TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, filed for a trademark application earlier this year for ‘TikTok Music’. It lists a variety of goods and services that include allowing users to purchase, play, share, and download music, songs, albums, and lyrics, as well as live stream audio and video interactive media programming.
After the success of music on the current platform, this is perhaps a logical next step for TikTok. Given its success with rivalling platforms like Instagram in the social media space, could it tackle music streaming giants like Spotify?
This isn’t ByteDance’s first foray into music streaming as they already have a music streaming app called Resso, which is available in India, Brazil and Indonesia, with over 40 million monthly users across those regions as of November 2021.
Resso incorporates functions such as sharing lyrics and commenting on songs and playlists. TikTok users in Brazil are encouraged to use Resso through a button in the app that redirects them to Resso to listen to the full version of a song that appears in the TikTok video they are watching.
Unfortunately, we don’t have much information to go on when it comes to what TikTok Music will look like. The patent suggests it could function in a very similar way to other popular apps such as Spotify and Apple Music, but TikTok will surely want to have a USP to make the venture worthwhile.
As TikTok is a visual-centric social platform, it would make sense for video to play a prominent role in TikTok Music. This could mean an emphasis on music videos, an area currently dominated by YouTube, or it could even function as a live streaming service for certain shows or exclusive performances.
Perhaps TikTok music could allow the community to create their own videos for songs, which are then randomly selected and played when a user listens to a particular song.
It is unlikely that simply streaming the official music videos for songs on the app will be enough to make TikTok Music distinct – YouTube has twice as many monthly users as TikTok (2 billion), so the new app will need to offer a fresh experience for users.
A huge part of TikTok is its community, or at least sharing content with other users, so it would be surprising if TikTok Music neglects this, unless it is intended primarily as an add-on for the original TikTok app.
For example, the most popular music streaming service, Spotify, is mainly just focused on the music and the use of the app is mostly solitary. The ability is there to make public playlists that anyone can listen to, connect with other users and, of course, the yearly Spotify Wrapped roundup that sweeps social media every year, but the primary purpose of the app is for users to be able to stream their favourite songs and discover new ones.
From this angle, TikTok Music may aim to be more of a social media/music streaming hybrid to create a more unique position for itself in the market.
TikTok is already very music-driven and involved in the music industry – with many new artists achieving success after being used in viral videos – so this does seem like a fairly logical next step.
Songs by Lil Nas X and Olivia Rodrigo found viral fame before they were being played on the radio, so perhaps it would make sense for TikTok Music to focus on the ‘discovery’ or ‘emerging new talent’ areas of music streaming.
It could be the case that TikTok is not trying to compete with Spotify or Apple Music as a music streaming service, but rather with video-sharing competitor Snapchat. They have recently announced the ‘Sounds Creator Fund’, a monthly grant to help pay independent, unsigned artists distributing their music through Distrokid on Snapchat.
Artists who get the grant can be funded monthly for each song (up to a maximum of 20), which will surely appeal to many unsigned acts looking for a way to gain exposure, and this may be a market TikTok doesn’t want to miss out on.
Many songs on TikTok appear on videos over and over again as certain trends such as dances take hold, becoming earworms for those that use the app frequently. This adds to the ‘meme-able’ nature of TikTok’s content, and TikTok Music could try and create a similar model to promote certain songs.
The songs used on TikTok videos tend to be very short and catchy, and popular music that follows a similar structure is likely to perform best in the social media space, where content is abundant and the attention span is short.
Services such as Spotify don’t rely on a specific type of music for their success, functioning as a huge music library that caters to almost every audience, meaning that if TikTok Music is as reliant on trends as TikTok, then Spotify may still have the edge as a pure streaming service.
It is difficult to evaluate TikTok Music’s potential as we know so little about it, but one final aspect that may be worth considering is TikTok’s younger demographic.
Part of the app’s popularity has been attributed to it being a social media platform that the younger generations flocked to in favour of more established platforms like Facebook that have become associated with older generations.
TikTok Music may try and capitalise on this by targeting this same demographic, which could result in younger users embracing it as ‘their’ music streaming platform, especially if the app focuses on the trending, sharing and community side of things.
There is sure to be an initial surge of popularity when TikTok Music does hit the market, especially if it does offer something new, as everyone will be quick to jump on the bandwagon or at least see what the hype is.
However, it will only be after the initial buzz has died down that we can tell if the app will be able to compete with the music streaming giants in the long term!