TikTok almost went dark in the U.S. on Sunday (Sept. 20). A tentative deal in which Oracle and Walmart invests in TikTok, and brings its operations to the U.S. from China, saved the app from a U.S. ban ordered by President Trump. Disaster avoided, labels, who work with TikTok influencers to promote songs, can continue their pursuit of the top 10 of Billboard’s Hot 100 -- if the songs click with creators.
Top influencers have become legitimate stars with well-connected managers. The “reigning queen” of TikTok, Charli D’Amelio, is a 16-year-old from Norwalk, CT, with 88 million followers and 6.7 billion likes. D’Amelio is signed to Outshine Talent, a management company created by former Sony Music executive Barbara Jones, and United Talent Agency.
Labels quickly saw an opportunity. Tarek Al-Hamdouni, RCA Records senior vp digital marketing, told Billboard in August that “TikTok has been a tremendous way of reaching a very young music listener” that’s a cornerstone of the business. Al-Hamdouni worked with TikTok influencers to promote SAYGRACE’s “Boys Ain’t Shit” and Doja Cat’s “Say So” and other songs on the platform.
There’s a maxim in music that popular music tends to be popular everywhere: streaming, radio, download sales and peer-to-peer services. This mostly holds true at TikTok, where “WAP” by Cardi B featuring Megan Thee Stallion is the No. 1 on-demand streaming track in the U.S. and currently gets the third-most new videos at TikTok globally (1.4 million in the last week). But TikTok is a breeding group for future hits, too. Take Sada Baby’s “Whole Lotta Choppa” on Asylum Records. TikTok users used the song in 1.7 million new videos last week, the second most of any track. It was only No.136 in on-demand streams.
The video sharing landscape could change over the next year. After an IPO, TikTok will have the capital to build features to attract new users and grab market share. Instagram’s Reels, called “a dud” by The New York Times, is sure to improve. Triller just signed up D’Amelio plus her sister and parents (non-exclusively). What seems certain is the youth of America will be recording more clever, funny and choreographed videos set to current and future hit tracks.