For a platform run by Gen Z, millennials may be surprised by the level of nostalgia they feel after logging in. Highly noted for its influence on music catalog, TikTok has recently drawn major attention to several pre-2000s tracks, one of the most memorable being “Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac (thanks to a man, a skateboard, and his bottle of cranberry juice). That said, many people don’t realize how influential the 2000s have been for the platform, probably because they don’t “technically” feel like that long ago. Regardless, this decade still stands as a driving influence behind today’s top charters, and it’s clear that young Gen Zers can’t get enough of these forgotten Pop hits.
While it's possible that tracks from the 2000s find TikTok success because they're totally new to Gen Z users, it's also likely that they somehow strike the perfect balance of familiarity and newness, creating a sense of nostalgia for older generations on TikTok as well.
Take “Sweet Disposition” by The Temper Trap, for example. Earlier in July, a user by the name of “feelingblew” uploaded a cover of herself playing the song on the electric guitar. Almost immediately, the chill, lo-fi vibe of the cover made it a perfect candidate for background music on visually captivating TikTok videos. The spark soon caught fire, and hundreds of Gen Z users flooded the comments to discover the name of this 2008 track as millennial users reminisced.
In just one month, The Temper Trap’s Spotify engagement grew from 3.3M to nearly 6M monthly listeners. The rising popularity even pushed the band to create a TikTok account, where they dueted the cover and found their own page soar in engagement from new and old fans (+55K TikTok likes).
Another classic alternative hit from the decade, "Two Weeks" by Grizzly Bear saw a significant increase in listening during the time it trended on TikTok. At the end of 2021, the track began to gain traction, receiving its highest amount of posts from December until the start of February. During this time, Spotify engagement increased by 211.7K monthly listeners while TikTok posts grew by 92.2% (+12.2K). Certainly, this is nothing new regarding TikTok's power of driving fans to the streaming platforms, but cases like "Two Weeks" and "Sweet Disposition" indicate that alternative hits from this decade have not been forgotten about.
These are just a few examples that display the powerful connection TikTok users feel with 2000s music. In 2022 so far, almost 1.4K songs from 2000-2010 received 50K+ TikTok posts on the platform, generating a grand total of 442.6M posts to date. With respect to the entirety of music available on TikTok, this accounts for nearly 10 percent of tracks that had more than 50K posts, regardless of release date. Some of this volume has to do specifically with 2005 seeming to resonate very highly with users, raising questions about the influence of pop culture during this time, as well as how we as an industry can learn from its impact.
Zooming further into the impact of the 2000s on this year, there were several tracks that stood out in terms of performance. In first place, we have "Love You So" by The King Khan & BBQ Show, which has racked up 20M TikTok posts since its feel-good vibe began trending in January. Pop icon Kesha has also made a serious comeback these past few months, landing in the No. 4 and No. 7 spots as "Cannibal" (6.6M posts) and "Take It Off" (4M posts) blew up from dance and video challenges. Almost too fittingly, our No. 10 spot perfectly embodies Gen Z humor with "Into The Thick Of It", a song from a 2000s children's show called The Backyardigans (2.9M posts). The track was an immediate sensation as its play on words, "into the thick of it", was sung while the video subject faced some kind of impending doom. It's certainly unfortunate, but that's Gen Z humor for you; you either get it or you don't.
Overall, TikTok’s age demographic likely plays a big part in the 2000s TikTok trend. According to media analytics company Comscore and ad agency Wallaroo Media, the percentage of U.S.-based TikTok users by birth year is roughly a third between 2003-2012, a little less than a third between 1993-2002, and almost a fifth between 1983-1992. In other words, about 75 percent of TikTok users were either very young, going through puberty, graduating high school, or just about to graduate from college in the mid-2010s — all very formative time periods for anyone, and especially influential time periods for establishing musical preferences and musical memories.
In our latest 6MO Report, we concluded that the definitions of catalog and frontline likely need to be refactored in the TikTok era. Though 18 months has long been the traditional industry threshold, tracks released as early as 2017 seemed to be dominating TikTok. That said, catalog music released before the 2010s was still not as relevant, i.e., contrary to popular belief, "old" music isn't blowing up on TikTok en masse. However, the 2000s are just far enough away to tug on our nostalgic heartstrings and just close enough to get that 21st-century recency bump.
The 2000s are just far enough away to tug on our nostalgic heartstrings and just close enough to get that 21st-century recency bump.
In the end, streaming and TikTok have changed the game forever, there’s simply no denying it. For the first time in history, songs that were once produced only on records and cassettes are now available at the press of a button. Gen Z and millennials even have ultimate control over one of the largest platforms in the world. Oh, and let's not forget the bottom line: 2000s music is literally the best!