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Discovering and sharing music is easier than ever with TikTok. The app is a social media platform where users create short videos with new and popular music or sounds of their own. Since TikTok’s start, the app has been known to foster so many of the trends we see, especially with music.

Often the songs that become popular on TikTok have some sort of dance or trend attached to them. The secret formula for a viral hit song is to make a short and simple dance routine to a portion of the song. However, the song and dance/trend must connect with the audience enough to make them want to carry on the trend. This seems to happen by pure luck, but the danceability and catchiness of a song definitely play a large role in the popularity.

REENTERING THE CHARTS

While TikTok has been a great way to debut a new song, oftentimes songs that were released decades ago reenter the charts because they became part of a popular trend on the app. In September 2020, user @420doggface208 shared a video of him skateboarding and drinking Ocean Spray cranberry juice while listening to “Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac. This song found its way onto the Billboard Hot 100 again, more than 40 years after its initial release.


RISE TO FAME

Many music artists have gotten their big break on TikTok, similar to how YouTube used to help new artists get discovered. Most notably, rapper/singer Lil Nas X quickly climbed to fame after he shared his song, “Old Town Road”, on the app in 2019. The song went viral shortly after and reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100, maintaining that position for weeks. Other users began using his song to make and share videos on the app. Lil Nas X’s career got a jumpstart overnight because of one video on TikTok. 

Fame can happen in a matter of hours. Artists can debut a song on the app and attract the attention of millions of users. TikTok is now an efficient method of discovering new artists and boosting traffic to smaller and lesser-known artists. 

Other notable artists that have been discovered on TikTok include 24kGolden, Tai Verdes, Arizona Zervas, and more recently, Olivia Rodrigo. A former Disney Channel star, Rodrigo’s song “Drivers License” went viral after one TikTok user created a trend to the song that mimics part of the music video. Other users jumped on the trend and created videos of their own, and then big creators joined the trend as well. This snowball effect led to Rodrigo becoming a chart-topping artist, which helped pave the way to more number one songs after the May release of her album, Sour.

THE SECRET FORMULA

So what is the secret formula for a viral hit song on TikTok? Trends come and go faster than ever, and TikTok is somewhat responsible for this acceleration. 



With that being said, this is the formula for having a song go viral on TikTok:

Danceability + Innovation + Catchy Lyrics - Effort = Viral Song

Let’s break this down further.

DANCEABILITY

A good beat is always important for any song, but if you want your song to have a trending dance connected to it, it must be a beat people can dance to. Dances on TikTok are often more simple than other types of dances. This is because most people that participate in these dancing trends may not have any dance skills like the professionals. Therefore, the dance must be able to be done by a variety of people.

On the other hand, some songs go viral for trends that aren’t necessarily dance-related. If a song doesn’t have a high danceability score, it must make up for that in another portion of the formula.


INNOVATION/REINVENTING

People want to hear something they haven’t heard before. Keeping things fresh and exciting will almost always produce positive results. This may seem like an obvious part of the formula, but it is easier said than done.

Throwback songs have also been part of viral trends, so reinventing older songs counts as innovation. 

CATCHY LYRICS

Along with being able to dance to a song, people like to sing to songs as well. When lyrics are easy to relate to, audiences sing along and feel connected to the song.

Catchy lyrics that people can relate to and also lyrics that depict specific actions work as well. For example, a line in “Say So” by Doja Cat says, “no punches left to roll with, you got to keep me focused,” and the dance moves to this song quite literally match the lyrics. A soft punching move transitions into a rotation of both arms rolling over one another is then followed by extending arms out in front of the body with both index fingers and thumbs pointed out with thumbs touching, resembling the focus screen of a camera.


EFFORT

Music is always a hit or miss. Nowadays it seems like a portion of pop songs are made specifically for TikTok, with lyrics that directly correlate to dance moves. But what songs become trending totally depends on if the right audience picks it up. Trends can’t be forced, and sometimes songs may underperform simply because they seem to be working too hard to get a trend started. Trying without looking like you are trying is more or less the way to approach this.

NOW THAT YOU KNOW THE SECRET...

Whether you are creating a song that you want to go viral, or just curious about how it happens, you now have access to the secret formula and should proceed with caution. It takes skill and craftiness to execute the formula properly. TikTok and its users are a powerhouse and have the ability to make or break the future of a song.

 

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