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GAYLE’s Success With “abcdefu” Is Evidence Of TikTok’s Influence On The Music Industry

How does the debut single from an unknown artist end up at the top of the Billboard 200 chart? One simple answer is: TikTok. 

The video app, which originally was called “Musical.ly,” allows users to lip-sync their favorite songs and holds a strong influence over the music industry since the beginning of its popularity. 

The app’s latest hit, “abcdefu” by GAYLE, has been dominating music streaming apps and was described as the “biggest song in the world” by Billboard, in response to the streams the song has received since it started trending on TikTok. 

The tag #abcdefu started with people using GAYLE’s song on their videos about their exes, going as far as breaking plates in a cathartic experience to express their emotions. Now, the tag has accumulated more than 1.3 billion views on TikTok. Moreover, GAYLE’s song has accumulated nearly 250 million streams on Spotify as of January 12. 

GAYLE’s hit debut isn’t the first song to get popular with the help of the “clock app,” as TikTok is often referred to by its users. At the start of 2021, Olivia Rodrigo’s debut single “drivers license” was also a big hit on the app with over 6.2 billion views on TikTok. Those TikTok views translated on the Billboard charts where “drivers license” made a huge impact. “Say So” by Doja Cat and “Heat Waves” by Glass Animals are other examples of songs that became extremely popular on TikTok at the same time they rapidly climbed the charts. 

It didn’t take long for musicians to realize what a powerful marketing tool TikTok is. 

So many artists use the platform to promote their music. Small, new artists that are just getting started and even industry titans like Taylor Swift has been using the platform to promote her music and interact with fans since August.

The influence of TikTok on the music industry has become bigger than anyone could have anticipated. Speaking of Swift, for example, she released the “Taylor’s Version” re-recording of her 2014 hit “Wildest Dreams” after it trended on the app in September.  

The influence of the app doesn’t stop there. Sony Music, Warner Music Group and Universal Music Group are some of the music labels that have signed deals with TikTok, looking to use the app’s influence on the industry in their favor. 

According to TikTok, over 70 artists were signed by record labels after they went viral on the platform in 2020. The number has certainly gotten bigger in 2021 and it is only continuing to grow in the new year. 

From small artists trying to launch their music career to some of the industry’s biggest names using it to get closer to their fans, there’s no denying that TikTok is shaping the music industry. So many talented, underground artists have been discovered because their songs went viral on the app and so many more are just waiting for their turn. 

Rafaela (she/her) is a sophomore at Penn State, majoring in Public Relations and minoring in Journalism and Sports Studies. She's obsessed with Taylor Swift, books, chocolate, and romantic comedy movies.
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