The New York Times reported a potential partnership between TikTok and UnitedMasters, a music distribution platform. There are now more than 150+ music streaming services available. Music distributors who aggregate these services such as UnitedMasters and more prominent aggregators like Amuse, Distrokid, CDBaby etc. offer independent artists with access to uploading music tracks across multiple services. For an affordable subscription fee ranging around $50 – $60 per annum or a 10-15% cut of revenue, these platforms offer analytical tools for performance tracking and payment management. With popular music streaming services like Spotify rolling back the direct to platform upload of music tracks via the Spotify for Artist app in 2019, the music distribution platforms like UnitedMasters become an integral middleman.
TikTok is already a streaming platform that music distributors offer to their independent artists whereby the uploaded music is made available as part of TikTok’s library for in-app video editing. This partnership, however, is a reverse relationship whereby users on the platform who gain virality for their music content, can capitalise on that virality, utilising UnitedMasters in-app, to distribute their music to a multitude of streaming services (Apple Music, Spotify and YouTube etc.). This partnership could be seen as TikTok’s strategic move to build on its ability to be more than an entertainment platform and become the home for young independent artists seeking an avenue for exposure.
In the absence of going viral on TikTok, a music distribution platforms’ value to artists only extends as far as uploading the artist’s music track to the various services. The independent artists are left to their own devices when it comes to promoting their music and growing their followers on the various services.
What TikTok offers is the ability to keep the audience and the creators plugged into the platform. It achieves this through TikTok’s design that enables sharing of sound/music from one user to the next with credits to the original owner and is a key virality mechanism which propagates and shuffles through music trends on the platform. As an independent artist, if you can create a catchy sound bite or track, TikTok might be able to be the avenue where the sound bite has the potential to go viral – a platform where mimicry is a part of the algorithm design.
As much as this partnership enables users an avenue to become an independent artist, TikTok’s potential to become the place where independent artists converge will depend on the perceived rate of success. Where success is described as TikTok users going from being a creator, to achieving virality and finally achieving charting success on multiple platforms based on their exposure from TikTok. It’s the introduction of this idea to its 16-24 year old demographic, that will attract and retain interest in an area that users may never have considered when they initially shot their first TikTok Video.