August 18, 2020

How TikTok is helping to break Nigerian hit songs in 2020


All over the world music is changing. As multifarious factors–music streaming and wireless devices chiefly–conspire to reshape how and when we can listen to music, the mechanics of what is popular music is, and where it can conceivably come from, are also being fundamentally reexamined with the world becoming interconnected and influences transmuting at a faster pace than any time in our modern history.

Seemingly, the most important effect the new reality of the world has had is its influence on artiste discovery and what is considered trendy and worthy of attention. Social metrics and impressions now take up a heightened position in a world that is both moving at heady speed and unsure of what other parameters can be used to judge what we appreciate.

In Nigeria, the effect has been pretty much the same as it has been worldwide. The overt incursion of the Internet into the interior of the country in the last decade has been the changing factor for how music is consumed, collected, and enjoyed; altering the music industry in broad ways.

Additionally, social media is providing a venue of convergence for different purposes, but music lovers have re-imagined it as a point of access to their favourite stars and co-fans while music creators view it as a product to increase the reach of their songs, essentially creating a market situation on these apps.

With the multimedia functions available on these applications and the wide range of users, musicians are able to get across to a number of users in a bid to create a buzz around their music.

The stunning success of Lil Nas X’s 2019 single “Old Town Road” was one of the biggest collisions of social media acclaim with commercial profitability as the trap-country song became the longest-running Billboard Top 100 number 1 song in the chart history after blowing up on TikTok. The sheer diversity of the app and its intersection with music make it one of those apps that expose the world to new music and, in a sense, invent what is cool.

In 2020, TikTok has continued a swashbuckling run that has engendered the span of its reach, making it the breakout platform of the year and, by proxy, an arbiter for judging what is cool. Young people and old people alike come on the app and make videos that drive the cultural conversations in their country and even globally.

In Nigeria specifically, the app has had a visible effect on music culture. The lack of infrastructures to accurately track, compute sales and measure commercial success in the west African country means that people are often forced to rely on the ubiquity of tracks in public life to measure how successful they are.

Parties, raves, nightlife venues serve as avenues for setting the parameters of what is popping and what is not. However, the coronavirus has changed the scope of life in 2020 and with Nigeria having spent the majority of the year in lockdown, that option for publicly exploring music is no longer a possibility for music tastemakers and the general public.

TikTok has stepped in to help break songs in the Nigerian market by both amplifying them and then making them ubiquitous. One example is the Mavin rapper, Ladipoe. Entering 2020 as one of the most promising artistes in the country, his collaboration with pop star, Simi, has decisively nudged him up a level in terms of visibility and acceptance.

The song, “Know You,” features an instantly addictive sung chorus and lo-fi rap verses that make it easily memorable by anyone who wants to follow it. And the duet feature on TikTok increased its appeal for those interested in making videos with loved ones or even anybody.

Ladipoe readily talked about TikTok’s impact on “Know You,” saying: “It’s not like I had an intentional roll out plan. I always had this idea that “Know You” was a conversation, and when I released the song, what stood out to me on TikTok, in particular, was the duet feature. It allowed me to give a template for how I wanted fans to interact with the song, and I’m really glad it worked out.”

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The conversational style that he envisioned spilled over into a challenge on TikTok, that was wildly successful on the platform because of the multi-dimensional options it gives viewers to tailor the renditions of their challenge to their own specifics.

The #KnowYou challenge eventually clocked over 10 million views and gave Ladipoe the biggest single of his career as at when this article was written. Importantly, with streaming down during the pandemic and music struggling to get heard, these apps, and specifically TikTok, were important backdoors for fans’ engagements. The benefits of platforms like TikTok to circumvent the streaming drought cannot be underrated in the midst of a lockdown that had people engaging with their phones more than ever.

Ladipoe’s duet partner, Simi, was also able to tap into the reach of TikTok to get another hit song. Her first solo track of 2020, “Duduke,” when originally released, felt like another pop offering from her the talented songstress but with a video that announced her pregnancy to the world caught fire. Simi’s gentle caress of a noticeable baby bump sparked a cultural moment that was documented across social media but that ultimately found a natural home on TikTok.

Thousands of people, men, women, and young adults, have shared videos of themselves also caressing bumps or joyous packages on TikTok with Simi’s “Duduke” playing in the background.

The #Duduke challenge got over 46 million views and helped Simi’s song place as number one across distribution platforms in Nigeria. Since then, a dam has opened with artists trying to reverse-engineer hit singles that are likely to be favourable on TikTok and then migrate to other platforms.

Recently, Kizz Daniel started a challenge for ‘Ada’, a single of his latest album, King of Love. Participants are required to perform a simple dance step and just be creative with their presentation. The challenge received over 11 million views in less than two months since it kicked off.

Inversely, “Ada” continues to be one of the top-ranking songs in Nigeria at the moment, in an enduring portrait of how social media culture is intersecting with popular music.

As the distance between people continues to be shrunk by apps and platforms that deal in speed-of-light connectivity, music, one of humanity’s most enduring art forms, will be a big part of any adaptation and TikTok is proving that it can be at the frontier of helping songs blow up in Nigeria, as it has proven so emphatically in 2020.