Business

Five Takeaways From TikTok's First-Ever Annual Music Report

TikTok
Courtesy of TikTok

TikTok

Amid turmoil, TikTok continued to shape the music industry.

It's been a tumultuous year for TikTok, which has continued to battle a potential ban on the app in the U.S., proposed a sale to Oracle and Walmart to fend off that threat, lost its CEO and faced emerging competitors like Triller and Instagram's' Reels.

Yet amid the turmoil, 2020 has also been the platform's biggest year for music yet. This year -- and perhaps aided by a surge in usership amid the coronavirus pandemic -- TikTok continued to churn out Billboard Hot 100 hits and collaborated on in-app events with artists like The Weeknd and Miley Cyrus, all while reaching 100 million monthly active U.S. users.

To commemorate the year's achievements, TikTok on Wednesday (Dec. 16) released its first-ever annual report, "Year On TikTok: Music 2020," with insights including the year’s top genres and songs on the platform. Below, review the report’s five key takeaways.

1. TikTok continues to shape the Billboard charts.

TikTok's report confirmed what’s been anecdotally clear all year: The app has a strong influence over the music charts. A closer look shows that of the 20 total songs which topped the Hot 100 this year, nearly half can thank TikTok, at least in part, for their rise.

Close to 90 songs which trended on TikTok in 2020 thanks to dance challenges, video memes and other trends entered the Billboard Hot 100, 15 of which also topped a Billboard chart, according to the report.

Earlier this month, TikTok also published the top 10 most popular songs on the app in 2020, five of which topped the Billboard Hot 100: Jawsh 685 & Jason Derulo’s “Savage Love (Laxed - Siren Beat)” (although it was a remix by BTS which topped the chart); Megan Thee Stallion’s “Savage Remix” featuring Beyoncé; Cardi B’s “WAP” featuring Megan Thee Stallion; Doja Cat’s “Say So” featuring Nicki Minaj; and Roddy Ricch’s “The Box.”

That's not including three more TikTok-related Hot 100 No. 1s: The Weeknd's "Blinding Lights," promoted by a TikTok challenge, Drake's "Toosie Slide," which spread largely through a TikTok dance video, and 24kGoldn's "Mood" featuring Iann Dior, given that 24kGoldn first rose to notoriety for his TikTok-driven single “Valentino.”

TikTok also claims that more than 70 artists who have “broken on the platform” have since received major-label deals, name-dropping Claire Rosinkranz, Dixie D'Amelio, Powfu, Priscilla Block and Tai Verdes. That list could also include Arizona Zervas, Jawsh 685, StaySolidRocky, Surf Mesa, Stunna Girl, Ant Saunders and Sueco -- not to mention, of course, Lil Nas X.

2. Almost anything goes on TikTok...

More than 176 different songs surpassed 1 billion video views as TikTok sounds in 2020. In other words, this year, users posted enough videos soundtracked by each of 176 different songs to culminate in 1 billion video views per song.

Those songs reached the same benchmark through wildly different paths. As the report notes, “Toosie Slide” generated 1 billion views in three days, while “WAP” did the same in two weeks. By contrast, Harry Styles’ “Watermelon Sugar” and Surf Mesa’s “ily (i love you baby)" each took the better part of a year to reach 1 billion views.

Among those 176 songs are many by artists who are otherwise virtually unknown, such as Popp Hunna ("Adderall [Corvette Corvette]") and WhoHeem ("Lets Link"), as well as catalog songs such as Ying Yang Twins’ "Say I Yi Yi" (2002) and The Black Eyed Peas’ "Where Is The Love?" (2003) -- but more on that in takeaway number five.

The 10 fastest songs to reach 1 billion video views were:
1. Drake, "Toosie Slide"
2. Cardi B, "WAP" (feat. Megan Thee Stallion)
3. Billie Eilish, "Therefore I Am"
4. WhoHeem, "Lets Link"
5. Ying Yang Twins, "Say I Yi Yi"
6. The Black Eyed Peas, "Where Is The Love?"
7. Sada Baby, "Whole Lotta Choppas"
8. Popp Hunna, "Adderall (Corvette Corvette)"
9. Pop Smoke, "Mood Swings"
10. DJ Chose & Beatking, "THICK"

3. ...But hip-hop leads the way.

As that list of 10 fastest songs to reach 1 billion video views also reflects, hip-hop was “by a large margin” the most popular genre on the app in 2020, the report notes, driven by stars like Megan Thee Stallion and DaBaby. Looking at the report’s most-viewed artists by catalog, seven of the top 10 are hip-hop acts.

The most-viewed artists by catalog:
1. Megan Thee Stallion
2. Doja Cat
3. Pop Smoke
4. DaBaby
5. Roddy Ricch
6. Melanie Martinez
7. Don Toliver
8. Dua Lipa
9. 24kGoldn
10. Lil Uzi Vert

Pop music came in second place genre-wise, thanks to hits by BTS, Justin Bieber and Dua Lipa. The report also notes that Latin music is one of the fastest-growing genres on the platform, where trending songs this year ranged from trap-infused reggaeton (Ozuna’s "Caramelo") to regional Mexican music (Los Tucanes De Tijuana’s "Espejeando").

4. TikTok is reviving decades-old hits as much as it’s breaking new ones.

When Fleetwood Mac’s 1977 hit "Dreams" re-entered the Hot 100 with its best streaming and sales week ever in October -- thanks to an Ocean Spray-chugging skateboarder’s viral TikTok video featuring the song -- it was the latest evidence that TikTok can be as transformative for old songs as it can be for newly-released ones. Other catalog songs revitalized on TikTok this year include Run-D.M.C.’s "It’s Tricky," La Roux’s "Bulletproof" and Simple Plan’s "I’m Just a Kid."

The music industry is taking notice. Not only are record labels strategically promoting organic TikTok moments which use old songs, but labels are working with TikTok to ensure that legacy artists’ music is available on the platform in the first place.

This year, TikTok worked with major labels to add music by Prince, John Lennon and George Michael to its catalog, and each of those launches included special hashtags and/or challenges designed to spawn as many videos as possible from the announcement.

Those efforts have led to some impressive numbers. Since the June launch of Prince's music on TikTok, the #Prince4Ever hashtag has generated more than 2 billion views, while the official Prince account (@prince.4.ever) has more than 192,000 followers. When TikTok celebrated Lennon's would-be 80th birthday in October, it announced the #GimmeSomeTruth challenge to recognize the legendary songwriter's 1971 protest song, and the hashtag has spawned 4 billion views. Meanwhile, Michael's official account launched in October (@GeorgeMichaelOfficial), which features archival footage from the singer-songwriter's career, now has 22,000 followers.

5. TikTok is increasingly collaborating with the music industry on original content.

Whereas TikTok was at odds with the music industry a year and a half ago, the company -- which now has music licensing deals with the three major labels, Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment and Sony Music Group -- collaborated with artists and labels more than ever this year.

Most notably, in August, TikTok partnered with Wave to create “The Weeknd Experience,” a virtual in-app concert which drew more than 2 million unique viewers and 275,000 concurrents while raising more than $350,000 for the Equal Justice Initiative. This year, TikTok also worked on behind-the-scenes content with Jennifer Lopez and Maluma for their collaboration “Pa Ti/Lonely,” and launched series like “Watermarked,” where artists like Miley Cyrus preview new music 30 minutes before its release, and “Sound Off In The Comments,” a live interview series which has hosted the likes of Queen Naija and T-Pain.

Over the summer, TikTok also hosted a virtual prom featuring performers like Diplo and Dillon Francis, while the platform tapped Bad BunnyH.E.R., The Jonas Brothers and Pharrell for a graduation ceremony. In all likelihood, the app’s collaborations with the music industry have only just begun.