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TikTok and Music
Music and TikTok go way back! Back in the day, TikTok famously acquired lip-syncing app musical.ly, giving the platform its music-loving roots. Part of TikTok’s charm is that you can use custom audio or trending songs as backing tracks for your videos. This key feature has led to viral songs for both new artists and veterans alike.
Previously unknown artists like Lil Nas X (Old Town Road) and Curtis Waters (Stunnin’), and Claire Rosinkranz (Backyard Boy) have experienced explosive, viral fame virtually overnight. Industry veterans like Drake have gotten in on the action, with Drake’s Toosie Slide inspiring viral dances and memes on TikTok. And of course, we can’t get Megan thee Stallion’s Savage out of our heads these days, since it inspired 31.1M user generated videos and it’s own dance.
So, TikTok can be really explosive for both independent musicians and label artists. There’s always room for something different – something very welcome around Christmas-time, when we’re all tired of hearing the same old tracks. Let’s look at last year’s viral Christmas hits on TikTok and see what we can learn from them.
1. All I Want For Christmas Is You (remixed with Soulja Boy)
What do you hear when you walk into any department store, cafe, pub or even your parent’s house in the festive season? Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You”. How do you make something so viral go viral again, albeit with a Gen Z audience? Mash it up with Soulja Boy and dance to it on TikTok.
One of Christmas 2019’s highlights was TikTokkers dancing to the Soulja Boy remix of “All I Want for Christmas Is You”. With everyone from top accounts like Addison Rae (62M followers) and the Rybka Twins creating their own take, this track inspired a whopping 14M user generated videos.
The key ingredients here? A catchy tune, something unexpected and funny, and a dance routine to go with it. Soulja Boy’s Crank That song was originally popular for it’s ‘Crank That’ dance, which is easy to replicate. That makes it a whole lot easier to create videos to this tune. Another factor is that hip-hop and rap tracks do really well, on TikTok – which is unsurprising considering Gen Z are 80% more likely to enjoy rap than previous generations (Global Web Index).
However, above all the key factor in propelling this tune to virality was the plot twist, you thought you were listening to the Mariah Carey classic, which juxtaposed with Soulja Boy’s song felt funny and unexpected. This meant lots of original takes beyond just dances were possible, giving the song a really wide net for success across TikTok communities. User generated videos span everything from Frozen’s Olaf, to people dancing with their cats.
The key takeaway for music marketers and labels is pay attention to broader genre trends, and sprinkle in a little humor. Remember, keeping your song flexible means it can be featured in a wider range of videos.
2. Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree (remixed)
Another Christmas classic, remixed! Brenda Lee’s popular Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree went viral last Christmas when it was paired with a classic TikTok challenge: “Tactical Christmas”.
This challenge involved users showing you their normal rooms, then throwing in a Christmas bauble triggering an ‘explosion’, after which their rooms would be totally decked out in Christmas decor and glam. The video was set to a remixed ‘trap’ version of Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree. This track inspired over 290k videos, including one from beauty guru James Charles (25M followers).
For labels and musicians, there’s some great lessons here. Combining something to do (the challenge element) encourages participation. Gen Z love participation and interaction, and ‘challenges’ are absolutely core to TikTok culture. The second strategic element here is the trap remix, again capitalising on what’s popular and cool for Gen Z to listen to right now. Thirdly, it’s catchy and funny! The unexpected trap remix makes Christmas background music a lot more interesting, placing it front and center of people’s attention.
3. You’re a Mean One, Mr Grinch (Tyler The Creator)
Originally from the classic Dr Seuss Grinch cartoon, You’re a Mean One, Mr Grinch was covered by Gen Z superstar Tyler the Creator. Last Christmas, this viral hit generated over a million videos. TikTokkers featured this track in everything from Grinch-inspired makeup and outfits, to festive prank videos.
So, why did this cover go so viral? It’s festive, but a little edgy and off the beaten track. Tyler the Creator is quite different to mainstream artists, but very popular with Gen Z. This track could be seen as the ‘anti-cringe’ Christmas song of the year – you don’t have to sing along to carols or Mariah Carey but you can still show off some festive spirit!
Who did I get the best?...💀 @marcusolin @fashionnova (read bio)♬ You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch - Tyler, The Creator
A key lesson here is firstly, make your tracks available on TikTok as the default. Secondly, show people some examples of videos where your audio works as background music. When popular accounts used the track in prank videos, it immediately became obvious what this song was perfect for. Finally, keep an open mind and try something unexpected. Tyler the Creator’s normally explicit discography doesn’t quite align with Dr Seuss’ wholesome cartoons at a glance, but when delivered like this it really works. Getting Tyler the Creator involved means people who would normally look down on festive, goofy videos now feel like they have to get in on the action.
TikTok’s viral nature lends itself to huge opportunities across industries. Because music is so integral to the TikTok experience, there’s a real opportunity for both independent artists and major labels to leverage viral engagement. TikTok makes it so easy for users to feature trending tracks or songs they like in their content, so the barriers to sharing music are very low compared to other networks.
Keeping an eye on genre trends as well as viral or seasonal challenges is important. With the festive season approaching, TikTok is the perfect network to test out experimental ideas in music with everything from mashups, remixes or dance challenges at your disposal. In a sense, TikTok gives everyone in the music industry an opportunity to become their own influencers.