July 7

TikTok Music Launches — But Not Everywhere

Musicians, Social Media, TikTok

TikTok Music is here, and it looks to be a full-fledged competitor to music streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music. And why not? It's the age of big tech companies directly competing with each other, after all.

But there are some major caveats to note right up front, as well as some other pertinent details.

We'll let you know right off the bat that TikTok Music is currently only available in Indonesia and Brazil. TikTok is also being mum on the possibility of expanding to other markets. This is complete speculation, but we'd be surprised if they don't expand beyond these two countries.

It's paid subscription only, so no free tier (thank goodness). TikTok Music will officially replace Resso — which was ByteDance's (TikTok's parent company) previous music streaming app — when the app shuts down on September 5th.

The price for TikTok Music will be $3.49 per month in Brazil and $3.25 per month in Indonesia (with a bizarre caveat that for Android users the first year is $2.96, and then $3.25 per month thereafter). 

Oh, and all three major labels have agreed to make their catalogs available on the service. Those are the big points, but there's plenty more to talk about. Let's dive in.

How TikTok Music Came To Be

Ever since TikTok emerged as a dominant force in breaking independent artists, the music industry has hypothesized what it would look like for the company to launch a competitor to Spotify. After all, songs that were going viral on the platform turned bedroom musicians into legitimate businesses, generating thousands of dollars from streaming revenue every week. 

Of course, there are also plenty of coordinated label campaigns and "sophisticated" attempts to pull the levers and achieve TikTok virality, too. Everybody wants in on TikTok's ability to turn sound clips into songs of the summer.

And it's all possible because most TikTok users crave music. They like discovering new music on the app. Most users were even doing the hard work of manually searching for the song themselves. Then came links and ad campaigns that could more easily send listeners to the favorite platform. 

From a user experience perspective, it would be a lot easier if users could just pull up the full song and listen right in app. And from TikTok's perspective, why drive users and revenue to another platform when they could potentially expand their product offering to satisfy that need?

Oh, and let's not forget TikTok also has SoundOn, a distribution service that after the first year of a release earns 10 percent of the revenue from the master. All of these factors kind of made it seem like TikTok Music was a when, not an if. At least if you talked to most TikTok-savvy music industry folks.

TikTok Music Features

Several social media apps feature integrations with music, including Facebook and Instagram. However, those integrations are really just a bandaid that sort of  provides the experience of diving into a song without leaving the platform. It pales in comparison to actually being able to hear a song you like and then immediately transitioning to hearing the full thing, adding it to playlists, downloading it for later, and talking about how it makes you feel. 

But that's what TikTok Music plans to do: play the full version of songs you hear in TikTok, get the lyrics, create collaborative playlists with friends, find songs via lyrics or a song identifying feature (kind of like Shazam). There will also be personalized music recommendations, and TikTok says users will also be able to leave comments and express their feelings on songs, which kind of sounds like one of SoundCloud's key features. 

Nothing here is particularly revolutionary (especially when you consider things like Apple Music's "Sing" feature that allows you to turn songs into karaoke version), but it's a solid offering that integrates directly with the first social media app to truly make audio central to the experience. 

TikTok's Continued Push Into Competitive Territory

Social media is a funny landscape. While these apps and platforms used to differentiate themselves by leaning hard into beachhead features, now they're all looking to add their competitor's features too in order to keep users from switching apps. 

Just think about how many different apps have integrated filters and disappearing content (originally a Snapchat exclusive), super short video (Vine's original premise), associating music with content (Musically followed by TikTok), medium length videos (YouTube's bread and butter), not to mention things like "Stories," gif integrations, microblogs and more.

Basically, it seems like most social media apps are willing to at least try to steal from their competitors and see if it sticks. But these features can be risky bets for users to engage with, too. Remember Fleets? Or TikTok's "Now" feature? Or YouTube Stories? Yeah — companies yank support for these kinds of features more often than we realize. 

TikTok launching a full-fledged competitive service feels a lot more significant than just that, though. Similar to Instagram launching Threads as a separate app (opposed to simply allowing microblogging within Instagram itself). This continued push into competitive territory, like with TikTok's music distribution service SoundOn or the new TikTok Shop experiment, shows that ByteDance wants the TikTok brand to be more than just a social media app — it wants TikTok to be an entire ecosystem. 


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