As we approach the second anniversary of the coronavirus-induced nationwide lockdown in March 2020, it is shocking how quickly so many aspects of life have returned to pre-quarantine status, as mask mandates loosen up and large social gatherings return. Yet despite society’s general trend back to an in-person lifestyle, TikTok has maintained its relevance since its early 40s boom and has remained a constant for many.
I think I will always link TikTok to the early months of quarantine, despite downloading the app a month before it all started. When I think of TikTok, memories of whipped coffee and the Netflix “Tiger King” docuseries immediately spring to mind, but it’s TikTok’s early dance challenges that define the app and its cultural impact for me and for many more – but more importantly, for the K-pop music industry.
I still remember the first dance challenge I actually participated in: Zico’s “Any Song” challenge. A brilliant melody paired with a catchy beat and simple dance moves anyone could follow, “Any Song” has arguably already followed the perfect formula to go viral on TikTok, even without intending to. Zico ensured his song’s viral success early on by creating his dance challenge and posting videos of himself, with MAMAMOO’s Hwasa and soloist Chung Ha, taking the TikTok challenge and setting the #AnysongChallenge trend.
The challenge brought many other K-pop stars to participate in the challenge, ranging from WINNER’s Mino to AB6IX’s Daehwi and Woong, and also catapulted “Any Song” to the top of Korean music charts, earning an all- certified kill just two days after release and a perfect all-kill two days later.
In his unique approach to marketing “Any Song” so successfully, Zico capitalized on two fundamental aspects: following the growing global trend of TikTok dance challenges and using his relationships with other idols to expand his audience. It’s a strategy still implemented by many idols, with groups teaming up to film dance challenges to promote each other’s songs, like ASTRO’s JinJin and Rocky and MAMAMOO’s MoonByul with their songs,” Restore” and “LUNATIC”, respectively.
Perhaps even more intriguing than the songs that are deliberately promoted by K-pop companies on TikTok are the songs that go viral seemingly by accident. Driven by a desire to further promote the music of their favorite artists to non-fans, it’s not uncommon for fans to edit short video compilations of their idols with, or compose simple choreography for, the “B-side”. of their idols. tracks – or songs that are not played on the weekly music shows. These strategies often propel these B-sides to new levels of popularity – ENHYPEN’s “Polaroid Love” and TREASURE’s “DARARI”, despite not being actively promoted, have topped their respective album titles in the Spotify stream after creating the TikTok dance challenges and editing. tendencies.
In this way, fans suddenly have a unique opportunity to play a vital role in the success of their idols’ activities. Before the TikTok relevance boom, in order for fans to tangibly demonstrate their loyalty and support for their idols, many spent obscene amounts of money on albums and streaming to boost album sales and chart positions. .
In an industry driven by capitalism, it’s interesting how TikTok – a free platform – has suddenly become so instrumental in how K-pop is shared, consumed and marketed. More so, perhaps TikTok’s growing prominence relative to K-pop reflects the growing move away from the capitalist nature of the industry itself.
Kacie Yamamoto is a young writer on Korean pop music. She is also associate editor of the Daily Trojan. Her “Kacie on K-pop” column airs every other Thursday.