THE FIRST RULE OF TIKTOK: BABY DON'T GIVE A FUCK

It's not exactly a secret that the music industry has undergone multiple waves of disruption since about 2000. Just when legal streams and revenues are up and everyone seems to be feeling like a new normal is upon us, an app like TikTok comes along, once again flipping the script and completely changing how songs and artists are promoted. What's a veteran weasel to do when suddenly playlisting is sooooo eight months ago, and now you have to be up on what all the cool kids are doing on TikTok?

The first rule to TikTok is to forget everything you know about what's important in a song. Users don’t necessarily care about your chorus or your artist. Yes, TikTok has a huge impact on breaking songs and there is a strong correlation between TikTok love and streams on DSPs. However, whereas video used to serve the song and the artist, now the song clip—not even the whole song, but a clip of your song—serves the video. That’s what’s driving this audience, and everything is a secondary consideration to the video concept. As far as the portion that users decide to use en masse for their videos is concerned, don’t assume it’s your chorus or even a portion of the song with your artist. Maybe yes, maybe no.

I give you exhibit A, “Cash Shit” by Megan Thee Stallion (f/DaBaby), currently with over 101 million streams on Spotify and 72m views on the official YouTube video. On TikTok, “Cash Shit” has generated almost 1.6 million videos. Those videos are the product of two clips from the song. The first clip is from the spoken intro and the second clip is extracted from the middle of the song and isn’t even of the main artist, but the featured artist, DaBaby. An interesting side note, these videos only represent the videos properly attributed to the song. Users can customize clips and in many instances don't label them correctly or mash them up with other clips so it's safe to say that 1.6m is a conservative number as to how many videos are actually utilizing excerpts from "Cash Shit."

If you’re wondering how ubiquitous the user base is for these clips, pretty much every creed and color of user is represented in those videos. As an example, some of the most successful TikTok videos for “Cash Shit” feature people who look like they were pulled from a Backstreet Boys Reunion concert. The only thing more amusing is watching these same wholesome-looking users make a video around Da Baby rapping about, um, a certain sex act.

This will never again be your daddy’s music business, and that may be the biggest takeaway of all. The only thing that may move faster than the audience itself is the technology empowering the audience. Today it's TikTok, but right at this moment, somewhere in the world, there exists the next big thing: the proverbial scrappy startup that will usher in even further disruption—and will make TikTok feel like MySpace, or maybe even MP3.com.

However, back in the here and now, TikTok is where it's at. Fortunately, all that separates anyone from using this platform to have a credible shot at achieving critical mass for their song is time and some basic knowledge.

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