Berlin rapper Domiziana’s debut single “Ohne Benzin” went under the radar for months before going viral on TikTok. The song is now known worldwide. Its rapid success shows the impact the platform has had on the music industry over the past few years.
Anyone who has been on the usual social media platforms in the last few days will have found it difficult to avoid a song: “Without Gasoline” by Domiziana. The Berlin rapper’s first song was a hit and was viewed almost seven million times on Spotify. This not only gave her a place in the top 10 of the German charts, but also in Spotify’s “Viral 50 – Global”. In the playlist, which shows the most listened songs worldwide, Domiziana reached number 17 right away last weekend.
The curious thing: the song is already three months old. In addition, he did not become famous on Spotify, Apple Music or Youtube, but on TikTok. There the hit is currently associated with a viral dance challenge and has been placed over thousands of small video clips for a few days. Domiziana herself is also in the limelight on the social media platform and keeps sharing dance routines and memes about the single with her almost 50,000 followers. Some of the clips have nearly four million views. How did the Berliner achieve worldwide success so quickly?
TikTok’s influence on the music industry
TikTok has become the central source for new trends and music for many teenagers and young adults. Domiziana’s success joins a long list of young artists who owe their first success to the platform. American musicians such as Lil Nas X and Doja Cat have been followed in recent months by German artists and bands such as Annenmay Kantereit and Giant Rooks, who have more than 100 million listeners with their joint version of the classic “Tom’s Dinner”. achieved worldwide.
No matter how you feel about the platform, TikTok has arrived in the middle of society. With more than 850 million active users, TikTok is well on the way to replacing Facebook, Instagram and YouTube as the most important social network. Despite all the critical looks from the older generation and criticism from data protection officers, almost half (46 percent) of twelve to 40-year-olds in Germany have now installed the app on their smartphone. The video platform is particularly popular among the youngest age group. More than half of teenagers between the ages of 12 and 19 use the app several times a day.
The success of TikTok has always been closely linked to music. It is a central part of dance challenges, lip sync battles and memes. It happens again and again that certain songs generate a real hype. If a song is successful on TikTok, millions of people use the same excerpt within a very short time to perform a popular dance or to present themselves in a funny way. TikTok now acts as a kind of musical gatekeeper for other streaming platforms. If a song is successful here, it is reflected in the numbers on Spotify and Apple Music. If the hype is big enough, it eventually ends up on the radio.
Last summer, TikTok published its own study on the platform’s impact on the music industry. According to the company, 80 percent of respondents said TikTok was their first port of call for new music. Users would trust TikTok far more often than other digital platforms, streaming services or their friends’ taste in music.
To what extent TikTok’s own figures can be trusted is difficult to assess. However, the great interest shown by record companies also suggests how important TikTok has become. Steve Cooper, head of the record label Warner Music, confirmed in November 2020 that his company sees social media as one of the significant sources of income. Revenue would be “in the nine figures,” with higher growth rates than streaming subscriptions. Hardly a song that has topped the charts for a long time in recent years has not also been successful on TikTok. From Jack Harlow’s “First Class” to Harry Styles’ “As It Was”.
Songs become shorter and more memorable
There is no formula for a successful TikTok song. The only important thing is that you can interact with the songs. It is also noticeable that the focus is now primarily on distorted, aggressive and loud 808s instead of bass-heavy, deep and smooth drums like a few years ago. The songs don’t have to be elaborately produced, after all, the sounds for TikTok are compressed anyway. The biggest change, however, concerns the length of the songs. These are usually getting shorter and shorter. After all, it is often not the entire song that goes viral on the Internet, but only a small excerpt of around 15 seconds. While the length of modern pop songs had already shrunk from an average of 3:50 minutes to 3:30 minutes from 2013 to 2018, most of the TikTok songs reach just over two minutes.
So does Domiziana’s breakout song “Without Petrol”. It is available on Spotify both in the normal version and at a slightly faster speed. This brings it to just two minutes and 19 seconds. The introduction to the refrain is difficult to understand, but after the first listen you get a catchy tune. Coupled with a fast techno beat and an authentic music video in which Domiziana stages herself as part of Berlin’s techno scene, nothing stands in the way of rapid chart success. However, the question remains how long this will last. As quickly as the TikTok successes become famous, they usually fall victim to the next trend and are forgotten.
Sources: SWR, TikTok, Deutschlandfunk, Quartz