TikTok Deep Dive

“How TikTok Chooses Which Songs Go Viral – The app’s hits seem to emerge organically, but the success of artists like Megan Thee Stallion reveals a highly managed curation process”: https://bloom.bg/3e6C9Mo

This is the most important music business article you will read all year, well at least the year that’s already transpired. And what stuns me is NO ONE e-mailed it to me, NO ONE!

Remember twenty years ago, in the days of file-trading, when music was disrupted and the news was everywhere? When something happened and it was blasted into every nook and cranny instantly? Those days are through. “Billboard” is a complete joke. Mediocre writers pointed towards the consumer as opposed to the professional. As for “Rolling Stone,” behind a paywall sans its classic writers, its trajectory seems to be one towards death, then again, this was ensured when the magazine aged with its users as opposed to focusing on the demo, like MTV.

And the demo is young.

You might not be listening to the young music, but all the innovation takes place amongst the youth first. The youth were file-trading, the youth put videos on YouTube and audio on Soundcloud, the youth embraced smartphones and their possibilities and it’s the oldsters who followed in their wake. And if you want to know what’s going on right now…read this article.

There’s an attendant podcast: https://www.bloomberg.com/foundering which you should listen to if you listen to podcasts, it’s much  more informative than the true crime b.s. spreading throughout the podcast universe, and maybe it’s because its host, Shelly Banjo, has been following the TikTok story for THREE YEARS!

That’s the problem with most news, it’s written by reporters, getting the story as opposed to living the story. Then again, if you want to know what is really happening oftentimes you have to turn to business publications, which “Billboard” used to be and Bloomberg is now. Bloomberg did go mass, but it pulled back and decided to focus on business news only, and if you get one magazine, subscribe to “Bloomberg Businessweek.” The latest issue also contains an article on Kevin Liles, but you can skip that, you don’t learn much, but Shelly Banjo tells us EVERYTHING!

So on the podcast you have a teen TikTok creator talking about activity. Beyonce posted her baby reveal on Instagram and got a million likes in twenty four hours. Sounds pretty good, right? WRONG! This girl said she and the other TikTok stars get three million likes AN HOUR!

It’s always the same, the news is controlled by oldsters who continue to miss the plot. Like with video games, whose numbers far outstrip both music and movies, but they still don’t get respect.

So why should you read the above article… TO LEARN THAT IT’S ALL MANIPULATED! TikTok is not only a platform, it’s essentially a manager, in deep contact with its stars, it’ll even give them money. But even better, TikTok tells them how to stay atop the charts, it tells creators which songs are priorities, to make videos for them so these creators can continue to dominate and grow bigger. As for the priorities…those are heavily-influenced by the major labels. The perception that TikTok is a passive platform is patently wrong. You get lucky, you get a million views…unless you get in touch with the TikTok ecosystem (actually, unless they get in touch with you) you’re one and done. It’s a professional business, and if you’re not a professional, forget it.

So if you listen to the podcast you’ll hear about the founder, Zhang Yiming, who’s the opposite of a Silicon Valley star, who basks in the attention. Turns out you can’t even find Zhang, he’s elusive. And Banjo opines that if Zhang were American, he’d be as big as Zuckerberg, but since he’s Chinese…

You’ll be stunned when you hear about the Chinese operation. First and foremost, they live in a 9-9-6 world. That means you work nine a.m. to nine p.m., six days a week. And it’s not like America, where the dumb get traction, where we had an inane do-nothing president who still thinks he won an election he lost, no, in China they’re looking forward. It’s America a few decades back. But too many think we can win via trade wars, no, we can win by paying attention!

As for the aforementioned Zuckerberg, TikTok is the platform that is eating his lunch. Facebook kicked the tires, they weren’t interested, they believed they could duplicate Musical.ly if it gained traction.

But that was before Musical.ly sold to Bytedance. Bytedance paid a fortune, many people believed the company overpaid, but sometimes you have to do that to gain market share, to get ahead. Oh, Bytedance tried to compete with Musical.ly, BUT IT COULDN’T! Turned out the Musical.ly algorithm was just too strong, just too good, not that it’s not being tweaked constantly, for he not busy being born is dying, like all those acts complaining about streaming payouts as opposed to wholeheartedly embracing the new business model.

As for that new business model… This is a time when many will get out, TikTok is a game-changer.

Used to be acts were broken on radio. Then they were broken on Spotify and radio came next. Now they’re broken on TikTok and then they spread to streaming and radio. And how did TikTok achieve this? VIA CONSUMER PARTICIPATION! Exactly what the oldsters fought for decades, in many cases are still fighting. But that skateboarding cranberry juice swigging Idahoan brought Fleetwood Mac to the youngsters, adding longevity to the act, never mind enlarging its grosses.

And all this has been happening under the radar. There’s a whole ecosystem, building new stars.

And while you’re at it, read Jon Caramanica’s story in today’s “New York Times” which talks about acts making multiple versions of the same song, without even bothering to make an album. Yes, it’s about the song.

“Who Needs an Album? Just Keep Remaking the Song! Recent hits by SpotemGottem and Lil Nas X show the power of extending the life of a single track, album be damned.”: https://nyti.ms/3gTwR8D

And if you want to go even deeper, read Connie Bruck’s article about Ari Emanuel in the latest “New Yorker”: 

“Ari Emanuel Takes On The World – Hollywood’s most tenacious agent tries to remake himself as a mogul”: https://bit.ly/3vCuziD

Bruck wrote the definitive statement about Michael Milken and Drexel Burnham Lambert, “The Predators’ Ball,” and this Ari Emanuel article is incredibly well-researched, but much less insightful than the TikTok one in Bloomberg. Sometimes you’re so focused on where you’ve been that you can’t see where you’re going, which is why the “New Yorker” article ultimately falls flat.

But the “Bloomberg Businessweek” article, it’s positively now. And unlike Ari, it’s not about business shenanigans so much as creation, the arts. Sure, art intersects with business, but most people don’t want to talk to Ari Emanuel, they’d rather watch TikTok. And never forget, disruption happens from the bottom up, so WME can be disrupted too.

But reading this article you have to ask…have you been disrupted? It’s not simple anymore, you just can’t make a record and hire a PR person to spam it to radio and other outlets. First and foremost, no one is paying attention, you can’t reach anybody! Today you’ve got to be a creator but you’ve also got to understand the systems, how they work, where they’re going.

It turns out today the people make the hits. And where they make them is on TikTok. But TikTok ultimately decides what is a hit.

So what if you’re making oldster music?

Think about how you can connect with the audience, how you can reach people.

Then again, not one single person has told me about this “Bloomberg Businessweek” article and it’s genius, so insightful, better than anything about music in newspapers or online. You’re now hipped, you’re a member of the club, but let me forewarn you, it will be both insightful and depressing, inspirational and overwhelming, but you can’t turn back the clock, this is where we are. China is building infrastructure at a pace we can’t even contemplate. TikTok ate Zuckerberg’s lunch. The ball keeps moving, the government missed WhatsApp and they missed TikTok, elected officials think they can quash something already embedded in the culture…not that TikTok deserves to go, rather we’ve got to act like the Chinese, we’ve got to take the best and IMITATE IT! There’s so much we need to imitate from around the world, let’s start with universal health care. It’s these foundational elements that are letting the rest of the world improve and accelerate and that are holding the U.S. back. Free child care gives a boost to the economy, because suddenly all mothers and fathers can work. If you think it’s about saving money on the front end, please don’t have any power, please get out of the way, because one great idea, implemented by a believer(s) can change the world.

Like TikTok!

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