There has been talk for some time now of TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, launching a music streaming service in Western markets. It already has Resso in Indonesia, India and Brazil, but has recently sparked renewed interest with trademark registrations, new Twitter accounts and reports that “more than a dozen” new markets are in the works. TikTok has become one of the central forces in the digital music market ecosystem, eroding the cultural capital of traditional streaming services. It’s a logical leap to assume that if TikTok becomes a key force in music discovery, it could do the same for consumption. While it certainly is, ByteDance’s streaming opportunity is much bigger and more disruptive than Resso:
TikTok Music: Resso is a perfectly decent streaming service, but like YouTube Music, it only scratches the surface of what it could be. Both TikTok and YouTube have unique content, behavior, features, and culture that stand in stark contrast to standard streaming. Much of this is difficult to translate due to licensing constraints, but it should be the priority for TikTok and YouTube. This will drive differentiation and help the industry carve out real new pockets of growth rather than just digging up the remains of the addressable base for standard streaming. What’s even more relevant for the music industry, unless rights holders can give ByteDance’s streaming offering something truly different, is the risk that its growth will largely consist of changing Spotify subscribers. The music industry needs the maturing streaming market to focus on growth, not substitution. Perhaps TikTok Music’s Twitter profiles point to something bigger and bolder than Resso.
Discovery is consumption: Before, people discovered music on the radio, then went to buy it. This model has been turned upside down. Now people (younger audiences in particular) discover most of their new music on TikTok or YouTube before heading to radio-like streaming services to consume it. Additionally, much of the “discovery” that happens on TikTok is consumption. It’s not just consumption either, it’s consumption that streaming can’t replicate. This is before even considering the importance of “inclined” creative behavior, like doing a duet or a dance challenge to your favorite artist’s new track. Music is the soundtrack and often the catalyst for this “consumption”, but when this music is streamed it is stripped of all that creative and cultural context. It’s like listening only to the soundtrack of a movie. Movie soundtracks work well as formats, but they only exist because of movies because that’s where the real value lies. All of this is why a TikTok Music service could be so exciting because it could provide both the creative and cultural context, not just the stripped-down audio file.
Ecosystem : The most important factor of all, however, is TikTok’s gaming ecosystem. In the traditional streaming value chain, you have creators, rights, distribution, promotion, and consumption. TikTok achieves this through its superpower: its audience. The creation comes from the audience, which then distributes and markets the content (through the user-centric algorithm framework, user shares, hobbies, and other means), and then, of course, the audience consumes. It is a self-sustaining virtuous cycle – An ecosystem. Currently, artists are being pumped into the system by label marketing teams, and independent artists can exit the system to traditional streaming with SoundOn. Yet over time, the creation, distribution and consumption of TikTok will become increasingly autonomous, making TikTok part of what MIDiA has identified as the music industry counterculture. TikTok Music could be a major step in this journey.