While TikTok stars continue getting poached by rival platforms, regional music labels have become collateral damage, with some taking as much as a 25-30% hit in revenues due to lost royalties.
According to these music labels, a song that went viral on TikTok often led to a 20%-30% increase in its traffic onand music-streaming platforms, thus boosting earnings.
The ban on TikTok has made song promotion an expensive deal for music labels as the app was able to yield a tenfold impact on views for half the budget set aside for YouTube, say leading regional music labels.
On average, a music label spends between Rs 1 lakh to Rs 40 lakh in promoting a non-film soundtrack across TV, radio, and digital platforms.
Even when traditional advertisers were wary of spending on TikTok, many music labels spent almost 35% of their marketing budget on the short-video app.
Post-TikTok, some labels are thinking of checking out the efficacy of other apps by spending around a third of their TikTok budget on these new platforms.
However, it’s not that simple.
How TikTok & Music Synced
On TikTok, music studios roped in popular creators to use audio clips from their song in their 15-30 second videos. If the track caught users’ fancy, popular TikTok creators would include it in their videos, giving the song free publicity. A ticker underneath a TikTok video’s caption mentions the audio used in creating the video. Users can click on it to see all the TikTok videos that have used the same track.
‘Older and relatively unpopular songs also found traction on TikTok leading to a trickle effect on their YouTube views and streaming numbers,” says Mandar Thakur, COO,, owned by, which also owns ET.
Thakur cites examples of Punjabi songs like “Lamberghini” and “Tera Ghata” that revived a year after release purely on the back of their popularity on TikTok. “Haryanvi and Bhojpuri songs that never went mainstream earlier became national sensations through the app,” he adds.
Close to a hundred non-film songs have been released by the Punjabi, Haryanvi, Bhojpuri, Tamil and Telugu music industry in the two months since the ban.
“A song with the potential of fetching 20 million hits across platforms is now getting only 2 million hits because of lack of TikTok’s marketing channel,’ says Anup Kumar, CEO of Mohali-based music label Acme Muzic that has over 1.4 million subscribers on its YouTube channel.
A few weeks before the app got banned in India, Acme Muzic’s old track from 2017 called “Bam Bhole” got picked up by American singer-songwriter and TikTok sensation, Jason Derulo, for his TikTok video. “That single video recorded 55 million views and gave a second wind to the song across platforms.”
Sound has no language, says Kumar. A fine example of that is the growing popularity of a TikTok trend that rides on users pretending to get hurt in their wrist and then breaking into a dance routine in sync with the ascending beats of a Punjabi track “Sadi gali” from the Hindi movie Tanu Weds Manu. It has caught on with TikTokers around the globe even as the app stays banned back home.
An Indian song going viral at this scale doesn’t happen too often though, says Madhura Sreedhar Reddy, founder of popular Telugu music label Madhura Audio. “In the first six months of this year, only 20-25 Indian songs gained popularity via TikTok. Out of 100 songs promoted on the app, usually, one gets trending.”
For that one song, though, the platform can be game-changing, adds Reddy who, like many others, has discovered several Tamil and Malayalam tracks through TikTok videos.
Can The Game Change?
The ban has not been a game-changer, yet, for the Hindi film music industry — the biggest in the music business. This is simply because not many new songs have rolled out since the ban on TikTok. New movies have released on streaming platforms with little to no emphasis on marketing via songs.
“Under normal circumstances, not having TikTok would have made a huge dent as it had fast become a substantial media vehicle for film promotion,” says Vinod Bhanushali, president of marketing, media and publishing at T-Series, India’s largest music record label.
But new song releases are lined up for the festive season across mainstream and regional music labels.
The good news is, there are players who are building alternatives for music labels to evaluate should they miss their most cost-effective promotional tool.
The not-so-good part: there are just too many of them right now. And the lack of clarity on their audience base makes the choice of an alternative more complex.
Within a couple of years of getting launched in the country, TikTok had managed over 200 million downloads in India.
Like in the West, Indian music scouts have also spent hours on end watching TikTok videos just to find talent; it was the single-biggest artist discovery platform. Many labels are said to have signed people directly from TikTok.
Even if you set its mass reach aside, “very different kind of creative videos were made around songs on TikTok,” says Bhanushali of T-Series.
“India did not have a platform like that forfor the longest time. An alternative will only work if it is able to achieve that level of ease of navigation,” he concludes.