It’s Time to Talk about TikTok



Steve Lacy’s “Bad Habit” went viral on TikTok earlier this year

Rebecca Wilson, Copy Editor

There is no denying that TikTok has irreversibly changed the music industry. TikTok relies on artists and their music to create trends like Beyonce’s “Cuff It” dance challenge and AJR’s “World’s Smallest Violin” art progress challenge to boost engagement within the app. It’s not uncommon for people to recognize music from TikTok trends rather than from the title or artist itself.

Despite this, TikTok’s algorithm often harms rather than helps independent musicians.

“Artists are encouraged to ride on whatever made them popular and don’t usually try to make a name for themselves outside of that,” said SEGA senior Jon Vital, an AP Music Theory student. “It’s very easy for one lucky sound to get viral off of TikTok and for everybody to know the artist behind it just from that one song, but this creates a lot more one-hit wonders.” 

TikTok’s algorithm is designed to always be looking for “the next big thing.” While this is good for keeping up engagement within the app, it’s difficult for small and independent artists to keep up with. By the time artists release a new song, the algorithm has already moved on. It also pushes artists into a corner, creativity wise. Usually only one or two songs from an artist go viral, so the artist ends up being type-cast into one music genre. As a result, they are not encouraged to branch out and try new things. 

PHOTO BY Salma Mancilla. Conan Gray’s music regularly goes viral on TikTok.

“I think it’s good for finding new music but it’s bad for the sustainability of an artist,” said Vital.

TikTok is here to stay, both for better and for worse. Artists will have to adjust to the algorithm’s learning curve to some degree if they want to retain their popularity and increase their reach. But as with every social media, there’s room for good-faith critique on how it operates and its effects on consumers and creators. For the sake of its artists, TikTok should reconsider the speed of their algorithm cycles and decide on how they can best sustain artists in the long term.