Music industry

Music, TikTok: how ByteDance is targeting the music industry


ByteDance reportedly had revenue of around $58 billion in 2021. Image: Greg Baker / AFP

ByteDance seems unstoppable. Six years after launching TikTok, the Chinese start-up is stepping up its efforts to become a music heavyweight. He even launched his own streaming service in China.

If artists, producers and streaming giants all agree on one thing, it’s that TikTok is increasingly setting the tone in the music industry. In just a few years, the social network has established itself as a real trendsetter among young people. Nearly 430 songs surpassed one billion views on the leading teen social media platform in 2021, three times more than the previous year. This phenomenon is a major boon for the group of Zhang Yiming and Liang Rubo, which reportedly made sales of around $58 billion last year, according to Reuters, citing inside sources. And his recipe for success is largely based on innovation, especially in the music industry.

ByteDance has launched a new streaming service in China, called Qishui Yinyue (“soda music” in Mandarin). It works similarly to Resso, the streaming app that the Chinese group launched in 2020 in India and other Asian countries. Qishui Yinyue recommends songs to listen to based on the preferences of each of its subscribers and those of other users who share their musical tastes. “Soda Music is an application based on [China’s version of TikTok] Douyin’s continued efforts in the music field,” a Douyin representative told the South China Morning Post. “Douyin launched it as a standalone app to better serve our users as well as artists in the industry. .”

Qishui Yinyue is currently in the testing phase in China, which did not prevent it from appearing in the list of the most downloaded music listening applications in the country. However, competition is fierce in this market, which is particularly coveted by the giants of the sector. At first glance, China is an El Dorado for the music industry. The country has more than 1.4 billion inhabitants, who seem to particularly appreciate this form of art. On average, Chinese people spend 22 hours and 9 minutes a week listening to music, according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry. They only spent 17 hours and 7 minutes per week on this activity in 2019. Most listen to music through streaming platforms such as QQ Music, Kugou Music and Kuwo Music from music giant Tencent Music or NetEase Cloud Music from rival NetEase.

Despite this battle of giants, ByteDance hopes to carve out the lion’s share with Qishui Yinyue. And everything suggests that the context is favourable. For more than a year, the Chinese authorities have been engaged in a fight against uncompetitive practices in the country. This anti-monopoly policy has prompted Tencent Music to terminate all of its exclusivity agreements with record companies, which could allow ByteDance to claim (part of) the music market in China.

Preparing the ground for budding talent

And the ambitions of the Chinese group do not stop there. It also wants to grow the influence of TikTok, its flagship product and now the most visited online domain in the world, according to Cloudflare. The company recently announced the launch of SoundOn, the social network’s own music distribution platform. This tool notably offers emerging artists the possibility of making their songs available on streaming platforms such as Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer or Resso. But the real selling point of SoundOn is that the platform allows artists to monetize their music directly on TikTok. The social network is committed to donating 100% of royalties to budding talents during their first year of using SoundOn, and 90% thereafter.

For Ole Obermann, global head of music at TikTok, this new distribution and promotion tool is part of the platform’s role as a talent scout. “New artists and music creators form a vibrant community within TikTok and SoundOn is designed to support them on their first steps in their careers. Our SoundOn teams will guide creators on their journey to the big stage and bring the expertise and power of TikTok. to life for the artist,” he said in a statement. “We are extremely excited about how this will surface and propel new talent and how SoundOn will contribute to an increasingly diverse and growing global music industry.”

For now, SoundOn is only available in the US, UK, Brazil and Indonesia. TikTok is likely to expand this offer to other countries in the coming months, including markets that Spotify and other music streaming giants are struggling to break into. And so, for TikTok and its parent company ByteDance, the tone for the future of music is definitely set.

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