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How TikTok has influenced the consumption of music

 TikTok and music. [iStockphoto]

In Kenya, a digital renaissance is blooming, powered by TikTok, a platform that has become the pulse of the music industry both locally and globally. In a world where the latest news often breaks on social media, 29% of Kenyans are scrolling through TikTok not just for laughs but for the latest updates, according to the Reuters Institute Digital News report of 2023. But it's the 54% jamming to TikTok's rhythm that's changing the game for the Kenyan music scene.

TikTok's grip on the music industry is evident from local hits to global anthems. Take the resurgence of Zablon Ndale's 'Mzabibu,' a 2014 release that lay dormant until TikTok users unearthed it, creating a wave of new content that catapulted it into the limelight. "The song has attracted styles that I never imagined," remarked Ndale, witnessing his music reborn in a new decade.

The story of 'Mwaki,' an EDM sensation produced by Brazilian music maestro Zerb featuring Kenyan vocal talent Sofiya Nzau, encapsulates TikTok's transformative power. This song, with its compelling narrative of youthful defiance and love, has captivated Kenyan TikTok users, igniting a creative explosion of remixes, dance challenges, and reaction videos. This phenomenon is not just entertainment; it represents a significant shift in how music is consumed and celebrated, transcending geographical and cultural barriers.

 Sofiya Nzau [Instagram]

Azziad Nasenya's viral dance to 'Utawezana' marked a pivotal moment for TikTok in Kenya. Overnight, Azziad became a cultural icon, her fame illustrating TikTok's capacity to elevate unknown talents to stardom. With endorsement deals and a lucrative TV job following her viral success, Azziad's story is a testament to the power of social media in shaping careers. The song 'Utawezana,' while originally performed by Femi One and Mejja, found a new identity through TikTok, amassing over 10 million views on YouTube and redefining success in the digital age.

 Azziad Nasenya [X]

TikTok's influence is not confined to Kenya. Lil Nas X's 'Old Town Road' exemplifies how a song can leap from TikTok trends to global acclaim, reaching Billboard's Top 100 chart and becoming a cultural milestone. Similarly, artists like Willy Paul, Bien, Nadia Mukami, and Otile Brown have seen their music ascend to new heights of popularity through TikTok, proving that the platform is a vital launchpad for artists seeking to break into the mainstream.

The industry's pivot towards TikTok reflects a strategic adaptation to the changing landscape of music consumption. With 67% of TikTok's users more inclined to stream a song after encountering it on the platform, according to a study by MRC Data, TikTok has become an essential tool for music discovery. This synergy between TikTok and streaming services is further enhanced by features enabling users to save music directly to platforms like Spotify, Apple Music, or Amazon Music, bridging the gap between casual listening and engaged fandom.

Beyond fame, TikTok has introduced a novel approach to music monetization. Unlike traditional streaming services that pay based on play counts, TikTok compensates artists based on the number of videos that feature their songs. This model encourages TikTok users to become inadvertent supporters of artists, with each new video creation potentially adding to an artist's earnings.

The ripple effect of TikTok's popularity extends well beyond the app itself. Songs that gain traction on TikTok frequently ascend to major music charts, such as the Billboard 100 or Spotify's Viral 50 according to Business Insider. This trend is supported by data indicating that more than half of TikTok users seek out songs on streaming platforms after hearing them on the app, highlighting TikTok's significant influence on music consumption patterns.

Despite its successes, TikTok's journey in the music industry is not without obstacles. Concerns about copyright infringement, artist compensation, and the sustainability of viral fame pose significant challenges. Furthermore, the app's algorithm-driven nature raises questions about the longevity of music careers built on viral hits, suggesting that while TikTok can offer a meteoric rise, it also demands a strategic approach to maintain relevance.


The recent decision by Universal Music Group to sever ties with TikTok underscores the intricate dance between music labels and digital platforms. This move has sent ripples through the industry, highlighting the delicate balance of power, copyright concerns, and the economics of digital music distribution.

As we gaze into the future, the relationship between TikTok and the music industry appears poised for further evolution. With TikTok's undeniable impact on music discovery and consumption, artists, labels, and platforms must navigate this new digital terrain with creativity and foresight. The platform's ability to adapt to industry concerns and its potential for fostering genuine artistic talent will be crucial in sustaining its influence.

In Kenya, where music is a storytelling medium, a community binder, and a cultural ambassador, TikTok has offered a new stage for artists to reach a global audience. From Nairobi to New York, a TikTok clip can be a ticket to new opportunities, bringing with it a promise—and a challenge—for artists ready to ride the wave of digital transformation in the music industry.

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