The Tik Tok Effect


The influence of Tik Tok seems to grow every day. With 1 billion active users, the platform has the power to create trends and celebrities from nothing. A Tik Tok trend can be a part of many different categories, from food to cosmetics to dance, but the power of Tik Tok is captured perfectly in music. 

Music may just be the backbone of Tik Tok. Behind nearly every short clip is a song. Sometimes, that song, or more accurately that snippet of audio, was made far before the app skyrocketed to popularity in early 2018. Recently, I have begun to see a personal favorite song of mine, “Ginseng Strip 2002” on Tik Tok. Originally, I was excited to see a song and artist I had long listened to grow in popularity, but the extent to which that popularity grew became evident to me when I saw the song on two friends’ playlists. This could not be a coincidence. And it wasn’t. “Ginseng Strip 2002” has blown up on the charts. Today, it is all the way up at number 60 on the Spotify daily charts, and its popularity is only climbing each day.

(Ginseng Strip 2002 Google Search Popularity via Google Trends)

Yung Lean, who was originally a niche artist mostly listened to by fans of “Drain Gang” or the “Sad Boy Emporium.” But Lean’s niche role has grown in the past number of days, having grown his appeal to the mass hordes of Tik Tok users who would otherwise never heard of him. R/sadboys, a subreddit dedicated to Yung Lean and the Sad Boy Emporium is split over the issue. Many long-time Lean fans are angry by this news, fearing that their favorite artist will be tarnished by popularity, but others are happy about the popularity and the acclaim that will hopefully follow for Yung Lean. 

Nevertheless, an artist who just weeks ago was unheard of by the majority of the young adult population is now blasting into their ears on a daily basis. “Ginseng Strip 2002” has become a mainstream hit, and like it or not its iconic “Brah” has already spread into the listening of millions. Four years ago, this instant popularity would be nearly impossible. YouTube, Instagram, and other social media services only seem to promote well-established artists, as new or underground artists are shackled to whatever popularity their fanbase gives them. With Tik Tok, a new artist can go viral within hours. A new trend, if posted by the right people, can expose millions of new viewers to a song they otherwise would have never heard. Today, it seems as if Tik Tok is the golden ticket to short-term success in the music industry.

Other artists like Phoebe Bridgers, Doja Cat, and K CAMP have all seen their listeners soar since being introduced to Tik Tok. Gatekeeping by long-time fans will inevitably continue, but in the end, the momentum created by Tik Tok seems like an unstoppable force. The only question now is which obscure artist will see their name atop the charts next.