TikTok’s Influence on Top Music Charts
Updated: Jan 14
Ever wonder how the songs you hear over and over on TikTok stack up against the nation's Top 40 Radio Chart Hits? Well, we went in and did just that. Collecting forty of the nation’s top hits and comparing them to forty of TikTok’s biggest hits allowed us to compare the two in terms of popularity and genre. While we do find similarities between the two lists, we most importantly noted the influence that songs used on TikTok have on the music industry as a whole. With over 2 billion downloads, no wonder TikTok has the ability to sway the entire music industry and catapult lesser-known artists into superstars.
We found that a number of popular TikTok songs are included on the Top 40 Radio Chart Hits, often solely due to the app and its promotion of the song itself. For example, “Roses” by SAINt JHN, became a nationwide sensation after it peaked as one of TikTok’s most used songs and now sits at number three on radio charts. Moreover, songs like "Toosie Slide" by Drake may have never made it to number 19 in the nation if it weren’t for the dance-along posts that users flooded TikTok with, raising it to one of the most trending tunes on the app.
In terms of the genre, TikTok's most used genre is Pop as it is geared toward a younger demographic; hence, 69% of TikTok users between the ages of 13 and 24. In another light, there are also trends in alternative music on TikTok that are used mostly for the storyline and DIY posts. Within this genre, these alternative songs do very well, often entirely due to the help from TikTok. For example, “Renee” by SALES, is said to be the number 12 most popular song on TikTok but does not hold real estate in the Top 40 Radio Hits list. However, if you asked a fan from the alternative genre about “Renee”, they may say it is very popular within this music style. To put it simply, the trending songs amongst this age group do fantastic on TikTok but do not always translate to radio hits so cleanly.
The most remarkable TikTok sensations were “The Box” by Roddy Ricch and “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X. These two tunes were multiplied into fame on the app as users raved about using and viewing videos linked with the songs. “Old Town Road” made history spending 19 weeks as Billboard’s number one song, along with “The Box” spending far longer at number one than expected for 11 weeks. “Old Town Road” was initially posted by Lil Nas X to the app in hopes to hit big and it did just that becoming a viral sensation on TikTok. Who knows if the famous “Old Town Road" would have ever become Billboard’s number one song without the help of TikTok? Evidently, the app has birthed its own line up of superstar hits that often develop into radio hits. In addition, household songs like “ROCKSTAR” by DaBaby and “Savage” by Megan Thee Stallion would not nearly be what they have become today if it weren’t for TikTok.
One of the biggest differences we noted between TikTok hits and radio hits was the intensity of the music. Perhaps lots of popular TikTok tunes are not necessarily the best for listening use outside of the app. Songs like "death bed (coffee for your head)” by Powfu and beabadoobee are ones that illustrate how a fun tune to link with a video post may not be the same tune you’d play on the daily. Additionally, TikTok is loaded with modern electric dance music that is oftentimes remixed, which is also not necessarily ‘ideal’ listening music to most. On the opposite side of the spectrum, TikTok favorites include a large group of throwbacks that wouldn’t show up on popular radio channels anymore. Songs like “I’m Just a Kid” by Simple Plan have seen their Top 40 radio hits years ago and lack spikes in streaming outside of TikTok today.
Finally, a large majority of Top 40 Radio Hits do in fact benefit from TikTok’s promotion in the form of user videos, but most are not considered as TikTok’s most popular. For example, the current number one song out, “Blinding Lights” by The Weeknd, is often used on TikTok but is certainly not a premier song to use like “ROXANNE” by Arizona Zervas.
TikTok is making waves in the music industry, and it is very common to see songs initially popular on TikTok begin to climb up the leaderboards on radio charts. TikTok has just recently implemented royalties paid out every month to musicians whose songs are streamed on the app. Some musicians make even more money from streams on TikTok than the radio and other music apps. Billboard’s chart manager Kevin Rutherford thinks “it can always get bigger”… “and it’s already pretty huge right now."
Needless to say, TikTok has proven to the world that it is making a huge impact on the music industry and has the power to affect mainstream hits.