How Social Media is Remixing the Music Industry


Ryan Duswalt, the drummer of the band “Thredge”, has posted Instagram/TikTok videos that reached viral status of one million views. He currently hosts over eleven thousand monthly listeners on his band’s Spotify. “More so than ever, you can be a millionaire for anything. I’ll find guys on TikTok that mow dirty lawns for free and make montages of it. The revenue from their merchandise and their view time is enough to pay their bills. If you find your niche, you can really accomplish anything. Especially for musicians, there’s never been a better time, you never know if you will go viral. You must do a lot more yourself by making social media content, releasing new music, playing shows, etc. The good news is that the process rewards people who are willing to go the whole mile” (Duswalt 1).

The New Era of Music

While the concept of an artist blowing up overnight has been talked about for decades, social media has quickly made this a reality. Artists spend years developing their music, look, personality, and marketing strategies. However, it only takes one viral TikTok video that becomes a challenge or one YouTube video of a unique cover to skyrocket an artist to the top of the charts. Beyond stardom, social media has deeply impacted the way we consume, discover, and even create music. For the first time in history, algorithms and audiences control the music industry, and labels have lost their spot as king of the music industry jungle.

The Remix

Social media has remixed/reshaped the music entertainment industry, and the digital age has created new ways for artists to share their music, connect with their fans, and build their identity. Any artist from anywhere in the world can upload music on social media and have direct access to their audience. Thus, the music industry has been democratized by social media. Artists no longer need to be signed to a record label to achieve success. However, platforms like Instagram, TikTok, and Spotify have become essential to an artist’s resume. Without a social media presence and relentless self-promotion, there are slim chances a musician will make it. The way music is discovered has completely shifted, as record stores and radio stations no longer serve as the main source of new material. Economics within the music entertainment industry have also been impacted, with artists and labels generating income through social media and music streaming.

History and its Impacts on Artists

Social media started in the 90s, however the launch of “MySpace” in 2003, was one of the biggest events that shaped the current state of social media. According to Music Social Media and Global Mobility, “MySpace had launched in 2003 and quickly became popular, especially among young people, for a number of reasons. In contrast to Friendster and other existing social network services, MySpace welcomed teenagers, facilitated more advanced personalization of user profiles, and grew rapidly outside the attention of mainstream press throughout 2004” (Mjos 29). MySpace was just the beginning of the social media craze. Shortly after MySpace, a platform called YouTube was released in 2005 that emphasized video content. While MySpace transitioned to Facebook and now Instagram, YouTube is currently the platform that hosts music videos. Gone are the days of MTV as a source of music videos, pretty much every artist uses YouTube as their main platform for music video releases. Instagram and TikTok are also places to post music videos or market them.

Musicians such as Ryan Duswalt attribute much of their personal growth to platforms such as YouTube. According to Ryan, “social media played a huge role in kick starting my drumming career as a performer and creator. I began learning drums with YouTube and Instagram videos as my teacher. Later in life, I hosted an event at the Canyon Club where I had my first real performance. That was also the night I met Anthony. I was stoked when he hit me up on Instagram asking to come to my show. Anthony had some videos on his account, and I thought he was great! (Duswalt 1). Ryan used social media to learn how to drum. Later in life when he became proficient as a drummer, his videos and posts on social media led me to reach out to him. Had he not been learning drums or posting videos to his social media, we would not be in “Thredge” together. It’s also extremely possible that if I didn’t post videos of myself playing guitar, he wouldn’t be interested in meeting me or jamming with me.

The music file sharing service Napster can be seen as the biggest event to shake the distribution of music within the industry. Napster was the first streaming platform for music, which heavily disrupted record stores and labels. According to Social Media, Traditional Media, and Music Sales, “the key to the disruption were two characteristics of music: the information goods nature of the product and that it is an experience good. The fact that songs are information goods makes them shareable, free, and able to be distributed unbundled from the album. With the arrival of social media, people have many alternatives for discovering new artists, sharing recommendations, and consuming music. Discovery and sharing now often go hand-in-hand, where individuals can not only share their recommendations, but can share the actual music and allow others to sample it” (Dewan 101). Tim Heslin, the CEO of Fresh Tracks marketing, and a marketing agent who has worked with artists such as Ozzy Ozbourne, Jennifer Lopez, and Shakira, describes Napster as the “shift between the album to the single market. The album itself has been impacted by social media and Napster. Sharing music freely devalues music and albums especially. The industry changed from a hardware business to a software business. At the same time, it’s amazing that we have access to every song at any time” (Heslin 3).


This shift naturally affects how people discover music as well. Sofía González is a manager at the popular music venue “The Canyon Club”. She has her foot in the door in every aspect of the venue’s business. She states, “Social media has greatly impacted the way I discover music. No matter what platform I’m listening to music on, the algorithm will suggest similar artists or genres that I may be interested in. Social media caters to your specific taste in music, and factors in things like your location or what time of day you listen to music. Booking artists for the club has never been easier too. Most artists put their contact and booking information right in their social media profiles, and it’s usually the first thing you see. You can then check out their music and their content to see if they are a good fit.” (González 2). People often find music on social media sites like TikTok or Instagram and subsequently stream it on Spotify/Apple music. Social media paired with algorithms on streaming services, completely reshapes the way we consume music.

These DSPs pay artists for streams, meaning if you can hit it big on social media, you don’t have to be signed to a label to make money as a musician. As stated by Does Social Media Pay For Music Artists?, “According to recent figures from Spotify, around 200,000 artists on its platform are ‘professional or professionally aspiring’. Yet, 98% of the 8 million artists on Spotify have less than 10,000 monthly listeners, and while 16,500 artists generated over $50,000 in royalties from Spotify in 2021, this represents just 0.2% of artists on the platform” (Watson & Tompkins 33-34). While the chances are slim, they are not impossible, which changes the landscape of the music industry. Labels will use TikTok to discover new artists that are trending, in hopes of offering them deals before they make it on their own.   


Even though there isn’t as much money in music listening (revenue from streaming is much lower than the old way of selling CDs and vinyl), social media platforms such as TikTok have completely reshaped the way artists market themselves. TikTok and other social media platforms have become a necessity for aspiring artists. While this sometimes leads to mental health issues, it can be an amazing tool. Social media allows anyone to market and share their music with the whole world. According to Exploring the Impact of Social Media on the Music Industry, “TikTok allows users to create, edit, and share short-form video clips that are often accompanied by the latest music trends (Ceci, n.d.). Its immense popularity reflects recent changes in internet user behavior, such as shorter attention spans resulting in short-form video content becoming the dominant format. The platform has changed the way consumers are entertained” (Wares, Smith, Teague 16). This quote sheds light on the other side of how social media can impact the music industry and artists. Not only can artists use the platform to market themselves, but their music might become a trend that gets associated with a video or challenge. It then encourages short and catchy music that fits the viral content mold.

According to Ryan, “Social media can be competitive. You can get wrapped up in the #s and it’s mentally deteriorating. ‘Oh this post didn’t do well, I must’ve done something wrong, I must’ve not performed well’. It’s not always the best thing for people mentally. It also requires so much effort and consistency. Back in the day If you had good music, you might get picked up by a label and they’d do all your promo. Now, you go to the label and present an album, your social media #s, your merch, and your show footage” (Duswalt 1)! Even though social media presents these challenges to artists, it also allows for direct access to an artist’s fanbase. Tim Heslin states, “You should let your fans in on every step of the process. Make that connection with the fans. Use insights to learn the demographics of your audience. Find out the data, where are the fans and who are they? The Fray was a band that I worked with at Epic Records. At a board meeting someone from the label thought they were a band for moms. However, at their live shows most of the audience was teenage girls. The confusion of who you should market to isn’t a real thing anymore. You can grow exponentially by using social media platforms as a tool” (Heslin 3).

Certain trends have presented themselves through social media regarding the music industry. Artists are going to need more money and monetization through social media. I also believe there will be a mental health crisis amongst musicians on social media. Data personalization will continue to advance, presenting listeners with more specific options for their music taste. Music itself will change as the platforms constantly make new algorithms that reward certain types of content.

The Kicker

Ryan left his best story for last stating, “The Thredge account got a million views on a recent video. It helped so much with streaming numbers and Instagram follower count. It makes us look like a more verifiable source. You hear about bands that sound and look awesome, but when you check their Spotify they have 10 monthly listeners. A general audience member sees that, and it leaves a bad taste in their mouth. Unfortunately, it’s the biggest part of our resume now. We can sound awesome and look awesome, but if we are talking to a venue, label, promoter, manager, or other band, they are going to check the numbers. If they see a small number, there’s a good chance they won’t want to work with us” (Duswalt 1).


Social media and streaming services level the playing field, permitting anyone to enter the game. Everyone has the same tools, and while it’s still a big hill to climb, it’s a little less steep. Artists need to stay true to themselves in an ever-growing competitive landscape. If you make music and content that you’re proud of, you can bet someone else will enjoy it too!

Works Cited

Dewan, Sanjeev, and Jui Ramaprasad. “Social Media, Traditional Media, and Music Sales.” MIS Quarterly, vol. 38, no. 1, 2014, pp. 101–22,

  1. Duswalt, Ryan. Personal Interview. 13 May, 2024.
  2. González, Sofía. Personal Interview. 2 June, 2024.
  3. Heslin, Tim. Personal Interview. 30 May, 2024.

Mjos, Ole J.. Music, Social Media and Global Mobility : MySpace, Facebook, YouTube, Taylor & Francis Group, 2011. ProQuest Ebook Central, p. 29

“Record Store” by Sophie Means Wisdom is licensed under CC BY-SA

“Social Media” by Jason Howie is licensed under CC BY

“Spotify-Apple” by Apple is licensed under CC BY-SA

Wares, Christopher, et al. “Exploring the Impact of Social Media on the Music Industry–From Music Consumption and Discovery to Health and Wellness–And Developing a More Sustainable Future.” MEIEA Journal, vol. 23, no. 1, annual 2023, pp. 13+. Gale OneFile: Educator’s Reference Complete,  Accessed 30 Apr. 2024.

Watson, Allan, et al. “Does Social Media Pay for Music Artists? Quantitative Evidence on the Co-Evolution of Social Media, Streaming and Live Music.” Journal of Cultural Economy, vol. 16, no. 1, 2023, pp. 32–46,