TikTok, the new Napster?

Written by Briffa | May 4, 2020

Intellectual Property

A reminder that the music industry is constantly evolving, and that you need to keep up!

Remember House Party, the app which was supposed to be the ultimate lockdown app? Neither do I – It’s all about TikTok now.

With its obnoxious user-made content filtering into other, more familiar social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook, it has become increasingly difficult to ignore the vertically filmed choreographed dances and entertainingly pointless “challenges” the app has become famous for.

The app was previously known as Musical.ly (itself based on Chinese app Douyin) which allowed users to record short, 15 second videos of themselves lip-syncing and dancing to popular music tracks.

TikTok now has 800 million users worldwide, and while its content ranges from eyebrow-raising to downright cringe-inducing, its content was originally entirely dependent on recorded music. Unlike other social media platforms, TikTok content is therefore reliant on the usage of recorded, commercially available music.

Combine TikTok’s large number of users with the usage of commercially available music, and the result is a great example of why the music industry – and anyone in it – need to constantly evolve and adapt to the way in which music is being consumed.

Of course, the internet and P2P downloads changed the recorded music industry forever – but this was not a one-off moment. Rather, it signalled the beginning of an era where technological developments would frequent, sometimes sudden changes in the manner in which music is consumed.

As a result, and in order to continue to be as profitable as possible, labels and artists must be aware of these changes, in order to be able to embrace and exploit them.

Independent artists: make sure your online distributor is set up to get your music on TikTok. Distrokid is one of those that does, but others don’t yet. Leveraging social media trends and ensuring you align your release strategies and fan engagement can make all the difference. One example is Lil Nas X, who successfully used TikTok to push his Old Town road track, and used his social media influence to its fullest, using memes to engage with his audience.

Independent labels: if your artists are being distributed on TikTok (or any other platform), make sure you are aware of these possibilities as an income stream. This advise is of course also valid for major labels – it will come as no surprise that Universal are allegedly considering legal action against TikTok for unauthorised use of its musical catalogue.

Although TikTok itself may not end up the next Napster (then again, who knows?) and revolutionise the industry, it is a reminder that to stay relevant, musicians, labels and other stakeholders need to adapt and evolve to ensure that they are maximising the available income streams and distribution channels for their music.

If you are considering releasing your or your artist’s music on TikTok or any other platform, or have questions about any part of the music industry and require legal advice, please feel free to contact our specialist music team at music@briffa.com.


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