Capping off its most notable year to date, short-form video app TikTok — whose fast-growing hit-maker clout has been a defining story in 2020’s quarantined music industry — released its first music report detailing the biggest hits, artists and musical trends on the app from the year on Wednesday morning.
Megan Thee Stallion, who had several viral singles on the app including “Savage,” “Captain Hook,” “WAP,” and most recently “Body,” is TikTok’s most listened-to artist this year, the company said. “Savage” alone made it in over 30 million videos on the app, while “WAP” was featured in over 10 million. Both songs blew up thanks in part to immensely popular dance challenges created — the kind of which have become synonymous with TikTok at large. Megan’s fellow Best New Artist Grammy nominee Doja Cat came in second in the most-heard list, followed by Pop Smoke, DaBaby and Roddy Ricch.
TikTok’s music team prides itself on fanning the flames on potential hits and helping turn songs into cultural moments. The company reported on Wednesday that 176 different songs surpassed a billion views on TikTok this year, due to being featured in millions of different videos. Drake’s “Toosie Slide” hit a billion views across the platform in only three days — the fastest to reach the milestone. “WAP,” the second quickest, hit a billion in two weeks. The top 10 songs in TikTok’s year-end roundup accounted for a combined 50 billion views across 125 million videos. Those songs performed well off-platform too: All 10 were featured in the Rolling Stone 100 chart, and six of the singles sold at least a million copies. 90 songs that trended on the app wound up in Billboard’s Hot 100 chart, TikTok said.
Beyond helping popularize hits, TikTok’s year-end roundup highlighted the ways in which the app has revitalized old catalog hits — a trend Rolling Stone reported on earlier this year — along with breaking brand-new artists. Corey Sheridan, TikTok’s head of music partnerships and content operations, said TikTok will continue to build on the success it had with catalogs, keeping its focus on timing and what’s trending.
“We operate best when we are both proactive and reactive in marketing both artists and content. And I don’t anticipate that we will stray away from that concept, but we will continue to iterate and evolve “the formula” going into 2021 in so far as what signals we are looking at, and knowing when to react to the community and the trends we see,” he said in an emailed statement. “So when and how we introduce the catalogs is something we are taking great consideration into. Ultimately, we want to ensure we are doing right by the TikTok community and timing is everything. If we are focused on our community, everyone wins.”
Members of the music team regularly comb through their discovery pages searching for new artists to keep tabs on and help break through. TikTok says over 70 artists who first went viral on the app signed major record deals this year. While some A&R executives have gone on a gold rush toward TikTok to bid on unsigned talent, Lil Nas X in 2019 — whose record-breaking success with “Old Town Road” helped popularize the idea of this TikTok effect — remains the only artist to build a sustainable career of popular songs off his first viral hit. These newly signed artists’ commercial performance in the coming year will be closely watched.
Regarding how to support the influx of TikTok talent on labels, Sheridan pointed to TikTok’s recently closed deals with major music companies like its deal with Sony Music Entertainment, which is set to give TikTok a more direct relationship with the music company and support more of its artists. He mentioned Columbia’s 24kGoldn in particular, who had two hits on TikTok last year before sparking his first Number One single “Mood” on the app earlier this year.
“We will absolutely continue to invest into the overall music industry in a myriad of ways. With the Sony and Warner deals having recently been closed, we are excited to continue to partner with each group and enrich the overall value TikTok provides to their artists and catalog,” he said. “On the artist front, we have been incredibly fortunate to have some of the most talented people in the music industry on our team leading our efforts and we will be doubling down on this going into 2021.”