The Viral Spiral — The Music Industry’s Love Affair with TikTok & The Birth of Its Metal Lovechild.

Madison Pickard
3 min readFeb 15, 2024

How the music industry’s stray from its long-term, monogamous relationship with tradition has revolutionized music PR & Advertising, and what it means to be a musician in the digital age.

Deftones | Revolver

Tik Tok has quickly become one of the most popular social media platforms in the world, with over a billion users and counting. The rapid growth has caught the attention of marketers and public relations practitioners alike — keen to tap into the platform’s never-ending potential as one of the most powerful tools for advertising and brand awareness.

While many people associate TikTok with dance challenges, lip-syncing, and comedic skits, the app has also had a significant impact on the music industry. So much so, it has completely changed the way musicians promote and advertise their music.

The app has also played a huge role in revamping older bands’ discographies, leaving them with a newborn following.

The union between these phenomena has led to the resurrection of metal, a dying genre from its peak in the mid-2000s. Through TikTok, and other social media, a certain subgenre of metal, Nu metal, has become a preeminent genre for Gen-Z. Bands like Deftones and Korn have shown sporadic growth due to a few songs going viral. Want proof?

My own TikTok, a take on a trend that emerged in early 2023, using the Deftones song “Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away)” blew up considerably. With over 190,000 likes and 650,000 views, my single TikTok alone ushered in hundreds of new fans for the band. The song was released 25 years ago and still retains a cult-like following, uniting new and old fans alike.

With the resurgence of established bands like Deftones and Korn, modern acts have begun to wonder if they could gain the same status.

They can.

The frontman of the metalcore band Bad Omens, Noah Sebastian, provided his take. In a 2022 interview, Sebastian revealed his band and management don’t use TikTok as much as they should.

When asked how their song “Just Pretend” gained popularity, Sebastian credited user generated content on TikTok for doing the heavy work for his team.

“I don’t know, like, how that happens…” Sebastian said. “It’s nice to know someone is out there doing the works on the platforms… the ones we’re kind of neglecting.”

Sebastian even mentions that he realizes how integral TikTok is to current record labels signing new artists, saying the talents’ TikTok presence plays a considerable role in gaining label contracts.

TikTok’s algorithm plays a huge role in the process. The app’s “For You” page recommends videos to users based on their viewing history. This means a video featuring an obscure song could potentially reach millions of people if the algorithm deems it worthy. This has led to a phenomenon known as “TikTok songs”, where songs that go viral on the app become popular outside the platform. When looking at the Nu metal genre, songs like “Break Stuff” by Limp Bizkit, “Cherry Waves” by Deftones, and “Duality” by Slipknot are solid examples of this occurring in real time.

In addition to the inner workings of the music industry itself, TikTok has impacted music public relations and advertising through the rise of social media influencers. Influencer marketing has become a tool to promote concerts and tours. Brands have noted this and have partnered with popular influencers to promote their products, in this case: music. This has broadened engagement with younger generations, who are historically disconnected with traditional forms of advertising.

Finally, TikTok has transformed the way musicians interact with their fans. Because the app is so interactive, followers of musicians can have intimate and personalized experiences with the musicians they follow. One example of this is Andy Biersack, the lead singer of metal band Black Veil Brides. Not only does he post engaging content for his fans, he responds to all types of comments from his followers (and haters). This only strengthens the parasocial relationships fans have with their favorite musicians, and does wonders for the musicians’ overall brand.

It’s safe to say TikTok has completely changed the game when it comes to music advertising and publicity. The app’s algorithm has democratized the process of music discovery — simultaneously eradicating pre-digitalization prejudices and emboldening new age predispositions within the industry and the artists coming up in this nearly lawless land.