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Is TikTok (or ByteDance) slowly morphing right into a document firm?


Each time the concept of TikTok changing into a document label is raised in music biz circles, the suggestion is often scoffed at.

However the proof is constructing that such an outline may someday match.

In March, TikTok launched its personal distribution service. Dubbed ‘SoundOn’, it lets artists add their music to TikTok, RESSO, and different platforms like Spotify, Apple Music and Instagram.

TikTok describes SoundOn as “an all-in-one platform for music advertising and marketing and distribution”, and says that it was designed “to empower new and undiscovered artists”.

The TuneCore-powered distro service’s beta launched in September. On the time, TikTok’s World Head of Music Ole Obermann advised us that, “via SoundOn we’re going to organise the ecosystem of unsigned artists in a means that doesn’t exist at present and has by no means existed earlier than”.

He added: “I believe that’s going to make it simpler for artists to search out their followers. After which for labels and publishers to search out these artists. The [industry’s] whole A&R course of, I believe, will grow to be extra environment friendly off the again of it.”

SoundOn additionally acts as an incubator program, and artists signing as much as the platform get entry to viewers perception and improvement instruments, in addition to “knowledgeable recommendation” from a devoted SoundOn artist workforce.

TikTok claims that SoundOn is already offering further alternatives for artists and music creators who begin on TikTok, and notes that artists have already gone on to signal document and publishing offers, and to work with co-writers and “established names”.

With TikTok performing capabilities for artists like advertising and marketing, distribution, discovery and improvement, some might argue that TikTok is already properly on its approach to changing into a document label. And over in Asia, TikTok father or mother ByteDance is giving us much more of a touch of what’s coming down the road.

MBW has noticed that ByteDance is hiring for an “A&R” position which, based on the job description, appears similar to the long-established position of A&R at a document label.

Exhibit A: The primary duty listed for this Jakarta-based position is “discovering and signing new music expertise”.

In line with ByteDance, the profitable candidate can even “present skilled experience and assist within the design, improvement and implementation of the expertise overview course of that’s required to attain enterprise objectives and leads to the creation of an inside bench of prime expertise”.

Lots of the different tasks and necessities listed within the advert additionally resemble what you may see in a job description for an A&R position at a document label. In reality, we’d suspect the eventual candidate may even be a part of ByteDance from a document firm.

Behold this wording from the advert:

  • Want common sense to make selections concerning the probability of economic success, and the negotiating abilities to make sure they get the very best deal for the corporate whereas supporting the artists’ ambition.
  • Answerable for sourcing and choosing trending music and demos for releases. Choices have to be based mostly on sound information, analysis and understanding of music within the area, via understanding music and the up to date music scene, and figuring out how music works and the way albums are recorded and produced.
  • Answerable for the funds of every undertaking and manufacturing price. Put together funds based mostly on scope of labor and useful resource necessities and oversee monitoring of prices to be able to meet funds.
  • Decide and outline undertaking scope and targets – Creating lengthy and short-term plans, together with setting targets for milestones and adhering to deadlines.
  • Handle the standard of manufacturing and coordinate the assorted sorts of content material and format request.
  • Establishing skilled relationships with purchasers and exterior organisations.

It’s not fully clear if the position is for TikTok or ByteDance’s music streaming service, Resso, or for Qishui Yinyue, the brand new music streaming service launched by ByteDance in China final month.

It’s additionally not unusual for a digital service supplier to carry out some document label capabilities and assist unbiased artists financially.

Chinese language tech large NetEase for instance, whose subsidiary Cloud Village (which operates streaming service NetEase Cloud Music) listed on the Hong Kong Inventory Trade in December, is well-known for working with unbiased artists by way of its Venture Cloud Ladder program.

The corporate calls itself a “pure incubator of music expertise searching for an viewers”. By the top of 2021, Cloud Village says it was serving greater than 400,000 registered unbiased artists on its platform.

Inside its content material library, about 1.9 million music tracks got here from these registered unbiased artists in 2021, a rise of roughly 80% versus the top of 2020.

In a letter issued to traders when Cloud Village went public in December, NetEase CEO William Ding stated that NetEase Cloud Music “is dedicated to investing in our assist of unbiased artists”.

He continued: “For many who pursue music as your dream, we hope that you just not want to fret about the appropriate stage in your expertise and fervour, and that your loved ones and buddies not want to fret about you financially.”


NetEase’s greatest rival in China, Tencent Music Leisure, additionally runs an indie musician platform known as ‘Tencent Musician Platform’.

Launched in 2017, Tencent claims that its program has “offered highly effective backing for musicians to encourage and assist them in persevering with music creation”.

In 2021, the variety of registered musicians on this system grew to greater than 300,000, marking a rise of 51% year-on-year.

Through the 12 months, greater than 2.1 million songs from unbiased artists have been distributed via the platform.

TME says that it provides indie artists “complete incentive plans and music assortment initiatives” and likewise claims to be “the primary platform within the business to introduce a brand new monetization mannequin with streaming web page promoting income sharing”.

The corporate additionally says that it has partnered with Tencent Sports activities, Tencent Video games, TME Institute of Music, JD.com and extra “to offer a good broader crossover platform to additional assist indie musicians ramp up their music promotion and distribution”.

Additionally, Tencent may not be allowed to signal unique offers with labels anymore, however it’s permitted to maintain its unique offers with unbiased artists, with a time restrict of three years for such agreements.


DSP plans to work straight with artists aren’t all the time profitable, nonetheless.

Spotify for instance, began providing artists direct distribution offers (together with paying out advances) itself again in 2018, however then shortly deserted the concept.

Spotify additionally launched its personal DIY distribution service in 2018, solely to abruptly pull the service only a few months later.

India based mostly JioSaavn was one other instance of a streaming platform placing offers with indie artists, by way of its in-house label and artist providers division Artist Originals, which launched in 2017.


AO wasn’t destined to final both. Billboard just lately reported that AO has been shuttered, and that JioSaavn has ‘been procuring the Artist Originals catalog however has so far been unsuccessful in placing a deal’.

TikTok has already confirmed itself to be a key artist discovery platform for a lot of of its 1 billion-plus world Month-to-month Energetic Customers, in addition to a wealthy A&R supply for document labels.

The query now could be, what is going to the facility dynamic of the music business seem like sooner or later, if TikTok begins signing artists earlier than the labels do.Music Enterprise Worldwide



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