll be 27 this month, and I already find myself saying music was better when I was younger. Music was more open to interpretation — more like poetry. Today, it refers to certain relatable situations, and beyond the catchy beat drop or one snappy lyric, the rest of the song might be a bore. I've often looked up songs based on the snappy clip and disliked the entire song. It's like music has to be more marketable than ever — like how some restaurants flaunt their ambience instead of food when a restaurant is all about the food.”
Our attention spans have indeed gone for a toss, but what's worse? Music is no longer personal. Remember the times when you'd proudly say, look, I discovered this song? Well, a million people discover that song along with you — oh, wait, it’s the algorithm that’s serving you the song.
Besides, creators don't always benefit from this. From competing with thousands of creators on a single platform to creating music with fleeting shelf life, creators are battling bigger wars in their minds. 😿
How can they be relevant when a different song is a hot cake everyday?
Stuff Worth Checking Out
To understand how teens use technology and social media, read this piece.
How has Lil Nas X became an internet sensation? Rex Woodbury writes about this in his newsletter Digital Native. Check it out here.
Share this newsletter with someone who you think might enjoy it.
Follow us on YouTube to sample our insights and creator deep dives.
You think you have a story to share with our readers? Fill this form and we’ll get in touch. ✨
I’ll be back with another story next Tuesday. 👋
Thousand Faces Club is an initiative by Phyllo. Phyllo is the universal API for creator data. Sign up for free!