‘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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WME signs digital stars LadBaby
WME has signed digital stars LadBaby, aka husband-and-wife team Mark and Roxanne Hoyle, whose cover of Starship’s ’We Built This City’ beat Ariana Grande to last year’s UK Christmas number one.
The Hoyles have also signed to Joe Sugg and Caspar Lee’s WME-backed management company, Margravine Management. The trio will “work to build out the family’s platform across licensing, merchandise, literary and live, as well as their original content programming”, according to the agency.
To date, LadBaby have nearly four million followers on Facebook, and are the most successful creators on the platform’s Fan Subscriptions service. In total, they have an audience of nearly 6m across all platforms.
In 2018 LadBaby beat Ariana Grande and Ava Max to win the UK’s Christmas No1 spot with their parody of ‘We Built This City’ (which changed the lyrics to “… on sausage rolls”), released in aid of foodbank charity the Trussell Trust.
Other WME-repped digital stars include Sugg, Jake Paul and Sean ‘Jacksepticeye’ McLoughlin.
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Bandsintown launches Instagram tool
Popular concert discovery service Bandsintown has launched a new Instagram tool which will allow artists to promote concerts and sell tickets directly through the photo-sharing app.
The new Events Landing page will allow Bandsintown’s some 450,000 registered artists to promote themselves via the Instagram Stories function, therefore converting “links into ticket sales”. By swiping up on an artist’s story, fans will be able to access tickets, pre-sales and further information about events. The new integration will also allow artists to monitor their social media analytics – things like clicks, conversations and RSVPs – via the Bandsintown Manager platform.
Converting “links into ticket sales”
Using social media to promote events and sell tickets is becoming increasingly popular. In 2016, Live Nation began selling tickets through Snapchat and in the same year, Instagram debuted their Events channel, providing users with tailored suggestions of videos and pictures from concerts. In May this year, Instagram teamed up with Eventbrite to streamline ticket-buying with the creation of the ‘get tickets’ button for business profiles.
More information on how the new integration works can be found on the Bandsintown artist website.
AEG’s AXS selling tickets through Facebook
AXS has expanded its AXS Anywhere partner distribution network with the addition of Facebook, allowing its customers to purchase tickets directly on the social network.
The Facebook integration joins existing AXS Anywhere partners including leading music streaming service Spotify, which was added in June, and deals website Groupon, event discovery service Goldstar, last-minute mobile ticket seller Gametime and corporate entertainment provider Entertainment Benefits Group, all of which followed in August.
As a result of the partnership, participating artists’ and events’ Facebook pages will feature a ‘get tickets’ button enabling buyers to purchase tickets on Facebook rather than clicking through the AXS website. The integration has gone live in the US and several other major markets, with more to follow in future.
“Events are social by nature, and the two billion-plus users from Facebook adds an essential element to AXS Anywhere”
“This is more than just distribution; it’s about furthering our mission to personalise every aspect of the event going experience and allow fans to get tickets wherever they are,” says Bryan Perez, CEO of the AEG-owned ticket agency.
“Events are social by nature, and the two billion-plus users from Facebook adds an essential element to AXS Anywhere and our partner distribution strategy. This relationship exemplifies our strategy of serving the right ticket to the right fan in the right channel.”
Other ticketing platforms taking advantage of the functionality to sell tickets from Facebook pages, which launched in December 2015, include Ticketmaster, Eventbrite and self-service platform Ticketbud.
Snap debuts AI-powered Crowd Surf at Outside Lands
Snapchat developer Snap Inc. used last weekend’s Outside Lands festival in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, as the debut for a new feature for the app: Crowd Surf, which stitches together audience ‘snaps’ to create a multi-angle video account of a concert or live event.
Snap deployed Crowd Surf during Lorde’s performance on Sunday 13 August, synchronising the audio using artificial intelligence from multiple fans filming the New Zealand singer to create an interactive Snapchat ‘story’ in which viewers can cycle between different crowd perspectives using a button on their smartphone screen.
Tech site Mashable has a video demonstrating Crowd Surf during Lorde’s song ‘Green Light’, showing multiple angles, including crowd selfies and the view from stage left.
A Snap spokesperson says Crowd Surf will be available at select events in future.
According to Mashable, with Crowd Surf Snap “hope[s] to bolster its Stories feature so that users submit to them more and also spend more time watching them. That’s good for Snap Inc. The more time users spend with Stories, the more likely they’ll be served an ad, which contributes to the majority of Snap’s revenue.” Snap Inc. posted disappointing financial results in Q2 2017 with a loss of US$443 million, below Wall Street forecasts.
Both Live Nation and AEG Live/Presents have agreed commercial partnerships around their festivals with Snap, with advertisers and sponsors using Snapchat to target festivalgoers. The former has, since last September, also sold tickets on the platform.
Social media star Jake Paul joins LiveXLive
Live-streaming platform LiveXLive has become the latest concert business to tap into a growing pool of young online talent, hiring social-media personality Jake Paul as content creator/contributing social editor.
Paul, who made his name on now-defunct video platform Vine, currently stars in Disney Channel programme Bizaardvark. He has almost nine million subscribers on YouTube, and recently released his first single, ‘It’s Everyday Bro’, which debuted at no2 on iTunes and garnered more than 27m views on YouTube within a week.
WME-signed Paul also recently played his first live show, at Los Angeles nightclub Exchange LA.
At LiveXLive, he partners with Andrew ‘King Bach’ Bachelor and Amanda Cerny to create “original short-form content and viral promotions on the LiveXLive platform for their massive millennial audiences”.
“Jake Paul has quickly demonstrated that he can create music-related content that resonates with young audiences by the millions,” comments Robert Ellin, founder and CEO of LiveXLive. “With his music career launching at the same time that we’re expanding our original content production and live music streaming deals, this couldn’t be a better match.”
LiveXLive, which launched in July 2015, initially positioned itself as the “ESPN of premium live music experience” with its aim of creating a 24-hour network of live music broadcasting digitally and on mobile. Last May it signed a strategic partnership with MTV to provide the broadcaster with LiveXLive’s stream of the closing night of Rock in Rio Lisbon, and shortly after moved into ticketing with the acquisition of Wantickets following that company’s top brass’s controversial defection to Eventbrite.
It has since moved more into original content, with plans to develop a slate of “music news programming, documentaries, specials, and long- and short-form content”.
New Orleans’ Essence draws ‘record’ 4bn impressions
Essence Festival – an annual celebration of African-American music at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome (76,468-cap.) in New Orleans – welcomed more than 470,000 attendees to its 24th edition last week, increasing attendance by 25,000 and garnering what organisers call a “record-breaking” four billion impressions on social media.
Complementing a night-time concert series (headliners were Diana Ross, John Legend, Chance the Rapper and Mary J. Blige), the festival once again featured “entertainment, empowerment and cultural experiences” targeted at black Americans, with actress Halle Berry, film director Ava DuVernay, civil-rights campaigner Al Sharpton and spiritual leader Iyanla Vanzant among the more than 100 speakers.
In addition to increasing attendance by ~6%, organisers say posts tagged with the #EssenceFest hashtag drew 4bn+ impressions on social media, with the festival also trending daily on Twitter.
This, say promoters, is a new record – although it should be noted iHeartRadio claimed its 2015 festival generated more than 6.5bn impressions. (New record or not, 4bn social engagements with an arguably fairly niche festival is undeniably impressive.)
Essence Festival is produced by Essence Festivals LLC, a division of Essence Communications (the publisher of the eponymous magazine), and New Orleans-based Solomon Group. Sponsors in 2017 included AT&T, Ford, McDonald’s, Walmart and naming partner Coca-Cola.
It’s happening: Musical.ly lip-synchers going on tour
Has the rise of arena-filling competitive esports left you baffled? Are you, like your elderly correspondent, mystified by the popularity – and earning potential – of the YouTubers and internet currently celebrities cutting their teeth on the live circuit?
Then you could be forgiven for not having heard of Lisa and Lena Mantler, two 15-year-old German twins who just became the first ‘musers’ to amass 20 million fans on Musical.ly.
For the uninitiated, Musical.ly is a video-sharing social app that now boasts more than 40m monthly active users. Popular among tweens, the majority of its content consists of musers lip-synching to pre-recorded backing tracks – although since the decline of Vine, many have also branched out into producing more general short-form video, such as Vine-style comedy skits.
The Shanghai-based company behind the app, Musical.ly, Inc., has signed licensing deals with all major labels and publishers – which in return receive a bump in sales/streaming when the most popular musers post a new clip. “When stars ask users to post, it can be potent,” writes Forbes. “Last year a promotion of Selena Gomez’s ‘Kill ’em with Kindness’ rendered 1.3m Musical.ly clips and 34.6m likes, reportedly boosting the song’s performance, according to her label Interscope Geffen A&M.”
A sample of Lisa and Lena’s video output can be seen below:
The twins (pictured) “shared their first video, a six-second black-and-white rendition of ‘Treble Heart’ by Anna Graceman,” in August 2015, reads a press release from Musical.ly, “and since [then have] posted clips that have become more sophisticated with lighting, choreographed moves and matching outfits.”
To coincide with reaching the 20m milestone, Lisa and Lena have announced plans for a European tour, kicking off with three shows in the UK jointly produced by Global and WME.
Dates announced so far are below:
What a time to be alive.
Arcade Fire ‘360 deal’ turns sour
With 360 deals – wherein an artist signs to a single entity for album releases, tours, sponsorship and everything in between – now common across the industry, it was inevitable that, sooner or later, one would go spectacularly wrong: and that’s exactly what’s happened with Arcade Fire.
According to an announcement from Everything Now Corp, with which Arcade Fire has their 360 deal, the band are “content to be the ninth-biggest [band] in the world”, whereas Everything Now wants to work with “those who strive to be number one”.
The company has, therefore, “decided to temporarily exercise the right in our contract to take over Arcade Fire’s social media channels in order to bring you some excellent promotional material that the band was unwilling to share.”
Except, of course, it hasn’t: because Everything Now is Arcade Fire’s latest album and tour, and the ‘take-over’ is a masterful piece of guerrilla marketing on the band’s part.
Enjoy the “much better version of the ‘Creature Comfort’ video” above, complete with bonus pop-up bubbles revealing that the band “stand in a circle and each say one thing they like about capitalism” before every show and that frontman Win Butler was born on the same day the Titanic sank, Abraham Lincoln was shot and the McRib was introduced.
Everything Now is out now on CD, cassette, vinyl and fidget spinner.
AT Bookings signs up social influencers
Dutch talent agency AT Bookings has established a new booking platform for its roster of internet bloggers, vloggers and other social-media ‘influencers’.
Similar to Kili’s Free Focus in the UK, Amsterdam-based AT will help “national [Dutch] and international artists, personalities and social influencers to develop their live career”, reads a launch statement, offering “professional booking agents to represent them [to] customers, brands and audiences.”
Its roster of influencers includes musicians and beauty, fashion and lifestyle vloggers, all of whom have gained large followings on YouTube and social media.
IQ reported earlier this year on the growing breed of vloggers developing live elements to their careers. Emporium Presents’ Dan Steinberg says YouTubers now make up approximately 15–18% of his company’s revenue.
While tapping into social-media stars for shows can provide a lucrative new source of revenue for traditional music promoters, the legality around hiring them to advertise events has recently been called into question, with several models popular on Instagram facing lawsuits over claims they “made no attempt to disclose to consumers that they were being compensated” for promoting the disastrous Fyre Festival.