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‘A world of opportunity’: TikTok talks music marketing

With an estimated 500 million monthly users – the majority under 30, and many of them teenagers – short-form video app TikTok has quickly established itself as the go-to social platform for many Gen Z-ers.

Along with its predecessor, Musical.ly, TikTok has made stars out of ‘influencers’ like Baby Ariel, Jacob Sartorius, Riyaz Afreen and the Dobre Twins, and its young users helped meme Lil Nas X’s ‘Old Town Road’ – which went viral on TikTok (as part of the ‘Yeehaw challenge’) before receiving mainstream recognition – to the top of charts worldwide.

IQ caught up with Farhad Zand, head of music partnerships for TikTok Europe, to find out why TikTok works well for music discovery and marketing, the appeal of short-form video, and how concert businesses can reach its growing user base…


IQ: Let’s start with the basics. In layman’s terms, what is TikTok and what does it do?
FZ: TikTok is the leading destination for short-form mobile video. Our mission is the best way to understand what our platform is all about: we want to inspire and enrich people’s lives by offering a home for creative expression and an experience that is genuine, joyful and positive.

For our users, TikTok offers a window to the world with an intelligent discovery process. Video recommendations are personalised to each user based on their preferences, meaning everyone receives a unique and compelling viewing experience.

Our platform empowers creativity through 15- or 60-second videos; we believe short-form videos are an effective way to lower the barrier for content creation. This has empowered our community to create their own internet culture and trends. Fun music-related trends started on TikTok include the Adele gummy-bear challenge and the recent #GitUpChallenge, featuring ‘The Git Up’ by Blanco Brown.

How long has TikTok been around, and how does lip-syncing app Musical.ly fit into the picture?
TikTok launched globally in 2017 and later that year, ByteDance, TikTok’s owner, bought Musical.ly and merged the two apps. We entered the European market in August 2018 and TikTok is currently available in 150 markets and 75 languages.

When people talk about Musical.ly, they often know about how it was used for lip-syncing. Today, however, TikTok is about much more than just lip-syncing. We have a truly global community of authentic creators. Some of the most popular content includes comedy, sports, pets, music and dance.

“Our community enjoys creating and sharing content that is authentic and fun. This opens a world of opportunities to music and festival promoters”

How many users do you have, and what does the average TikToker look like?
I don’t think we have an average user, which is what I love about TikTok. You will find some celebrities on TikTok, you will find our own ‘TikTok stars’ – and you will also find that we have lots of brilliantly creative people using the platform to have fun, from nurses to firefighters to grannies. This represents the essence of the platform: a place where you can be genuine, real and discover other people like you.

While we don’t currently disclose our usage figures, we are growing fast and we’re thrilled with the growth that we have seen so far.

What are some of the ways live music companies can incorporate TikTok into their marketing?
TikTok supports the music industry by offering a unique platform for music to live. Artists can promote their music to a global audience and build a strong and engaged fanbase. We have seen new musical talents discovered due to unprecedented viral trends created on TikTok, such as Lil Nas X or, most recently, DJ Regard.

Over 70% of our videos have music attached to them and their content is often created as a response to the song. The TikTok community loves music and our community enjoys creating and sharing content that is authentic and fun. This opens a world of opportunities to music or festival promoters, and we have a dedicated music team that can support promoters and marketers to achieve their goals.

Every campaign is different; there is no one size fits all. Our music team has the knowledge and expertise to advise promoters and marketers on the best strategy to achieve their results, whether they are big or small players in the market.

“There’s huge potential for the music industry to connect with its global community in a meaningful, engaging and positive way”

How are artists utilising the TikTok platform?
Over the past 12 months, we are proud to have welcomed outstanding British musicians including Ed Sheeran, Mabel, Lewis Capaldi, Four Diamonds, Jax Jones, Little Mix and many more to the TikTok community.

One of the most popular hashtag challenges was launched by Ed Sheeran. With over 300 million views during the first six days, the #BeautifulPeople challenge incentivised our community to share a moment with the most special and beautiful people in their lives.

For any artist considering how best to use TikTok, it’s important to remember that our platform is all about positivity and having fun. It’s why Lewis Capaldi was an immediate success – his content is fun and spontaneous.

For the music industry, what advantages does TikTok have over other social media services?
Unlike other platforms, TikTok is based on a content graph instead of a social graph. What this means in practice is that the quality of the content you see is what’s most important – not who you follow or how many followers you have.

Our community loves content that is authentic, entertaining and which reduces the distance between the fans, artist, band or show. There’s huge potential for the music industry to connect with its global community in a meaningful, engaging and positive way.

Our focus is on building the best product for our users while creating a community that is joyful, positive and safe. We want to continue to be a platform for music to live in its various forms, working closely with artists, labels and other industry players to support them connect with our global and engaged community.


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