For higher or worse, TikTok is driving the music trade

Peter McPoland started 2020 as a practically unknown singer-songwriter who only held a small catalog and humble followers of his name. The little recognition he got came from a couple of little gigs he played with his high school band Peter McPoland & the Haps. However, in April 2020, McPoland began releasing his music on TikTok.

Enchanted by his rich folk singing and behavior like a boy next door, the audience was quickly drawn to McPoland. The more he posted, the more fans he gained and for the remaining six months of the year he was able to rally Millions of views and likes on the platform.

This growth was not self-contained. As his social media followers grew, so did his listeners. His track “Romeo & Juliet” made it to number three on Spotify’s US Viral 50 chart in early 2021, and since then he has amassed more than 770,000 monthly listeners on the music streaming platform.

With a fan base growing by the day and a headline tour coming up for the fall, McPoland’s career is showing no signs of slowing down. And while he was doing it recently signed with Columbia Records, his early successes were achieved independently of label support. Instead, TikTok was the driving force behind these achievements.

It’s no secret that the video sharing platform has turned the music industry on its head. TikTok reported that in 2020 major labels like Interscope, Republic Records, Columbia and many other affiliates signed the Big Three At least 70 artists who broke with the app. Artists like Tai Verdes, 24kGoldn, ella jane, Ritt Momney, Claire Rosinkranz and Frances Forever have all emerged as promising industry newcomers from viral songs on the platform.

Perhaps no artist embodies the musical life cycle of TikTok as well as Olivia Rodrigo, who rose from a B-list Disney star to the world’s number one record within a year with her debut single “Führerschein”. After the success after “driving license”, Rodrigo then released her debut album “SOUR”, on which almost every track generated its own viral trend.

Still, it’s true that the hunt for a viral hit on TikTok creates its own problems for creative output. Can an algorithm really lead us to better art or does it turn into a senseless and exclusively profit-oriented generation of music? Whatever the answer, it is clear that a change is imminent in the music business.

A Recent study showed that 75% of TikTok users in the US said they used the platform to discover new artists, and 67% said they were more likely to find a song on a streaming platform if they heard it in the app . With artists and repertoires already scouring the platform for talent, numbers like this are likely to turn up more than just a few heads among industry executives.

The TikTok dynamic has the potential to dramatically change the music business model itself. After all, the days are over when a label pulled an unknown artist out of the dark with no followers and invested a tremendous amount of time and money building their career from the ground up.

Rather, an artist signed today must first prove to the labels that he was able to attract attention himself, via social media or otherwise. What the artists gain by signing these complete packages is the financial support for the creation and distribution of their music; Labels help to bring artists together with producers and employees and to market publications. Not to mention the perceived prestige that comes with signing a deal that has long been considered a landmark in a successful music career.

Most listeners don’t fully understand, however, that once an artist is signed, the label will do the Lion’s share of their royalties (which are already tiny in the age of streaming). One recently Citigroup report showed that musicians only take home 12% of the money made in the music industry. Instead of streaming, we find instead that ticket and merchandise sales are the most lucrative sectors of the music industry for artists – not the album and single rollout processes that labels are most involved in.

This raises an interesting paradox. Artists go to great lengths to build a fan base big enough for the label to succeed, only to cut their profits in the area where the label is supposed to help the most: marketing and music production.

The common counter-argument to this view of record deals is that labels primarily help with exposure. While that’s true, TikTok offers an alternate narrative that suggests the exposure game has been completely changed. Algorithms drive artist discovery even more than the A & Rs. Even better, TikTok is free and offers independent artists the kind of coverage they could only dream of, and can even compete with the Big Three labels’ marketing engines.

This phenomenon is compounded by the fact that music technology is cheaper than ever and enables artists to become their own producers, videographers, and graphic designers. In today’s music industry, self-sufficiency is a long way to go.

This means that staying indie is becoming increasingly important attractive option (Look no further than Chance the Rapper). To address this change, record companies have no choice but to rethink their business operations.

Instead of using the traditional model, labels should try to transform their businesses into more agile, dynamic, and artist-friendly companies. An example of this setup already exists at A World Artists Love, a British distribution company.

The characteristic feature of AWAL is that artists can keep their copyrights in any case. AWAL works on a tiered system, which means that the platform is for smaller acts rather than distribution Service that takes 15% of the license fee. As artists get bigger, they may get scouted by the platform’s A&R team and rise in the ranks until they reach ‘AWAL +’, a service that works much like a full label (complete with playlisting services, marketing, sync pitching and cash advances). Even at this highest level, AWAL artists still own their masters and retain a greater degree of flexibility in their artistic decisions.

It seems like AWAL allows its artists this level of control. Most recently, the company that was previously owned by Cobalt was acquired by Sony for. bought $ 430 million. She also looks after well-known artists such as FINNEAS, Tom Misch and girl in red.

It is undeniable that TikTok ushered in an era of artist self-sufficiency and organic growth without labels. As a result, artist-friendly business models such as AWAL are establishing themselves as the new gold standard. To keep up, the big music labels need to learn to change their practices and ride the wave. Otherwise they could simply be swallowed by the current.

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