At the Brit Awards 2020, TikTok is making its presence felt in a big way through a live-steam takeover that will be amplified directly to London’s Piccadilly Circus digital screens.
It’s a major play from the app in the UK to woo British musical talent to its plaform after main rival YouTube declared its intention to make itself the number one choice for musicians trying to find new audiences.
“We see this Brits partnership as one of the major milestones in a big education push we will be doing with the music industry this year,” explained Paul Hourican, head of music operations at TikTok. “It’s part of a wider UK programme that aims at collaborating with and educating labels, managers and artists to make the most of the platform.”
TikTok the 'fame machine'
Beyond its dense library of bite-size memes, TikTok is seriously impacting popular music. A staging ground for hits, last year Lil Nas X ‘Old Town Road’ (and its many remixes) became the longest-reigning Billboard Hot 100 Number 1 in the chart’s history after initially going viral on TikTok. A hashtag for #Yeehaw has now manifested thousands of videos, with more than 67 million plays on the platform.
Examples like this highlight the simple fact that if you’re a musician in 2020, you may be better navigating the world of social media to make your music known than relying on being discovered by scouts at gigs or busking on street corners.
Artists have been using the likes of YouTube to do this for some time but TikTok - referred to as the ‘short-form version of YouTube' - has made great strides in a relatively short space of time to catch up with its predecessor, surpassing a billion downloads and 500 million active users globally according to GlobalWebIndex.
TikTok's secret is an effective vaunted algorithm, which is constantly searching for new clips rather than just pushing out the latest videos from already popular users.
"Every week, TikTok users create millions of videos with the tracks available on the platform," explained Hourican on why it's become such a big rival to YouTube for new talent. "The content evolves organically, often leading to viral trends with both the songs and artists taking centre stage and consequently driving user engagement outside the platform."
Keen to prove that TikTok is the best option for musicians, the app has a programme in place to help it collaborate with and educate labels, managers, and artists. Last October, in a concerted effort to target musicians, it forged a partnership with Youth Music to launch its first Awards to give exposure to emerging talent.
But the Brit Awards is arguably its biggest investment into partnering with a music event and it’s going all-in with the marketing in order to highlight to fans the role it plays in today’s music scene.
Ahead of the show, it will be live-streaming the arrival of nominees, artists, musicians and celebrities from the red carpet as they arrive with people being urged to sign up and watch on via its official Brits channel. It’s also using stars like Lewis Capaldi - an artist who launched an appeal to be crowned the King of TikTok - will perform on the red carpet, which will be streamed on the app for the TikTok community to see.
Beyond this, the content will be amplified directly to London’s iconic Piccadilly Circus digital screens as the night sets in. TikTok users will also be able to create content using The Brits 2020 playlist, including tracks of nominees, or nostalgia playlist that features tracks. The activity has been planned and executed by Hearts & Science UK and Talon Outdoor.
The takeover hints at how the way people digest music, and award shows, is changing rapidly. Each year, the Brits are battling a general trend of falling TV viewers. Last year's show brought in 4.1 million viewers (22% share) which was down from the year prior. The year before, viewers fell by 900,000 viewers than its 2018 show.
To combat falling TV viewers, the Brit Awards has been evolving its digital offering, as it hopes to reach new audiences and music fans.
It hopes this will continue to chip away at the dominance YouTube has in the UK as the prime consideration for emerging talent.
Last month, YouTube’s UK boss spoke to The Drum about its role as the launchpad for the careers of successful British musicians, and it aims to ramp up the number of British creators on the site.
While not dismissing that TikTok was a concern, Ben McOwen Wilson claimed: “What we've learned, and what has always been true for YouTube, is provided you remain true to the core proposition which is that if somebody who has got an incredibly creative idea, we can find you the audience – and for all the other noise that's around us, that is our point of difference. That's it."
YouTube is now ranked as the second-largest commercial channel, third overall behind the BBC and ITV.
Whether TikTok has plans in place to make TikTok a fully-pledged commercial channel, Hourican said: “At the moment we are focused on offering our users the best possible in-app experience. As we move along, we will explore a variety of opportunities but our focus will continue to be creating a platform that inspires creativity.”
When Lil Nas X's 'Old Town Road' blew up on TikTok, he didn't get paid directly for the song, as it prompted 65 million streams of his song on Spotify.
While users in the creators program are not currently paid to participate, there have been reports that TikTok has allegedly used monetary incentives to entice content creation.
According to Rolling Stone, a third-party agency that Bytedance had on retainer went to 22-year-olds across the US and paid to have them do one post a day, with some creators getting paid $400 a month to do 30 pieces of content.
Whether TikTok would extend this to music and begin helping musicians monetise, Hourican simply said: "TikTok's music team partners with many great labels around the world to form long-term relationships, and we will continue to explore ways of discovering and promoting artists, maximizing their presence on the platform."
Hourican sees TikTok's place very much as a "springboard for established or upcoming British artists" that "brings back old tracks with a new twist."