A Hit Factory: How TikTok is Redefining the Music Industry

I asked TikTok what the platform’s big secret was. Of course, there is no magic formula to follow. But according to Kim Farrell, Marketing Director for TikTok in Latin America, TikTok’s biggest difference is its community.

There is more than brand positioning behind this speech. As technology expert Matthew Brennan said in an interview with BBC by the end of last year, “the executives and engineers behind the app knew how to turn this short video service into one of the most addictive social networks in the world.”

Brennan explains that TikTok has the best recommendation engine in the competitive Chinese market. Through machine learning, the app seems to be your thinking, and delivers exactly what you were looking for, often unconsciously.

“What makes it so addictive is that it learns what you like and what you don’t like,” says the expert. “And it does it quickly because in a minute you can watch five or six videos.”

In the midst of all this, music is, in fact, an intrinsic component of TikTok’s DNA — which makes perfect sense, considering its evolution since the acquisition and absorption of Musical.ly, the dubbing app that was among the most popular. young people a few years ago.

No, TikTok is not a Generation Z social network. Perhaps that’s why the strategy of ByteDance, the company behind the application, is to serve TikTok advertisements on prime time TV. “Jornal Nacional: an offer from TikTok” is something really remarkable and makes us think: who is the platform looking for?

In response to the Techblog, Kim Farrell, said that Brazilians of all ages and walks of life are joining TikTok.

Farrell also stated that the sponsorship of Jornal Nacional was intended to attract and retain consumer attention, generating conversations “that overflow the media.” The social network brand also appeared in the TOP 5 of Globo’s football and in the World Cup qualifiers on Globo and SporTV.

A survey conducted in the United States in 2020 revealed that 52% of Generation Z people (aged 13 to 23) used apps like TikTok or Triller, and 48% of them consumed music-related videos on the platforms.

According to a report by martech Winnin, 7 out of the 10 most listened to songs of 2020 on Spotify went viral first on TikTok.


Winnin report shows artists at the top of Spotify — most had already gone viral on TikTok (Image: Reproduction)

According to a recent study commissioned by TikTok to Nielsen, 60% of users use TikTok to make new discoveries, and 92% of users who discover new content on the platform like what they find there.

No wonder the music industry is ready to take greater advantage of the social network. Several companies and entities are already running to adapt to the new possibilities that TikTok offers. Sony Music, for example, has a distribution agreement with the social network. Ecad has also signed a contract to transfer copyrights to artists — the entity explains the following:

“The contract guarantees that Ecad regularly receives reports of music usage from TikTok, which consist of files containing information about the songs with the number of plays or views in a given period and in national territory. Based on these reports, Ecad automatically crosses the information provided by the platform and the database of musical works and phonograms, fed by the music associations that manage Ecad, to identify the songs and distribute the copyright to the copyright holders (composers and editors).”

Ecad further reinforces that to receive their copyright for public performance, any composer or artist must be affiliated with one of the seven music associations provided for, as determined by law (Law 9,610/98), they are: Abramus, Amar, Assim , Sbacem, Sicam, Socinpro and UBC.

The developer ONErpm, which distributes music by names like Nando Reis, Pericles and Kevin O Chris, has a global partnership so that the reproductions on the platform revert earnings to the artists.

In a conversation with Arthur Fitzgibbon, president of ONErpm Brazil, we learned that the partnership has a long standing.

“Back in 2018, TikTok’s original app was a dance app, viralized in Asia, and started to enter Brazil very strongly with kids. At that time, they still didn’t have a monetization process. However, there was a process of approximation between ONErpm and ByteDance, and we closed an agreement with them, who already had a representative in Brazil, for them to make use of the music and we could exchange it for promotion.”

Fitzgibbon explained to Techblog that the trend is that the revenue generated with TikTok will grow in the coming years.

“Every play is paid. Some financially, others by way of promotion. […] Now we can do enough calculation to put a song in there, but mainly a global agreement on how to pay for it. Before, there was no direct profitability — now it exists, we signed this agreement, and this is already starting to make a difference. It’s still a small difference compared to Spotify and YouTube, but we believe that in the next two or three years, this will grow exponentially.”

Through the Content ID tool, inside TikTok, if any user in the world makes use of any part of a specific song, it is possible to identify the audio in their system, claim the audio and pass it on to whoever is entitled.

Composing for TikTok

You’ve probably heard the bubblegum refrain: “And she’s, she’s moving” from the iconic single called Type Gin. You might not know it, but artist and producer Kevin O Chris wrote this song with TikTok in mind.

In an interview with Dani Faria, a partner at the artistic entrepreneurship agency K2L, she says that the success of Kevin’s hit has overcome the barriers of online and offline.

“Kevin showed Gin Type and he said, ‘this is my hit, this is TikTok, explained Dani. “He delivered the song and we thought: ‘we have to set up a strategy for this’. We went to Nice House, a content house here in Brazil, and there they had the brilliant idea of ​​the creative, the slow and then the fast, and it worked very well.”

Kevin O Chris — Photo: Disclosure
Kevin Chris created the hit “Type Gin”, which was a hit first on TikTok (Image: Publicity)

“Offline demand was inevitable. After seeing everything that happened on TikTok, and the numbers being reflected on Spotify, on YouTube, we already have the perception that we need to expand, we need to chase a TV show, other opportunities. Kevin has a lot of representation in relation to other artists, minor artists, artists who are just starting out — so the work has to be thought of in all possible and imaginable aspects from a viral on TikTok.”

Dani Faria, partner at K2L Empresariamento Artístico

Dani also says that within the agency, there is a person on the team focused only on thinking about strategic content for TikTok, mapping trends, influencers and bringing to the company an inside look at the platform.

“The artist who can pump TikTok can get money out of there. He becomes an influencer on a platform, you can work with brands. And you can also earn money through streaming music”, reiterates Dani Faria.

Is there a secret to go viral?

Going back to the study done by Winnin, we have what appears to be a basic formula for all hits that go viral on TikTok.

Of course, there are several complex factors involved in the success of a song, on and off the platform, but the research has reached some crucial stages that most songs go through until they break out there. So, if you’re thinking about exploding on the social network, it’s worth considering the following points:

  • Choreographies/challenge: the famous “dances” are a key tool to help pump a song on the social network. But the challenges can be different, not necessarily a choreography.
  • Duets: sometimes a song base with a backing vocal melody, or even just the instrumental, encouraging other people to sing along or react to the video with the song, sharing duets.

The president of ONErpm in Brazil also stated that he had already had a music presentation meeting with an artist from the developer who arrived doing the choreography before playing the single: “He first presented the dance, the challenge, and then showed the song” .

“Today any artist [deve estar no TikTok] — we have Nando Reis and Pericles on TikTok, doing a sensational job and taking care of their audience without necessarily ‘dancing’. They are bringing their truth to the TikTok audience.”

Arthur Fitzgibbon – SIM São Paulo
Arthur Fitzgibbon, President of ONErpm in Brazil (Image: Disclosure)

In this sense, companies that take care of the artists’ careers can help find the best solution for each style. The General Director of Genero, Alessandro Lima, says that it is important to bring real content to the social network.

“At Genero, we bring the client’s briefing and set up a team to solve that briefing, in a co-creation environment. There is a concept that Americans call relatability — that is, if you see content, what is your ability to identify with that situation? This is the premise of the new content era. And for TikTok, I think it’s 100%”.

Of course, all this should be used for a projection beyond TikTok, as hits pass as quickly as they appear, and artists must always be aware of what comes next. According to Fitzgibbon:

“Before, music had a shelf life of a certain period which was an ‘ok’ period. With TikTok, you’ve slaughtered that time. It got smaller. People start to work more frequently launching music, products, games, dances, challenges. Artists are more concerned about this.”

In light of this, tying together all the steps from production to distribution is probably the key to a successful career. “The internet allows you to reach people who wouldn’t necessarily be there by buying tickets and watching shows, so you can revert to another audience, attracting other people,” says Dani Faria, from K2L, “There are several platforms that communicate to different audiences many different. I think the artist’s great idea is to be in all of them and communicate in all of them to attract more and more new people.”

“The music is more important than the artist, because it is perpetual, it stays for eternity”

Arthur Fitzgibbon

Another peculiarity of TikTok is that the musician does not necessarily need to be an influencer, a great personality, for his works to be heard by millions of people. On the social network, music ends up standing out and finding ways to go viral through content creators, in the most diverse formats.

Dani Faria, from K2L, commented on this phenomenon: “There are artists who are more influencers, and others like to be more producing, writing, making music, and they don’t like to appear so much. I think the agency [no caso da K2L] you have to understand how far the artist wants to go, and obviously make him understand that it’s important to be on these platforms in some way”.

For Arthur Fitzgibbon, the artist is the driving instrument in the music, without him obviously things don’t happen, since he is responsible for the raw material, but the music is eternal.

“People will always remember the song […] Every artist has to think that their music is their heritage, their legacy. When doing this work, it’s for the music, not necessarily for the artist’s ego. It’s cool, it’s nice to be recognized, to take a picture. But it’s your music that will tell your story for the rest of your life.”

And you, who embarked on this musical journey with me and made it this far — have you surrendered to the pleasures of TikTok? Did you have any difficulty adapting to the social network?

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