Is TikTok ruining music?

by Adamaris Sanchez, Kaylin Ruiz, Abraham Sexton

The role of social media in entertainment is changing, and the music industry is changing with it as well. The highly successful social media platform TikTok has become the go-to application for up-and-coming musical artists to share their music and grow their musical careers. With its immense popularity among Gen Z, many of today’s teens have become influenced by the app in one way or another, and their taste in music is no exception. 

The Interviews 

To better understand TikTok’s effects on the music we listen to locally, we asked various students at Frank Sinatra School of the Arts (FSSA) their views on the app’s grasp on the music and entertainment industry. We begin with Lou Laligant-Dupont, a fine arts freshman, and interviewed them on how TikTok personally affected their music taste. 

Lou Laligant-Dupont, an FSSA fine arts freshman.

Q: Do you have TikTok?

A: Yes, I do.

Q: Would you say your music taste has been influenced by trending songs on TikTok? If so, how?

A: Probably, I feel like I find artists to listen to. I find a different variety.

Q: How do you feel about “underground” music gaining recognition on TikTok? 

A: It’s annoying. Sometimes I like the song, and I hear it way too much. 

Q: What do you feel about “gatekeeping” music from TikTok?

A: It’s not fair to the artist, but I understand the point of view of the person listening to it. 

In fact, “gatekeeping” music has become quite the controversial topic with the rise of underground artists gaining recognition on TikTok. Some feel that gatekeeping is necessary in order to prevent their favorite artists from going too mainstream, while others, like our next interviewee, an FSSA freshman fine arts major named Nathaniel, find the idea of gatekeeping to be stupid. 

Q: What do you feel about “gatekeeping” music from TikTok?

A: It’s stupid and pointless because everyone deserves to listen to good music, and keeping it from someone is keeping (them) out from a good song.

Nathaniel also shared with us his opinion on “underground” music on the social media platform.

Q: How do you feel about “underground” music gaining recognition on TikTok? 

A: Honestly it’s great, because underground music is becoming more popular, and (it) helps the creator gain more money and put out more songs.

Another interviewee, Netza Jimenez, a vocal senior at Sinatra whose music taste was also influenced by TikTok, had a similar view to Nathaniel regarding the recognition of up-and-coming artists on the app.

Q: How do you feel about “underground” music gaining recognition on TikTok? 

A: I think it’s a great platform for promoting more unknown music. It’s a great way to promote your work and promote different, more rare types of music, and I appreciate that it’s easier for artists to get more exposure on TikTok. 

Q: What do you feel about “gatekeeping” music from TikTok?

A: I feel like people are always gonna do that. I think the best thing is how you feel about the music, not how anyone else came into it first … it’s best for someone to enjoy art because that’s the whole purpose of creating something like that … it’s so that you can feel something from it. I don’t support gatekeeping, because everyone should like whatever they want. 

Netza also shared with us his opinion on specific artists that got a significant boost to their musical career off of the app. 

Q: How do you feel about rising TikTok musical artist Pink Panthress and their recent recognition and fame from TikTok?

A: I haven’t listened to a lot of their songs but the ones I have heard are awesome, and I’m really glad that TikTok was a great platform for their music.

Q: What are your thoughts on Olivia Rodrigo, another artist who got a boost from TikTok?

A: I’m not an Olivia Rodrigo fan, I don’t really like her music, but I feel like whatever way there is for someone to get deserved recognition, if it makes someone feel good about their day, or if it makes someone feel good by listening to their music, then it’s good that it’s been promoted and it’s also a great way to encourage more artists to promote their music on TikTok. 

The Poll States…

A Google Form was released in partnership with the creation of the article asking a variety of questions regarding the impact TikTok has had to the high school demographic’s music taste. A total of 140 responses were collected across FSSA with 30 percent of the respondents being sophomores, taking the lead of the most documented group in the poll. The leading major who responded were Fine Arts, which accurately reflected the majority of them in the school data. 80 percent of respondents stated that they use Tiktok, and 52.1 percent of those respondents stated that TikTok has an influence on the music they listen to. Gatekeeping, a term that is often used to describe the act of “guarding” or covering certain interest from mainstream media, demonstrated to be an unpopular idea, with only 5.7 percent of respondents strongly agreeing with the practice.

“TikTok is kind of ruining alternative subculture and putting it in the mainstream, music included” said one anonymous respondent.

The whole debate of gatekeeping musical artists usually revolves around the idea of keeping music hidden to avoid “everyday listeners” from overseeing an artists. When an artist goes mainstream, not everyone may understand the message the original artist chose to share to their viewers, leading to fans of that artist to feel exhibited when others listen without regard.

The difficulty in criticizing the people who enact in the practice is based on their personal connection with the artist. Perhaps an artist chooses for their music to only be exposed to certain like-minded individuals, which fuels the intent of keeping them a secret, but its hard to prove due to the reason that most artists release artwork for monetary gain as well. If an artwork is “gatekept” from the mass public, the artist may find issue with the limited amount of revenue they may receive. 

Another argument presented is the act of gatekeeping from cultural practices and music. With one respondent stating: “I think that people should get to listen to what they want but some communities have a right to something that is culturally theirs.” 

The respondent offers a look at another mainly overlooked aspect of gatekeeping. Cultures reserving certain practices or elements to themselves can be seen throughout history and for fairly reasonable intents. In history, marginalized communities have been stripped from their highly criticized lifestyles, only for others to make a profit from it under a different label and aesthetic. For example the emergence of Hip-Hop and rap in New York City from predominately Black communities in the 1970s. The music style was deemed as “ghetto” and “revolting” in comparison to other music at the time, but as time went on the same people who criticized the art form soon capitalized it for profit. The same people who mocked and belittled rap artists for their “negative” lyrics, created their own rap music, with the same lyrics and sounds just without the criticism. It often comes into conversation about how rap should have been a gatekept genre, but as time proves often, its almost impossible to fully gatekeep something when an individual sees profit involved.

In comparison to various social media platforms, TikTok can be named as one of the easiest platforms to boost and share your artwork with the world. Many artists have gathered their fanbases and fame from their music trending, and some may speculate if they fully deserve that success. Approximately 40.7 percent of respondents strongly agree with the success of various TikTok stars such as Yvngxchris, PinkPanthress and Olivia Rodrigo.

“People express themselves in different ways and if a large group of people can find a way to connect with the way an artist is expressing themselves through music than whats the harm in that.”

The overall success of these artists are caused by viewers being able to make a relation with their music based on a thirty second clip. If an artist was able to make that possible, their success in the music industry shows as a direct reflection on how they used that element to their advantage. TikTok offers a home to millions of interests, and based on polling data, many of them coexist for the sole purpose of enjoying art forms by people like them.

The Media Uncovers

The influence TikTok has made upon the music industry isn’t a new observation. Various magazine sites have picked up on the growing trend of artists and genres. Teen Vogue wrote an article on rising star PinkPantheress, and the rapid rate of success they garnered through TikTok’s algorithm. The article follows the story of songwriter and singer “PinkPantheress” and particularly how Tiktok influences her choices within her career. She tells Teen Vogue that she had created many initial songs on an app called Garageband, which she then transferred to Tik Tok itself. She noticed how Tiktok allowed small artists to quickly amass popularity due to the volatile nature of Tiktok’s algorithm that can promote any artists’ song at any given time.

Shortly after she did this, her songs ended up going viral multiple times with her music on Tiktok causing her to gain an initial following that has made her significantly more popular today. Whether or not the structure and algorithm of TikTok promotes the creation of low quality music, it’s undeniable that TikTok is the only viable modern platform that potentially talented artists can use to gain some recognition that they otherwise would not have been able to get that facilitates these artists to continue making music. 

PinkPantheress has shown her success through TikTok. “She’s made Billboard’s 21 Under 21 list and TikTok named her song “Just for Me” the breakout track of the summer.” She gained national recognition as her song created in a format for TikTok became viral and skyrocketed her musical career. 

Media websites such as wrote about the possible exploitation of these new artists as well. Demonstrating the relation between music giants and these fairly young artists, and how toxic work relations begin. The article outlines a darker side of the music industry and its interaction with Tiktok, as it uses tweets from artists who give their perspective on how they have been treated by labels who use TikTok to make their job easier. It shows how despite many independent artists creating unique music do end up becoming successful through TikTok, a sea of other artists signed by labels are told to go viral through TikTok if they want to secure the future of their music. Labels tell their artists to abuse the Tiktok algorithm with unoriginal and basic music that they know people will listen to as long as it goes viral. The artists realize that the unfortunate truth of TikTok is that “organic” music by independent artists and music spawned from the laziness of Labels will have to exist together as long as the greed from Labels persists. However, listeners will generally listen and follow along with trending music on TikTok as it will create the most content on the app, and that music will generally be the sea of lower quality music created purely to get as many listeners as possible.  

Many artists agree that Labels abuse the systems of TikTok and have shown it through support for the artist “Jojo” who initially raised the question of the interaction of Labels and TikTok. Her tweet “Do you think “find a way to make your music go viral on tik tok” is a fair /creative/ effective/ efficient marketing strategy proposal from a record label? Asking for a friend” came with many responses that argued in favor of her such as”Wale “,”Tinashe “, and “Tatianna” with the tweet gaining 5,000 likes and 400 other replies. Needless to say the artists themselves are unhappy with Labels meddling in the natural ability of new and unique artists looking for success using TikTok.