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Why is TikTok launching its music distribution platform?

In the music industry, TikTok is one of the most important social media platforms: many artists have seen their careers take off thanks to this social, and there are countless tracks that have been discovered through this platform. The numbers speak for themselves: in 2021, for example, 175 songs reached the top of the Billboard USA chart thanks to TikTok.

For example, the song "Hrs and Hrs" by Muni Long: now included in the Billboard Hot 100, the track owes its success to TikTok that made it viral! The track of the rapper has reached nearly 1.7 million creations on the social, and made her win a Grammy for best R&B performance.

To promote her music, Muni Long uses SoundOn, the distribution and promotion platform of TikTok. But why did the social media decide to launch this platform?

What is SoundOn?

SoundOn allows artists to distribute their music on TikTok and its partners like Resso (a music streaming application owned by TikTok's head company, ByteDance), on social platforms like Facebook and Instagram, but also on streaming platforms, including Spotify, Deezer, Apple Music, and many others. This is good news for artists, because in addition to offering a wide range of DSPs, there are no distribution fees on the platform! TikTok promises to pay artists 100% of their royalties in the first year, and then 90% in subsequent years. 

But what is the real added value of SoundOn? The platform says that when a track is released through the platform, it will be pushed to TikTok creators in order to invite them to create content with it. Since TikTok content creators are one of the main reasons why some tracks become hits, this initiative allows artists to reach more people and to have more chances to see their track being included in trends. An aspect that would seem to benefit emerging artists, who would have the opportunity here to expand their audience and fanbase more easily. 

In order to monitor the KPIs of these operations and analyze their effectiveness, SoundOn also offers several marketing tools such as access to audience insights and direct access to the TikTok songs tab, which is linked to the artist's profile on the social.

Why launch SoundOn?

TikTok's investment in the music industry was inevitable: for the past several years, we've seen tracks becoming top hits, boosting artists' career and even helping them win awards. 

But in reality, this step towards the music industry is an idea that is not new. In fact, if we analyze the relationship between TikTok and the music industry, we realize that this monetization strategy started a few years ago with several operations.

TikTok's head company, ByteDance, had already created Resso, its own music streaming service, in early 2020 to compete with the already existing streaming platforms. Then, the same year, TikTok signed a collaboration with UnitedMasters: the first music distribution platform for independent artists became the first distribution platform to be integrated into TikTok.

Launching its own distribution platform after gradually entering the music industry was obvious.

In the end, the initiative to create SoundOn is simply a move for the social platform to become independent, but it also represents a threat to music streaming services such as Spotify, Tidal or Apple Music because of the gap in royalty payments to artists. That's precisely the whole point of creating the platform: since TikTok is one of the biggest promotional drivers in the music industry today, creating SoundOn allows the social media to give artists access to tools that benefit them, and thus a complete platform specifically designed for TikTok use.

Despite a saturated market of distribution platforms, this remains an interesting strategy depending on how TikTok will choose to develop the platform. In any case, we can see here that TikTok aims to show itself as a real actor in the music industry today, and not just as a content creation platform. 

SoundOn is currently in beta testing and is only available in the US, UK, Brazil and Indonesia. The platform will continue to be developed to see itself available in other countries over time.

So, will SoundOn succeed in creating its place in the distribution platforms market? To be continued...

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Social Media

Why is AI bad news for major labels?

They are everywhere on social media: lately, we have noticed the emergence of many covers of famous songs by world famous artists. Their particularity? None of these artists have really covered these songs: they are all the result of an artificial intelligence able to recreate the artists' voices and transpose them to create these famous covers. Between creativity, progress, but also questions of intellectual property, would AI be the future of music or a real problem for artists? AI generated music: how does it work? Today, several platforms such as AIVA, Soundful or Boomy allow the generation of music thanks to artificial intelligence. These applications give the possibility to create brand new music, and to put them online on different streaming platforms, like Spotify. All these AI music generators use algorithms to generate music. These algorithms are based on existing music, which can then recreate a new track similar to it. Users can create music, remix or rework a track, for example. When generating music, users can then make their own adjustments until they get what they want. The tracks thus created can then be used to feed the database of the platforms' algorithm. The limit of creation is however in the very principle of the functioning of these platforms: they rely on already existing music. In order to create a cover version of a song as mentioned above, the song should be famous enough, but also the artist whose voice you want to use should be famous too, in order to get a result close to reality. And this, many have understood it: the number of covers generated by AI and published on social media in recent weeks has exploded! "Die for You" (The Weeknd) covered with Michael Jackson's voice, "Video Games" (Lana Del Rey) sung by Lady Gaga's voice, or "Just The Two Of Us" (Grover Washington, Jr.) interpreted by Kanye West's voice... The possibilities and combinations of genres, artists, and eras are infinite but still sound so realistic when you listen to them. Great news for artists If there is anything that these AI music generators can support, it is creativity. This is a real boon for artists, as they can now use artificial intelligence to create unique tracks and bring original projects to life effortlessly.  One example is the French-American duo AllttA and their track featuring Jay-Z... but in an artificial way. The duo produced the track "Savages", generated with the voice of the famous American rapper thanks to an AI. Result of a unique experimentation, but extremely realistic to say the least. A real communication blow for the duo with its 200 000 views in 6 days, the track is available on YouTube but is not officially released on their album, for obvious reasons of intellectual property. The use of artificial intelligence in music could thus be very interesting for the future of the music industry and is already transforming the way artists create and produce their music.  "Artificial intelligence may allow for a new business model in music, but without a legal framework this is not possible" explains 20syl, producer of the duo AllttA. So what about the possible drifts of these creations and the potential use of another artist's voice without his consent? Intellectual property and copyrights issues Major labels are however finding real problems with these solutions using the voices of their most famous artists.  To protect the rights of their artists, Universal has come forward to remove from the platforms an original track called "Heart On My Sleeve" produced with artificial intelligence and featuring the voices of Drake and The Weeknd. Prior to its takedown, the track had notably reached nearly 15 million views on TikTok, over 600,000 streams on Spotify, and over 250,000 views on YouTube.  The issue here is the ability for anyone to upload an AI-generated track on the platforms, and with any artist's voice without their consent. "Heart On My Sleeve" is obviously not the only track that artificially reproduces the voices of well-known artists and that is available on the platforms: many others exist, and major labels must be vigilant about their presence.  "These cases demonstrate why platforms have a fundamental legal and ethical responsibility to prevent the use of their services in ways that harm artists. We are encouraged by our partners' engagement on these issues, as they recognize that they must be part of the solution" says Universal's spokesperson.  A parallel can be drawn with the Deep Face technology, developed by Facebook a few years ago. This system, powered by artificial intelligence, offers facial recognition on images posted on the Internet. The software had raised real concerns in terms of privacy on social media, and Facebook had to delete the face scan data of more than one billion users.  Therefore, artificial intelligence is full of potential for the future but its use is not without risks. In any case, it is certain that its introduction in the music industry will radically change the codes, and its evolution is yet to be followed.  So, what do we think?

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Will we be able to make money with our music on Fortnite?

Nowadays, the digital and the virtual are more and more an integral part of our lives. Experiences in the metaverse are gradually diversifying, and we have seen in the last few years music being integrated into it. Last March, Epic Games, the American giant of the development and distribution of video games, including the famous Fortnite, announced that creators of Fortnite islands would be paid according to the engagement on their content created on the game. What if it was possible for artists to take advantage of it from now on? Will video games become a new source of income for artists? The introduction of remuneration for Fortnite island creators On Fortnite, players can create maps accessible to others, called "islands". There are thousands of island creators on the game, including classic players, influencers, or even brands. Until now, the creation of these maps was not paid and was simply done by passionates. Today, this passion will finally be rewarded: Epic Games has announced its willingness to pay creators 40% of Fortnite revenue generated by engagement on their map, including purchases made on the Fortnite Item Store. To be eligible for this payout, players simply need to be 18 years or older, and have a Fortnite account for more than 90 days. The rise of virtual music experiences But Fortnite is not the only platform to offer its players this possibility: we could see for example on its competitor Roblox immersive virtual experiences created by artists for their fans. Roblox allows its players to create their own mini-games, not an island like Fortnite, but mini-games integrated into the video game. For a long time, there have been many player-creators on the platform. And for the past few years, just like on Fortnite, players from the music industry have been taking advantage of these features. We could thus find on Roblox several artists having set up immersive virtual experiences for their fans. Here are some examples of experiences offered by players in the music industry on these platforms. Travis Scott: In April 2020, during the lockdown, Travis Scott performed on Fortnite a historic concert marking the alliance between music and video games. Gathering no less than 12 million players for the occasion, the rapper offered his fans eight minutes of interpretation of his songs and unreleased ones. It was the first concert given in the metaverse. Zara Larsson: In May 2021, Zara Larsson held a virtual concert on Roblox to promote her album Poster Girl. In addition to the show, the players attending had the opportunity to buy items related to the artist on the game and to participate in several activities such as interactive quizzes. O2 Globe, Universal Music UK, Island Records UK:  In June 2021, Epic Games partnered with O2 Globe, Universal Music UK and Island Records UK to recreate on Fortnite the famous London stadium: the O2 Arena. The objective was to offer an interactive virtual experience with a show by the alt pop group Easy Life. Six different spaces could be visited by the players and were inspired by some songs of the band. Twenty One Pilots:  In September 2021, the band performed the Twenty One Pilots Concert Experience, an immersive virtual concert on Roblox, during which fans participating in the experience could purchase exclusive merch. David Guetta:  In partnership with Warner Music Group Wonder Works Studio, David Guetta was able to perform a 45-minute DJ set on Roblox in February 2022, which included DJ battles, dance battles, and a Q&A session with his fans, all in an intergalactic universe filled with neon lights and holograms. iHeartMedia:  In September 2022, iHeartMedia created its iHeartLand island on Fortnite to offer a virtual concert of the artist Charlie Puth. This first concert in the metaverse for the media was also followed by an interactive game between the artist and his fans to test their knowledge on his music. The Kid LAROI:  Last January, The Kid LAROI created his Wild Dreams island on Fortnite, on which players could live an immersive musical experience retracing his journey. Visitors of the island could discover new songs. Merchandise outfits were also available in the game's item store. Finally, a virtual performance of the artist was given, with both his most famous songs and his new unreleased songs. Music and video games: a competitive market?  In short, there are plenty of interactive music experiences on video games. And thanks to Epic Games' update, all the owners of Fortnite islands will now be paid, even if this was not their primary goal: good news for everyone. Maybe this concept will make artists think about creating their own immersive virtual experience, inviting their fans to it, and then generating revenues?  In any case, Epic Games and music are extremely linked here, but this is not the first time. In fact, the American giant had bought in 2022 Bandcamp, an online music store highlighting independent artists.  So what will be the brand's next moves into music? Will Epic Games become more than just a video game developer? To be continued...

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The rap industry holds its first dedicated ceremony in Europe

On May 11, the first French award ceremony entirely dedicated to rap and popular culture was held. The event, called Les Flammes, took place in Paris and was organized by two French media: Booska-P and Yard.  Will this first time have an impact on the rap market and its dedicated events? The presence of rap music in award ceremonies As the world's largest music market, the United States offers a wide range of award ceremonies for artists, such as the American Music Awards, the Grammy Awards, and the Billboard Music Awards, to name a few. Also known as the biggest rap and hip-hop market in the world, it is obvious for the country to highlight urban artists through award ceremonies. However, there are very few ceremonies entirely dedicated to rap and urban music. The BET Hip Hop Awards and the Urban Music Awards are among the few, but they are a minority compared to the considerable number of American awards ceremonies, which are mostly generalist.  France has been the second biggest market for rap and hip-hop after the United States for decades, and has made this music genre the most popular in the country. In fact, for the last five years, rap and urban music are on average listened to 70% more than other musical genres. However, rap has always been absent or very poorly represented at the major French award ceremonies (NRJ Music Awards, Les Victoires de la Musique...).  In Europe, the same phenomenon can be noticed. There are many popular ceremonies that highlight general music, but rap and urban music unfortunately do not have specialized ceremonies. The tracks of these music genres are sometimes only highlighted through a single award category, or are left out. However, Europe has big rap markets: we can mention for example the United Kingdom or Germany, but these two countries do not transmit their proportion through events dedicated to rap. The challenges of Les Flammes For the first edition of a niche event, Les Flammes have amply fulfilled their mission to reach both a public of passionates but also professionals of the music industry. The great majority of the French media, traditional and specialized, relayed the event. At the same time, several international media reported on the highlights of the ceremony, thus testifying to its success in terms of press coverage.  The major problem for rap music at general music awards ceremonies was under-representation. This problem was solved with Les Flammes: rap in all its forms was honored, with a large panorama of artists from all the musical sub-genres. Between Caribbean music, R&B, or urban pop, the music of popular culture in its entirety was able to gain representation and inclusiveness. One of the strengths of urban artists today is their fanbase, very often involved and ready to do anything to support their favorite artist. And this, Les Flammes understood it well. For this reason, the votes were composed of 50% by the public choice, and 50% by a jury of professionals in most of the award categories. As a result, artists with a large fanbase were able to win some nominations against other artists with more media coverage!  But Les Flammes did not escape the critics: an event that wanted to represent the popular culture without representing some communities, artists who would have deserved to be in the selections but who were not, an organization that could have been more focused on music and less on lifestyle... These controversies are obviously not specific to the event, since most of the ceremonies of the same type have already raised the debates. Every year, the same problems can be found at the American award ceremonies, like the BET Hip Hop Awards for example, where some artists have expressed their disagreement with the winners of some categories. The interest of the ceremonies dedicated to rap If we look at the different rankings, both global and local (for the big rap markets: USA, France...), we can see that rap artists almost monopolize the trends. For example, in France, the Spotify Top 50 can be composed of up to 80% of rappers depending on the period.  But this domination of the rankings is not only caused by the infatuation of a public of rap-lovers... We could notice these last years the emergence of a particular tendency to want to make the biggest figures from the first weeks of a release. If the marketing budgets of the artists are still unclear, we can nevertheless suspect that the promotional expenses of the latter could be higher in rap than in other music genres, less represented in France in particular. A big promotional budget for Spotify would explain in part the omnipresence of rap and urban music in the rankings. Spotify, a great playground for urban artists, has also supported Les Flammes ceremony, creating an official playlist with the tracks of the nominees. But then, why create an event dedicated to rap? To celebrate one of the most listened genres in the world firstly. To fulfill a commercial interest as well: as an example, Les Flammes significantly boosted the number of streams of the artists present and nominated during the event. +242,5% on the streams of the track "Ce que tu m'as fait" by Monsieur Nov, or +117,73% on the streams of "Laptop" by Kalash and Maureen, these spectacular increases prove the impact that ceremonies of the same model can have. We see here a real opportunity of promotion for the artists. Finally, to have a media impact since, as said before, the media relays were numerous. In conclusion, for this first edition, Les Flammes seems to have succeeded in making a mark, both locally and internationally. This new kind of specialized event for one single music genre could surely give ideas to other big rap markets to create their own version. In the same concept, will there be new award ceremonies dedicated to other music genres that are underrepresented at generalist ceremonies? Have Les Flammes inspired the big generalist music industry events to include a little more rap for their next events? In any case, it's a big step for rap in France and Europe, but also and above all a great victory for the event's organizers: Booska-P and Yard. Les Flammes has enabled them to move up the media ladder thanks to the scope of the event. bringing together rap artists, professionals and listeners. An annual event definitely not to be missed for the next years? To be continued...