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We tracked what happens after TikTok songs go viral

A data investigation into how TikTok is shaping the music industry, in collaboration with The Pudding.

It’s no secret that TikTok is a virality machine. Songs get turned into sounds that can be used in any video, and if they gain enough traction they can catapult a musician into the pop culture stratosphere. But we wanted to know exactly what happens between a song going viral and an artist becoming a bona fide success. So in the fall of 2021, we partnered with data analysis website The Pudding to figure it out.

Along the way, we discovered that using data to concretely answer this question is quite a challenge. Our process included creating dozens of custom data sets, careful fact-checking, and conversations with hit songwriters and music industry executives to match data with real experiences.

After seven months of spreadsheets, data deep-dives, and interviews, we were able to follow the numbers to track what happens to artists after they go viral — and how the music industry has shape-shifted around TikTok. It turns out the app is completely revolutionizing the way record labels work and giving artists more leverage than ever.

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