This year has been another breakthrough year for TikTok. The short-form video service will generate $12 billion (£10.5 billion) in ad revenue for him in 2022, with many of his most popular videos featuring music available for free through his audio library.
Viral TikTok videos have brought success to both new and established artists. No matter what week you look at the official charts, there are bound to be some songs starting to hit the charts on TikTok.
So it’s no surprise that some industry commentators have declared TikTok the “new radio.” This claim was also made about an advertisement 15 years ago when it was believed that the use of music in television commercials would destroy and revive an artist’s career.
Radio has repeatedly been plagued with inquiries about “payola” (possible illegal payments for playing radio) and the power of major music companies to control the market. increase.
TikTok is a user-driven social media, so music choices can be a simple reflection of your tastes.
For example, let’s take the example of US user Nathan Apodaca. He was just his TikTok user when he posted videos of him skateboarding, chugging juice, and lip-syncing. dreams But it didn’t take long for the dollar sign to appear in the eyes of brand and record label executives.
Downloading and streaming the Fleetwood Mac hit was such a success that Ocean Spray, makers of the juice brand featured in the video, provided Apodaca with a truck full of cranberry juice bottles.
Music companies devoted their staff to promoting TikTok, and the app quickly became the go-to promotional strategy for record labels and artists. As a result, Fleetwood increased revenue from external streams and downloads on his Mac, but the band never directly profited from his TikTok.
Artists are also under increasing pressure to include TikTok in their promotional tools. The record label’s team monitors relevant activity on TikTok and organizes private his listening parties for popular TikTok influencers.
As songs continue to unexpectedly go viral through use by fans who aren’t music label employees, TikTok has become a breeding ground for promotional partnerships and analysts to see how TikTok’s word-of-mouth effect works. I’m trying to understand it and make it available more systematically.
TikTok and music
After Lil Nas X’s breakout single Old Town Road TikTok’s role as a key component of the music economy is highlighted as it tops the charts in 2019 behind the “yeahaw challenge” (a user-created video that puts on cowboy gear as the beat drops) became.
Exposure to a large audience can be of great value to a musician, a belief that underpinned the MTV model 40 years ago and ushered in an era of clever and expensive promotional videos. In that case, the record label and the artist do not profit proportionally from the increased revenue.
TikTok pays the “Big 3” record labels (Sony, Warner, Universal) and Merlin, who represents independent labels and distributors, a flat fee for catalog access. They claim the platform is meant to facilitate music listening.
Debate over the division of royalties can get heated. In March, TikTok launched his SoundOn. This allows artists to bypass labels and earn royalties by uploading their music directly to the platform. Rumor has it that he is preparing to launch TikTok Music, a streaming service the company competes with.
But with a controversial history involving censorship and ethical violations, the China-based company may offer fairer deals and more transparent processes than established streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music. Chinese streaming giant Tencent Music Entertainment pays around $0.00015 (£0.00012) per stream, just 3.4% of what Spotify pays.
Only some songs hit TikTok’s sweet spot. Its algorithm prioritizes videos that feature challenges, simple choreography, and candid messages.
If your app caters to unpopular genres such as protest music, the promotional nature of the format undermines the potential meaning. Users are free to combine songs with irrelevant hashtags and brand partnerships. This may not match the original meaning of the song.
Commercial radio normalized the relationship between popular music and advertising. But the disruption between content and advertising represented by TikTok prompts us to consider how music-making and listening are shaped by promotional contexts.
When music is valued not as an artistic expression but as an exchangeable content, it’s worth remembering what we’ve had and what we’ve lost, to paraphrase Fleetwood Mac. The way we buy and listen to music is changing and not always the best.
As TikTok grows in importance, state-backed media such as the BBC, which is often a go-to venue for independent bands and less popular genres, are under threat of budget cuts.
If you want a media environment that can support a wide range of sounds and messages, the growing power of single commercial companies such as TikTok is a concern.
Bethany Klein is Professor of Media and Communications at the University of Leeds.
This article was originally published in The Conversation.