TikTok has upended how music is discovered, used and consumed these days; now, its long-term effort to build a business around that is getting a boost. The Bytedance-owned app today announced a search feature called “NewMusic”, which users can use to find new tracks, and artists can use to promote them.
To see new music under “NewMusic” you enter NewMusic in the search bar and from there you can click on the dedicated hub and hashtag.
To be completely clear, TikTok has built out a new search and discovery experience for hearing new music — one that it’s kicking off with endorsements from artists big with its core user base, including the Jonas Brothers and Miguel.
But it’s not building this out of thin air. NewMusic the hashtag already had 18 billion views before today’s launch, TikTok said. The launch is giving that a boost for sure: as of this writing, according to my TikTok app, that view figure is now up to 19.1 billion.
TikTok’s music roots go to the very DNA of the app itself, which first came to life as Musical.ly and was focused on user-generated videos of people, a lot of them teens and other younger users, lip-synching various tunes.
Musical.ly eventually merged into TikTok after Bytedance acquired it, reportedly for $1 billion, and then, amped with a ridiculously successful recommendation algorithm, a lick of a sticky user interface, and a shower of creative variations on the concept from users themselves, it all really took off to become what we know today. Throughout that, music has been the beating drum of the app, though.
Funnily enough, given TikTok’s massive impact on the music sphere — not only is a must-do for artists marketing their music, but it’s created hits and hitmakers out of thin air when tracks are used in posts that go viral; and it’s even pushed other stalwarts in the streaming space to totally rethink their own interfaces, making them more TikTok-like to boost appeal and engagement — it’s ironic that the company has somewhat danced around its own place in the music industry.
It was reported by Bloomberg in November that all the big labels were looking to renegotiate their TikTok deals — they want more royalties, naturally — although it’s not clear that has yet had a resolution.
Bydance has built a music-centered app, Resso, but that has to date only launched in three markets, India, Indonesia and Brazil, and has recently put up a paywall to turn the screws on who’s really using it.
A report from the WSJ last year noted that Bytedance is looking to expand that. However, with so many questions hanging over the app and the parent company and how it’s used, or might be shut down, in markets like the U.S. over security issues, that may well mean that developments on that front might not be so quick.
And there are other controversies that are unlikely to fade away any time soon. AI-based music, for one, is something that likely will be a thorn in the side of many labels and artists if they feel like their IP’s been lifted.
Bytedance has had an interest in AI how it might play a role in music for a while, though. Given how that whole area is unfolding today, several years ago it made a very prescient move to acquire Jukedeck, an early player in the generative AI music space.
But looking just at how music is discovered and consumed today, the company — parent and app — clearly sees huge opportunities for itself as vehicle for marketing and more. Witness the standalone SoundOn distribution service it’s built and released in several markets, including biggies like the U.S.
Our world today is awash in a veritable cacophony of information vying for our attention, and search has become the killer app: give people a way to pull out music from the noise (or, more literally, find things that they want to find), and you win the internet. That’s something that TikTok and parent Bytedance definitely understand with their own novel approach to search and discovery.
“We are thrilled to launch the #NewMusic Hub, a global discovery platform that celebrates and champions artists of all genres, from up-and-coming talent to international superstars,” said Paul Hourican, Global Head of Music Operations at TikTok, in a statement. “TikTok is already a destination for artists who want to preview their newest works, and for music fans looking to discover new music, and this new feature will give artists a new way to connect with our global community. It presents an exciting opportunity to inspire artist creativity, spark connections, and foster a diverse musical landscape that embraces the unique talents and passions of artists and fans worldwide.”
We’ve asked TikTok some questions about the NewMusic search feature, including what kind of sponsorship is baked into the platform, or whether it will ever have any if there is none now; how it will link up with buying tracks on site or via third parties; and how one gets sifted to the top of the search pile. We’ll update as we learn more.