How TikTok is using the Brits to establish credibility in the British music scene

The Drum 18 Feb 2020 11:58
How TikTok is using the Brit Awards to establish its credibility in the British music scene

At the Brit Awards tonight (18 February) TikTok will be making its presence felt in a big way through a live-steam takeover that will be amplified directly to London’s Piccadilly Circus digital screens.

It’s a major play from the app in the UK to woo British musical talent to its plaform after main rival YouTube declared its intention to make itself the number one choice for musicians trying to find new audiences.

“We see this Brits partnership as one of the major milestones in a big education push we will be doing with the music industry this year,” explained Paul Hourican, head of music operations at TikTok. “It’s part of a wider UK programme that aims at collaborating with and educating labels, managers and artists to make the most of the platform.”

TikTok the 'fame machine'

Beyond its dense library of bite-size memes, TikTok is seriously impacting popular music. A staging ground for hits, last year Lil Nas X ‘Old Town Road’ (and its many remixes) became the longest-reigning Billboard Hot 100 Number 1 in the chart’s history after initially going viral on TikTok. A hashtag for #Yeehaw has now manifested thousands of videos, with more than 67 million plays on the platform.

Artists have been using the likes of YouTube to do this for some time but TikTok - referred to as the ‘short-form version of YouTube' - has made great strides in a relatively short space of time to catch up with its predecessor, surpassing a billion downloads and 500 million active users globally according to GlobalWebIndex.

"Every week, TikTok users create millions of videos with the tracks available on the platform," explained Hourican on why it's become such a big rival to YouTube for new talent. "The content evolves organically, often leading to viral trends with both the songs and artists taking centre stage and consequently driving user engagement outside the platform."

But the Brit Awards is arguably its biggest investment into partnering with a music event and it’s going all-in with the marketing in order to highlight to fans the role it plays in today’s music scene.

The takeover hints at how the way people digest music, and award shows, is changing rapidly.Each year, the Brits are battling a general trend of falling TV viewers. Last year's show brought in 4.1 million viewers (22% share) which was down from the year prior. The year before, viewers fell by 900,000 viewers than its 2018 show.

It hopes this will continue to chip away at the dominance YouTube has in the UK as the prime consideration for emerging talent.

While not dismissing that TikTok was a concern, Ben McOwen Wilson claimed: “What we've learned, and what has always been true for YouTube, is provided you remain true to the core proposition which is that if somebody who has got an incredibly creative idea, we can find you the audience – and for all the other noise that's around us, that is our point of difference. That's it."

Whether TikTok has plans in place to make TikTok a fully-pledged commercial channel, Hourican said: “At the moment we are focused on offering our users the best possible in-app experience. As we move along, we will explore a variety of opportunities but our focus will continue to be creating a platform that inspires creativity.”

When Lil Nas X's 'Old Town Road' blew up on TikTok, he didn't get paid directly for the song, as it prompted 65 million streams of his song on Spotify.

According to Rolling Stone, a third-party agency that Bytedance had on retainer went to 22-year-olds across the US and paid to have them do one post a day, with some creators getting paid $400 a month to do 30 pieces of content.

Hourican sees TikTok's place very much as a "springboard for established or upcoming British artists" that "brings back old tracks with a new twist."

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