Nathan Apodaca‘s cran-raspberry-sipping skateboard video, set to Fleetwood Mac‘s “Dreams,” became a hit on TikTok soon after he posted it on Sept. 25 — but the 22-second clip didn’t really go viral until after the band’s managers and record label juiced it. Within days, the band shared the video on its Twitter account (“We love this!”) and its label, Warner Music, began paying social influencers to spread the word.
Warner started with what Kevin Gore, president of global catalog for recorded music, calls “basic blocking and tackling”: hitting up radio stations and streaming services for airplay and playlist exposure. The label also hired the Nashville startup Songfluencer, which companies employ to pay social media influencers to “add a little kerosene to the fire,” says co-founder/CEO Johnny Cloherty. Soon, a TikTok user with 12 million followers was wiping out on his skateboard while drinking mayonnaise. (Another, with 2.3 million followers, opted for chocolate syrup.) By Oct. 3, the original clip had made it to TikTok’s trending Discover page, and it became a viral sensation — big enough that people who don’t use TikTok knew it. Then Shelter Music Group, which manages Fleetwood Mac, convinced drummer Mick Fleetwood to post his own video on Oct. 5. “Dreams” singer-songwriter Stevie Nicks followed a week later; estranged guitarist Lindsey Buckingham made his own clip the week after that.
Serendipity and all of these efforts made “Dreams” the first catalog hit revived by TikTok, which over the past year-and-a-half has consistently broken new songs, such as recent Billboard Hot 100 chart-toppers “Mood” by 24kGoldn (featuring iann dior) and “Savage Love (Laxed — Siren Beat)” by Jawsh 685 and Jason Derulo. The 1977 single, which also topped the Hot 100 over 40 years ago, has now been used in nearly a half-million TikTok videos, and on-demand audio streams on Spotify and other services have almost quadrupled (while Fleetwood Mac’s overall catalog of streams doubled). Warner may have made over $250,000 in incremental revenue on “Dreams” — plus another $250,000 on the increased popularity of the rest of the band’s catalog. (The label would pay the band royalties on this.) “Dreams” reentered the Hot 100 at No. 21 on the chart dated Oct. 17, then rushed to No. 12 the following week — the group’s best performance there since 1987.
That makes TikTok “the most exciting thing happening in the catalog business in years and years, because of the ability and the opportunity to reach young people,” says Bruce Resnikoff, president/CEO of Universal Music Enterprises (UMe), which controls recordings by The Beatles, Bob Marley and Motown artists. Other older songs have had TikTok moments — Kesha‘s 2010 track “Cannibal” took off in early 2020, while Patience and Prudence’s 1956 version of “Tonight You Belong to Me” somehow ruled 2019 — but none were nearly as successful.
The surprise popularity of Apodaca’s video and “Dreams” comes as catalog listening is growing faster than new music amid the pandemic. For the year to date, as of the week ending Oct. 29, catalog audio on-demand streams were up 18.4% compared with the same period last year, according to Nielsen Music/MRC Data. TV commercials have followed the same trend since March, indicating the stay-at-home audience has been searching for “nostalgia and connection,” says Louis Monoyudis, online marketing expert and chief marketing officer of Levo Oil. (Thus, Monoyudis sets the herbal-oil and butter-infusion machine company’s TikTok clips to older tracks like Avril Lavigne‘s “Girlfriend” and Nappy Roots‘ “Good Day.”) “Pre-pandemic, the perception a lot of marketers had was, ‘TikTok is really great, but it’s very Generation Z-focused,”’ he says. “But now that a lot of people of all ages and backgrounds are gravitating to TikTok, we’re seeing the purchasing power — the way we saw on Facebook.”
Songfluencer is trying to capitalize on this trend, and the company now works on projects for the catalog divisions of all three major labels. “They were a little hesitant, and I don’t think they were fully grasping how they could use the platform yet,” says Cloherty. “As time went on, it became undeniable. This is just the start of the deep-catalog resurgence.”
Fleetwood Mac’s TikTok popularity has already inspired other legacy artists to try to create their own viral moments. “You can’t script this — it just happened,” says Shelter Music Group CEO Carl Stubner, who adds that other acts the company works with are paying attention. Some rights holders are trying to make something happen: The John Lennon estate launched a TikTok partnership on Oct. 8 by posting its own clips — with modest success, by TikTok standards. Others are taking steps to avoid seeming “manufactured,” as Sony Legacy senior vp marketing Andy McGrath says: “We are not especially focused on the creation of TikTok moments as much as we are focused on our response and support of organic TikTok moments.” Adds UMe’s Resnikoff: “In the past, reactive was fine. The ability to turn on a moment’s notice and implement a plan in 24 hours has changed how we market catalog.”
More catalog songs are likely to follow “Dreams” to TikTok success — in part because, contractually, they’re finally available to users. The service has spent much of this year finalizing music licenses with Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group and Sony Music (with which it announced a new deal on Nov. 2), as well as independent labels and publishers. The “Dreams” phenomenon is “the first big pop out of catalog” on TikTok, says Ashley Winton, senior vp creative services at publisher Warner Chappell. “There’s going to be a lot more.”