Who is ready for the age of the short-form video wars? Ever since Vine flew too close to the sun, users have been clamoring for a tiny video fix. When Musically and TikTok first combined forces, the company positioned itself as the short video king.
But since then, rival apps like Triller, Byte, and Clash have all come up to stake a claim at replacing Vine and winning your heart — 15 seconds at a time. Heck, even Instagram's new Reels function is gaining popularity. It just launched and they've been adding support for critical features like sharing sounds and searching for your own music.
Why should you care? Well it's no surprise, but it turns out short-form video is a pretty excellent way to promote your music. Let's look at these different apps and see if we can't get a handle on how they might factor into your music promo strategy.
We might as well start with the current king. TikTok has been in the news for myriad reasons, including most recently a certain someone promising to "ban" the app from the U.S. While TikTok's exact fate is still up in the air, few people really believe the massive app will get the axe in the U.S. and leave its 100 million U.S. users looking elsewhere.
TikTok first really turned heads as a potential music promotion tool with the success of Lil Nas X's "Old Town Road," which first gained traction on the platform. But plenty of songs have seen a huge exposure boost to lesser extremes, too.
The reason TikTok is a no-brainer for music promotion is that "sounds" are integral to the app's experience. You can upload your song and choose a 15-second clip that other users can make videos to. When a certain theme catches on, it goes viral and hundreds of thousands to millions of videos with the sound pop up.
This typically translates to people listening to the song outside of the app, too. Even a year ago it was possible to reach out to big accounts on TikTok and ask if they mind using your song. Now a "TikTok Influencer" campaign can cost you anywhere from $500 to $30,000 (thanks, major labels...).
And while it could pay off in spades, it could also be a massive waste of money. Because...
The Negatives of TikTok for Music
The thing that makes TikTok a charming user experience also makes it an unrelaible platform for music promo. It's just. So. Random.
You'll find some of the most creative people in the world on TikTok. You'll also find people with seemingly no talent at all commanding audiences of millions.
You can be a talented artist following all of the "tips" for TikTok account success and really get nowhere. There's no understanding the algorithm, at least at this stage. What is a TikTok follower really "worth?"
In the same vein, you can pay thousands of dollars for people to use your song and you might only get a few dozen or a few hundred videos out of it. That might equate to a small bump in consumption of your music, but TikTok really is a volume game. To truly tip the scales, you need tens of thousands of videos using your sound.
So Should I Still Make A TikTok Account?
Sure. It's free. It can be fun. There's no real reason not to give it a try. Post some clips of you performing. Or you being funny. It could take off.
But don't let yourself get frustrated by the fact that it could also *definitely* not take off. There are major label artists whom you would think should have incredibly popular accounts who aren't even the most popular account with their name.
It's about posting a lot. It's about consistency. And at the end of the day, it really, truly is random.
Should I Spend Money On An Influencer Campaign?
Probably not right now. Especially if you have a very limited budget and you're putting all your eggs in this basket. You're better off just running social media ads that you can measure.
Now, if you're playing with a substantial marketing budget (say, $50,000), it might be worth allocating 10% or so to a well-planned campaign around a specific challenge and set of hash tags.
Simply hoping popular accounts using your sound will make it go off is not a reliable strategy, though.
What Is Triller?
Triller is the second-most popular short form video platform and a chief rival of TikTok. The app is in hyper growth mode, with 50 million monthly active users and some pretty agressive moves, including poaching away TikTok influencers and filing patent lawsuits against TikTok. Oh, and it's raising between $200-300 million dollars. At the end of 2019 it raised $28 million.
Triller has actualy been around for quite a while, though. The app was founded in 2015, only a year after Musically (which eventually merged with TikTok). In terms of functionality, it's similar to TikTok.
There is, however, one major difference — Triller makes you choose between doing a "music video" or a "social video." The app has roots in UGC music videos, so this makes sense. The platform also puts a little more emphasis on video editing and creating slightly more thoughtful music videos with multiple angles etc.
Should I Use Triller To Promote My Music?
Right now, Triller doesn't have quite the track record of breaking artists as TikTok, but there are plenty of songs that get popular on the app.
One of the big issues, however, is that it's not always as easy to track the song. In some cases you can tie the song to Apple Music and users can listen to it in the app (TikTok also has this feature for some songs). But in other cases, there's absolutely no way to know what the song is or see other videos made using the song.
That doesn't mean it won't change in the near future, but right now it's even harder to measure Triller's affect on your music than TikTok's. And if you don't already know some of your fans are on Triller, you could find yourself posting a bunch of content that basically goes nowhere.
And How About Byte?
Byte is closest to Vine in several ways. For starters, Vine co-founder Dom Hofmann is also behind Byte and the company has branded itself as a Vine re-boot.
Second of all, the app really limits the length of videos. You can currently upload videos no longer than 16 seconds. When it launched it was only 6 seconds, like the original Vine. Still, 16 seconds is about 1/4 the length of the maximum TikTok length, which makes the Byte experience much more similar to Vine.
The app only launched at the end of January 2020 but it's rapidly iterating and making plenty of new updates. There are some things unique to Byte, like "channels" and its general simplicity.
Similar to TikTok, Byte also just announced support for naming your sounds and letting other users share them. So while it doesn't have the same support for in-app music discovery like Triller, it makes it much easier to see the potential for music to go viral on Byte.
Should I Make A Byte Account
Personally, we find Byte to be a lot nicer of a user experience for anybody just starting out. Will it have the same potential to elevate music as TikTok and Triller? It's possible. The app was downloaded 1.3 million times in its first week, but that doesn't mean it has that many engaged users.
However, Byte got a huge push in notoriety when TikTok started to get more flak. Byte may not be the obvious choice as the immediate TikTok competitor, but it has its own vibe and certainly seems poised to be a fan-favorite.
Byte also announced an interesting level of monetization for its creators that, while it has yet to roll out, essentially comes down to an advertising revenue-share model. Neither TikTok nor Triller seem to have an interest in revenue sharing with its users, at least as of right now.
Enter The Newest App: Clash
It's kind of insane to think an app that launched just this year isn't the most recent short-form video app. But that's because Clash literally launched last week.
Clash was actually co-founded by former Vine star Brendon McNerney and PJ Leimgruber, who co-founded an influencer marketing company called NeoReach. You can upload videos up to 21 seconds long. The app is still in beta and doesn't feature a library of sounds, making its current opportunity for music promotion much lower than its rivals.
However, Clash did top 200,000 users in its first week and is apparently adding around 10,000 users per hour. The app also wants to put monetization front and center. It's got a feature called "Drops" coming soon, which is basically allowing users to directly tip creators. It also announced a plan to give some of the company's actual equity to creators.
Right now they have 20 creators who have equity in the platform, which they'll be announcing more in the coming weeks.
Will Clash Be Good For Promoting My Music?
It's way too early to tell. But if the monetization factors really work as planned, it might not matter whether or not the app does a good job of making music go viral. Because it will help musicians directly make money from their Clash content.
We'll keep an eye on all of these apps as they develop at their different stages of the career.
If you are insane and like us, you'll probably have all four and test them constantly. But if you'd prefer to keep your head on your shoulders, consider starting with something simple like Byte and see if you can commit to creating consistent content.
And remember: above all, have fun with them. Going viral is not a marketing strategy, and freaking out about your social media success is not a healthy way to address your digital marketing efforts.
Short-form video is here to stay, and if you're the type of person who likes to throw on the front-facing camera, try these apps out and see if you don't actually enjoy yourself. The worst thing that happens is you get some more content to share on your other existing socials.
Oh, and don't forget Instagram Reels just launched. The app is iterating quickly, too. Within the past week they've added support for sharing sounds, searching for your own music, and more.
We don't know enough about how Instagram Reels will handle discoverability, but in terms of reaching your existing Instagram audience with short video clips, Reels is proving very popular.
One of the early features making Reels particularly cool is that you can choose different sections of the song for different videos, but it still counts as the same song. In TikTok, each sound is its own unique period of time. So in other words, if two different people use the same song but at different points, that's two different sounds. In Reels, it shows up as the same sound.
A Note On Likee
There's also an app called Likee, which used to be Likee video and ironically used to be a place a lot of early TikTok users would actually make their videos look better (before then uploading them to TikTok).
Likee is now a full-on TikTok competitor, with a couple cool twists. Like the fact that you can actually just straight up pay to promote your video in the app in front of people for around $20 and up.
It has promise, but right now there's too much clear bot traffic and spam to really judge whether or not the engagement on the app is real (and if your music has an opportunity to get a boost from it). But we'll definitely keep an eye on it as it develops.