Music is central to TikTok, and the company is now close to further legitimizing such connection with a raft of new music licensing deals which are, reportedly, close to being announced.
As reported by TechCrunch, TikTok has this week signed an agreement with Merlin, an agency which represents a range of independent music labels and artists, while TechCrunch also says that TikTok has agreed to similar licensing deals with Sony Music, Warner Music and Universal Music, though nothing has been officially announced on the latter three as yet.
The agreements are another important step for TikTok, which, as noted, has music embedded into its core functionality, and like Vine before it, has already become a key platform for emerging artists and viral music trends.
Indeed, the most notable TikTok success story on this front thus far is Lil Nas X, whose country/rap song “Old Town Road” became a breakthrough hit via the app.
With users creating their own remixes of the track, Lil Nas X was quickly catapulted from virtual unknown to superstar status, and that immediately piqued the interest of music execs looking for new ways to boost promotion, and subsequent revenue flow.
But that's also where TikTok needs to develop. A significant issue within the music sector is that music is now so freely available online that overall sales numbers are suffering. That's likely why we've seen an increase in music licensing deals with other social platforms, as publishers look to alternate ways to legitimize, and monetize, such access.
Through deals like this, publishers can accrue incremental royalties from usage on digital platforms, similar to radio airplay - but aside from this, as of right now, TikTok doesn't offer any significant means for the creators themselves to earn income via the platform, which, eventually, could become a major concern.
This is the same issue that plagued Vine - try as it might, Twitter wasn't able to monetize Vine in any significant way, which meant that the platform's top creators eventually migrated to other platforms (mostly YouTube) where they could earn big dollars from their established followings.
TikTok may soon find the same problem, which is why it needs to move quickly on deals like this, and expanded options like its reported Resso music app, which may help it solidify clear, equitable revenue streams for its top creators.
If TikTok can't provide such options, it will indeed lose the creators it's currently helping to build up. As much as Twitter gets blamed for the demise of Vine, monetization, and the challenges of such in such short-form content, was the eventual nail in the coffin for the app.
TikTok has the audience, it has the attention of brands. Now it needs to work out how it can share its revenue streams with top creators, while also generating optimal results for brand partners.
None of these elements is easy, making it hard to designate TikTok as the next big challenger in the social space just yet.