New Study shows TikTok’s massive impact on music discovery

TikTok has gained something of a reputation for being a music industry hit-maker, something which a new report MRC Data confirms to be completely true.

Do people really listen to the music that goes viral on TikTok?

A new report finds the answer is an ecstatic “Yes!”

Guest post by James Shotwell of Haulix

Ever since “Old Town Road” first went viral, music professionals and artists hoping to get attention have looked to TikTok to help break new talent. The popular video-sharing platform welcomes hundreds of millions of users every month. To date, more than 100 songs that initially rose to popularity on the app have found their way onto the Billboard charts. The working theory in music is that no other platform can make an artist or song known faster than TikTok, and the data from a pair of new industry reports seems to agree.

A music perceptions study was conducted in November 2020 by MRC Data, while a study about TikTok’s impact on culture was fielded in March 2021 by London-based Flamingo Group. Both surveys were conducted online, polling nearly 1,500 TikTok users. Highlights from both studies were revealed Wednesday morning in a TikTok blog post.

With music discovery being one of the platform’s most talked-about attributes, it won’t surprise most music marketers to learn that 75% of TikTok visitors discover artists there, while 63% say it’s a source for music they’ve not heard before and 72% indicating they associate certain songs with TikTok.

A few examples of TikTok’s growing influence:

  • Lil Nas X first rose to popularity following TikTok’s embrace of “Old Town Road.” That song now holds the title for the most consecutive weeks at number one—ever.
  • Blanco Brown, rising country superstar, found a deal after his track “The Git Up” and its accompanying dance challenge spawned thousands of videos.
  • Fleetwood Mac’s hit “Dreams” experienced its biggest success in decades after a video of a man listening to the song while riding a skateboard drinking Ocean Spray cranberry juice went viral. Ocean Spray later bought the man a truck.
  • Claire Rosinkranz, Dixie D’Amelio, Powfu, Priscilla Block, Bella Porch, and Tai Verdes are some of the more than 70 musicians who have signed label deals following TikTok success.

In a study conducted in May by MusicWatch for trade group Digital Media Assn. (DiMA), in which respondents could choose more than one source, the leading driver cited for music discovery was audio streaming services at 47%, followed closely by video streaming services at 45% and AM/FM radio at 41%. In that study, posts from video or dance sites like TikTok, Instagram’s Reels and Triller were cited by 29% of respondents, right behind “posts or alerts” on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat at 30%. Other factors, like music placed in film, TV or video games ranked higher, with music in movies polling at 35%, while recommendations from family or friends ranked even higher at 39%.

The one factor that is hard to study is how TikTok’s influence compares to that of other platforms.

“Since 100% of the music fan base doesn’t all stream, or play video games, or watch dance videos, etc., it’s good to see how these user segments react differently when it comes to discovery, or anything else for that matter,” says MusicWatch managing partner Russ Crupnick.

Still, it’s clear TikTok is a platform where artists from all corners of life are finding success. If you have yet to open an account, or if you need help getting started, we’ve got the clip for you:


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James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company’s podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.

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