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REPORT | Teens, TikTok, And Orchestral Music

By Anya Wassenberg on August 5, 2022

TEen listening to music
Image by Gerd Altmann (CC0C/Pixabay)

Teens on TikTok are streaming orchestral music, and leading what’s some are calling a revival of the art form.

During the worst of the COVID pandemic, musicians were forced off stage and online, where their creativity flourished. Over the last two years, in particular, TikTok, the favourite of the under-25 set, has become a pathway to discovering new music, and it turns out today’s Gen Z is coming to appreciate orchestral music more and more.

Research by the UK’s Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and others has also shown a surge in interest in classical and orchestral music in general among people under 35, and even under 25. About a third of classical music streamers were 18 to 25 according to one survey, with double-digit growth over just a few short years.

It only makes sense they’d be finding out about it on their favourite platform, TikTok.

What is this TikTok, you ask?

For the uninitiated, TikTok is a social media platform where users can upload short videos set to music. It has emerged as the platform of choice for people under 25, and is a close second to Instagram for those in the 25 to 34 group. According to the stats:

  • 73% of TikTok’s global audience of over 1 billion falls between the ages of 18 and 34;
  • That breaks down as 42% between 18 and 24, and another 31% between 25 and 34.

The growth spurt in orchestral music is due entirely to the ingenuity of TikTok creators, who have taken the medium and invented their own ways of enjoying music, including orchestral genres.

It’s not your grandpa’s classical music, in other words, at least not all the time.

There are videos of original music that have made internet stars out of artists playing at home. Musicians like Australian Portair have gone viral with videos that depict more than the music. Portair’s video playing an original composition called Gloaming Hour as the sun set outside his studio racked up more than 5.4 million views.

@portairmusic

Such beautiful afternoon light #sunset #piano #pianotok #musiciansoftiktok #fyp

♬ Gloaming Hour – Portair

Others create their own visuals to the library of classical music available on the platform. Challenges can draw in even more new music lovers. A classical music challenge on TikTok in 2021 drew in just under 740 million views.

Even if the original music isn’t classical music, strictly speaking, orchestral arrangements have become one of the platform’s more popular genres. So popular is it, in fact, that Warner Classics and TikTok are releasing an album in August 2022 titled TikTok Classics – Memes & Viral Hits. It will feature 18 of the platform’s most popular tracks, given an orchestral treatment, and played by the Babelsberg Film Orchestra of Germany. The result is a combination of pop with a layer of lush orchestral work that brings out the classic harmonic and rhythmic structures underpinning the contemporary music.

Singer-songwriter Alice Merton, whose track No Roots was rearranged and re-recorded for the project, commented in a media release. “It’s great to combine the worlds of classical music and pop music. Listening to No Roots in a new musical context is inspiring. I’m excited about the project, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it comes to life.”

“Warner Classics is proud to be able to realize “TikTok Classics — memes and viral hits” together with the TikTok team. Arranged and produced to the highest standard, these songs known and loved by TikTok users, are presented in a different — orchestral — style. We want to showcase the possibilities, range and epic sound of a symphonic orchestra in a new context, encourage closer listening and share our passion for orchestral sound with the TikTok community” says Markus Petersen, SVP Global Operations & Business Development, Warner Classics.

It’s not your grandmother’s classical music — but it may just be your teen’s.

#LUDWIGVAN

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