New Study Confirms TikTok Drives Streaming, But There’s No Magic Bullet on Going Viral

new-study-confirms-tiktok-drives-streaming,-but-there’s-no-magic-bullet-on-going viral

The platform commissioned a Luminate study to demonstrate that it drives music discovery and engagement


TikTok Dan Kitwood/GI

TikTok released the findings of a new study on Tuesday (Nov. 21) touting its ability to drive music discovery and streaming activity. 

The study, commissioned by TikTok and conducted by Luminate, is full of statistics demonstrating TikTok’s power. First and foremost: “Higher TikTok engagement — whether that’s likes, views, or shares — corresponds with elevated streaming volumes.” (This is why labels have been pestering their acts to post, post more, and post again, sometimes to their artists’ chagrin.) On top of that, U.S. TikTokers “are nearly twice as likely to discover music on short-form video platforms than the average user of social or social-form video platforms,” according to the study’s analysis.

All of this would have had more impact coming out in 2019. Back then, many acts were still nervous to be perceived as a “TikTok artist.” 

At the end of 2023, however, TikTok’s dominance in the music industry has been repeatedly and widely established — to the point where the platform is sometimes resented. TikTok has fundamentally changed the way that labels scout for new talent and market their roster of signed acts. 

Artists and labels all know that TikTok can galvanize an audience to share and stream and buy; what they don’t know is how to trigger that activity. (Spend on ads? Pay influencers? Pray?) And maddeningly, even when songs do go viral on the app, some of them don’t turn into streaming hits at all — see BMW Kenny’s “#WIPEITDOWN” in 2020, or Luclover’s “L$d” last year.

The new TikTok study doesn’t unlock any secrets on that front. But it continuously reaffirms the commercial potential of the platform’s users. 38% of U.S. TikTokers went to a show in the last 12 months, and 45% bought some merch, indicating that this group is more engaged in the music ecosystem than the average listener — 15% more likely to have picked up an LP over the last year, for example.  

In addition, the study finds that TikTok functions to expand its users’ musical horizons. 46% of U.S. TikTokers “listen to music that is not in English” — that’s “27% more likely than music listeners overall” — and this population is “33% more likely to consider having access to global music extremely important.”

TikTok also noted that its users are both “more likely to be music streamers” and more likely to subscribe to a music streaming service. Survey findings indicate that “in the U.S., 62% of TikTok users are paid streamers, compared to 43% of average music listeners.”

Still, there has been concern in the music industry that TikTok users are so addicted to the app that they may not jump over to a streaming service to save a new track they find or add it to a playlist. On Nov. 14, TikTok launched a new feature that allows users to quickly save music they find on the platform to Spotify, Apple Music, or Amazon Music.

This “Add to Music App,” which is available to users in the U.S. and the U.K., creates “a direct link between discovery on TikTok and consumption on a music streaming service, making it easier than ever for music fans to enjoy the full length song on the music streaming service of their choice,” Ole Obermann, TikTok’s global head of music business development, said in a statement.

The result? TikTok is “generating even greater value for artists and rights holders,” Obermann declared.

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