‘Running Up That Hill’ runs up the charts: what does it prove about the power of TikTok?
by Sianna Madigan
Recently, season four of Stranger Things featured the classic Kate Bush track, Running up That Hill (A Deal With God) and sent the song running up the charts more than 37 years after its initial release. Kate Bush herself has credited the show with giving the song “a whole new lease of life”, even seeing her achieve her first US Top 10 this week as the track ascended to number 8!
But how does TikTok tie in?
Since the days of Vine, trending short-form video content has been responsible for bringing songs that have long fallen off the charts back into the spotlight, or for highlighting obscure soundbites from various movies and TV shows.
In the case of Running up That Hill, fans of the show have been using the sound to show off their own favourite song or to guess which songs other Stranger Things characters would play to escape Vecna (the latest villain). The shows young fans being able to relate themselves to one of the series main plot points via the song, is one of the reasons music does so well on TikTok- it’s just so interactive.
If TikTok can make an old track relevant again, then what can it do for new music?
What we are seeing now on TikTok is not a new phenomenon. It seems that short-form content is here to stay and that its easy accessibility and highly shareable nature gears it towards virality. Nowadays, artists are even creating songs on TikTok in real-time, with the hopes that engaging TikTok’s broad audience early on will ensure chart success.
The aim of this style of release campaign is recently observable in Lizzo’s TikTok marketing campaign, which saw her latest single, About Damn Time, go viral alongside its accompanying dance.
What are the artists saying about it?
Despite the obvious benefits of TikTok success, some artists are pushing back against the new wave of music marketing. A few weeks ago, industry pro Halsey took to TikTok to complain about their record labels’ insistence that they create a viral video on the app as promotion for her new single.
However, artists complaining about having to post on TikTok and even publicly bashing the labels they are signed to is nothing new. Industry observers have been watching this trend for a while now and are describing it as a form of ‘meta marketing’.
What does meta marketing look like in action?
If you’ve scrolled TikTok for just a few minutes, you might come across musicians posting videos with the format of “I wanted to release X song but my label said it wasn’t good enough” or “I’m leaking X, don’t tell my label”. This is a form of meta marketing, meant to drum up extra support and engagement from fans under the guise of ‘sticking it to the man’.
However, often these videos were designed by the labels themselves and are released in place of more traditional marketing campaigns.
The Kid Laroi tried to edge in on this style of release to promote his new single ‘Thousand Miles’ back in April, by asking fans to make a video on TikTok showing him their last mistake.
For his example, he posted the below video which seemingly disses Scooter Braun, his previous manager.
However, things were not as they seemed and it later emerged that the video was pre-arranged by the two men, as a means of drumming up hype around the single (which was produced by an artist managed by Braun). Scooter himself later released text messages proving that he was in on it, when fans of Laroi turned on Scooter over the stunt.
In an article discussing the incident with Halsey, The Conversation noted that
“Like MTV or top 40 hits radio stations before it, TikTok is where popular music lives right now.”
So, whether you love it or hate it, it’s safe to say that the TikTok music machine is here to stay… at least until it’s overtaken by a new app.
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