Social media platforms have long been the go-to incubators for emerging talents—from the long-gone McBling MySpace age to the rise of today’s creator economy, social media helps young artists find exposure and quite often, fame. Instagram has previously been the platform of choice for influencers but recent research shows that its days of reign are over.
Enter TikTok, gen Z’s favourite rabbit hole for everything from aesthetic recipes to trending subculture fashion tips, and even new music. You name it, there’s a questionably viral TikTok trend or audio for it.
Speaking to SCREENSHOT, leading digital talent and creator communities specialist Jo Burford noted that “a recent Google-commissioned survey found that almost half of gen Z searchers now go directly to TikTok to find what they’re looking for. This is a huge opportunity for music discovery.”
Burford went on to add, “#Musictok has had over 3 billion views and it’s a sensory explosion of content from curators, producers, fans, journalists, publications, artists, and musicians. As an independent music fan myself, I would be digging around for hours on Bandcamp, Soundcloud and YouTube. Now, I can access new music with one hit of a TikTok hashtag.”
Today, TikTok has amassed a vast community of over one billion users that actively consume and create content—constantly pushing the boundaries of artistic inspiration while promoting collaboration.
Creators on the platform have in turn been able to build one of the internet’s most authentic communities. As expected, the astronomical success of the app has already caught the attention of mainstream media moguls including Universal Music. In a recent statement, the corporation noted: “At the heart of TikTok is the belief that anyone can take a sound, creative idea, trend or cultural moment and flip it to collaborate with others and create something entirely original, entertaining and engaging.”
TikTok has already experimented with a series of features that enable creators to collaborate with one another and share their work in short video formats that have overnight viral potential. Its latest design, StemDrop, offers aspiring musicians the unique opportunity to join forces with big hitters within the industry and create something bespoke. There’s also the added bonus of reaching new heights in regard to online exposure.
StemDrop officially landed on the app on 26 October 2022—pushed forward creatively by Syco Entertainment and Universal Music Group’s Republic Records. The feature was also heavily backed by electronics giant Samsung Galaxy. Following the launch of the new ‘stems’ option, TikTok shared a news broadcast wherein it explained the ways in which the online community could best utilise it. “[This is] a groundbreaking new evolution in global music collaboration and discovery that will give artists and creators a platform to showcase their talent to the world and collaborate with some of the best songwriters of all time.”
Paul Hourican, global head of music operations at TikTok went on to note: “The breadth and diversity of musical talent emerging on TikTok every day is breathtaking and we’re committed to opening doors for artists and propelling new talent to find sustained success both on and off the platform.”
SCREENSHOT had the opportunity to speak directly with StemDrop’s co-creator Tim Van Rongen about his involvement in creating the new feature. “I’m thrilled to be part of the next step in talent discovery. It’s the exact right moment to launch a music project where the creative process is fully in the hands of the creators on TikTok. I can’t wait to see what everyone will come up with and think that the world will be surprised by the enormous creative variety that StemDrop and the TikTok community will deliver,” Van Rongen explained.
The platform launched in direct collaboration with an expert songwriting team, led by prolific hit maker Max Martin—revered for his collaborations with iconic singers such as Britney Spears, Céline Dion and Katy Perry—along with producer Ali Payami and fellow songwriter Savan Kotecha.
The trio worked together to create a brand new song titled ‘Red Lights’ which was released exclusively to TikTok. Moreover, community members on the platform will have access to the song’s individual stems, thereby making it possible to experiment with the rhythm section, the individual back or front vocals, or even the drums or bass. This will allow creators to formulate their own remixes simply by using the StemDrop feature.
For any ambitious musicians out there, the new tool also allows creators to produce their own, personalised version of the track by simply downloading the individual stems from the StemDrop website. In addition, TikTok users will have the opportunity to musically engage with the original creators not only by taking inspiration from the song but by posting their versions online with the hashtag #StemDrop001 on the app.
According to Burford, StemDrop is indeed a great venture for promoting artistic creativity, “Innovation is at the heart of creativity and this feature is another move from TikTok showing that they are three steps ahead. The opportunities for artistic collaboration are endless, and if the powerful forces at record labels can open doors for more talent to be recognised, then, I feel this can only be a good thing.”
Ole Obermann, global head of music at TikTok, agreed: “Every day, brilliant, undiscovered artists and songwriters turn to TikTok to share their music and find a global audience; StemDrop will put a spotlight on this talent and act as a springboard to help them build their careers.”
A new generation of hitmakers is underway, powered by the powerful, diverse, ever-changing TikTok community and we can’t wait to hear what’s next.
Ever since 2016, the internet has made a tradition out of celebrating surveillance capitalism in the guise of tailored reports that recap our habits of the year. Following the launch of Spotify Wrapped—the coveted feature that fans routinely grind towards and base their entire personality around when it drops every December—the concept of a ‘year-in-review’ has gripped most digital services today.
While Apple Music has its revamped Replay feature and YouTube Music offers a Recap experience, Deezer releases its summaries in the form of #MyDeezerYear and Amazon Music generates rather disappointing playlists for users. Heck, even Reddit has its own Recap feature that illustrates the amount of time you spent shitposting and visiting various subs in the hopes of finding a custom long Furby.
Over the past few years, Spotify Wrapped’s impact has catapulted the feature as a cultural reset among gen Zers and millennials alike. Today, both generations expect every single online platform to track and judge their data in exchange for aesthetic statistics they can share with the rest of the world. And, as it turns out, their dating lives are no exception.
A Spotify Wrapped report essentially gives you insights about your top five artists, genres and songs, audio personality (what even is Sorrow Escapism Liminal Space?), and amount of minutes listened. Now, imagine such information being pulled from your miserable presence on dating apps like Bumble, Tinder, Hinge, OkCupid, and more.
If you ask me, the report would read something like this: “In 2022, you swiped right on 26 crypto bros and 38 people named Matt. You went on a sum total of 25 dates with your matches, out of whom 5 kittenfished you, 13 ghosted you right after, and 2 blocked and reported your profile to our teams. You took 150 screenshots of cringey profiles to share with your WhatsApp group chat, and even rage quit our app 7 times. What was that all about, huh?”
“You also received 57 unsolicited gym selfies, but to top things off, you were among the top 1 per cent of users who slid into people’s DMs at 3 am! Congratulations, your dating app rizz is doomed beyond recovery!”
It’s worth noting that the conversation about dating apps having their own year-in-review feature has been making the rounds for a while now. In 2020, comedian Grace Hayes went viral after she uploaded her DIY Bumble Wrapped on TikTok. Leveraging the green screen effect, Hayes curated #bumblewrapped on the video-sharing platform—with 44,800 views and counting. The clip was so popular that even Bumble left a comment stating: “This is AMAZING. Inspiring us 😏😏”
The following year, software engineer Niko Draca created a third-party website for Hinge users to generate their own Wrapped reports. “First thing you’ll see is how many people you encountered on the app and how many you said yes to,” Draca explained in the widely-circulated clip. “Then you’ll see all of the likes, rejections, matches, etc over the year. You can also see what time of the day you sent the most chat messages, how many people you chatted with in total, and how long those conversations lasted.” Apart from the top three emojis, the website additionally provided users with a word cloud made up of the terms they deployed the most in DMs.
Draca was undoubtedly the trailblazer for Hinge Wrapped, and it’s safe to say that the dating app has been real quiet since the video went viral.
Fast forward to 2022, TikTok users have now taken things up a notch with a trend called ‘Dating Wrapped’—where they are seen brutally recapping their past year in romance in hopes of manifesting a better love life. Here, insights are no longer restricted to a single dating app. Instead, they focus on the participants’ relationship exploits in general, including how they met their matches, what they did on first dates, and how many times they cried over someone.
All of the data is then collated onto… a PowerPoint slideshow, and the deck is later presented using a laptop angled towards the viewers.
“[This is] truly one of the most depressing things I’ve ever done,” said Toronto-based TikToker Alexandria McLean in her video which is believed to have kicked off the trend. “I went on 21 first dates… Yikes! I met 66 per cent [of matches] on Bumble and 33 per cent on Hinge. In terms of where we went, activity and dinner are tied at 30 per cent, coffee [and] walking dates [are] at 28 per cent, and drinks are 42 per cent. I don’t know why I went on so many walking dates, I hate walking dates.”
“In terms of who ended it, 90 per cent [of matches] ended it with me. Honestly, [that’s] a low number considering I’m a walking red flag,” McLean continued. “So, if you want to go out and want to be a part of my 2023 Dating Wrapped, hit me up!”
Shortly after McLean’s video floored TikTok, users started querying the creator about the PowerPoint template and font she’d used for her presentation. It even paved the way for the rise of #datingwrapped, now with 8.1 million views and counting.
“If any of these men see this, I want you to know that you’re not special and you’re just a number to me,” TikToker Amber Smith captioned her video, which has since garnered over 3.1 million views. In the clip, Smith detailed that she went on 18 first dates, was handed two parking tickets, and spent a total of $383.36 on her matches. “I wish I had not calculated this number,” she stated. “What could I have done with this money? Literally anything else would’ve been better.”
As of today, the concept of Dating Wrapped has evolved to include star signs, age gaps, red, beige and pink flags, the number of hoodies participants have stolen from their partners, STIs they’ve treated, as well as the number of tattoos they regret getting. While some bestow digital awards to their dates, others are seen creating introvert and queer editions of the trend.
Given how 2022 still has a couple of weeks left to conclude, I wouldn’t be surprised to witness the introduction of even more metrics to publicly analyse our love lives on the internet. Maybe the presentations can have a section where people note the different aesthetics and subcultures they’ve dated in the past year?
At the end of the day, no matter how many slides you choose to include in your deck, the aim of Dating Wrapped at its core is self-reflection. So, you’re good as long as you walk away with actionable insights and don’t bring all the negative energy gathered in 2022 into your love life in 2023.
If you’ve stumbled across #datingwrapped on TikTok before, you might have noticed comments along the lines of “Don’t be shy, drop that PowerPoint template,” and “What’s the name of the font you’ve used? Where do I download it from?” Sure, these remarks might just be pointers that ultimately help others jump on the trend, however, it’s also another incognito factor that aids the popularity of Dating Wrapped.
With a presence that can be traced back to the COVID-19 pandemic, PowerPoint presentations have become the zeitgeist of gen Zers in cyberspace today. Be it to mansplain our hobbies or interests to others, give a crash course about our favourite series nobody asked for, plot moves in Clash of Clans, prove “the One Piece is real,” or justify that Chainsaw Man’s Makima is worth simping for, slideshows have become our weapon of choice to present peers with digestible chunks of information about the most unhinged topics.
If you really think about it, the resurgence of PowerPoints can be linked to our pathetic eight-second attention span. Gen Zers crave dynamicity in everything they are exposed to and what better way to explain something to the generation than using infographics they can breeze through?
The format also harbours parallels with LOL graphs or ‘silly graphs’ that first gripped meme culture in the mid-2000s. The statistical representation essentially doubled as a visual aid—designed to explain the most non-academic and trivial subjects “for teh lulz XD.”
Back to the case of Dating Wrapped, the trend checks out—considering how gen Z Spotify fans have proved to be least concerned about how Big Tech uses their personal data. “I wonder about all my stats on Youtube, Discord, Instagram,” an enthusiast previously told SCREENSHOT. “I wish there were things like Spotify Wrapped in each of them where we can see all our data like the most watched video, channel etc. And even further, I wish god would show us data of our life.”
All that being said, the possibilities of dating apps implementing a Wrapped-like feature seem bleak for the foreseeable future. Until then, you can choose to follow TikToker @cobiscreation’s advice and sneakily screenshot your crush’s Spotify Wrapped report the moment they share it on Instagram. You’ll know the exact songs and artists to stream the next time you guys hang out together.
Who knows, maybe it’ll work wonders for your 2023 Dating Wrapped… or not.