By now, we’ve all heard of TikTok and can most likely name some success stories of songs taking off on the platform. Tracks such as ‘Old Town Road’ by Lil Nas X went viral on TikTok. The song now has hundreds of millions of Spotify streams, and catapulted the artist to instant stardom. Lil Nas X claimed that “TikTok helped me change my life… [TikTok] brought my song to several different audiences at once.” So, how exactly do artists receive royalties from TikTok, and how does TikTok music work?
What Is TikTok?
TikTok was originally known as Musical.ly, and was created in China in 2014. In 2017, it merged and became TikTok. The platform is now a mix of music, lip sync videos, and micro-video content. Music is used within almost all the videos, and is used in a range of ways from comedy to emotional content. It currently has over 80 million active users per month in the US alone, and has taken the world by storm with its short-form, creative videos.
TikTok Music Library
All the music available on TikTok is legal to use in your videos. TikTok has deals in place with distributors and labels in order to license music for the app. Artists then receive royalties from having their music used on the platform. Distributors such as Distrokid, CD Baby and TuneCore allow artists to upload their music to TikTok along with streaming platforms such as Spotify. You can also upload your own sounds yourself (music, speaking etc) that others can use.
TikTok & Copyright
TikTok is somewhat of a mystery when it comes to its business practices, but they seem to have entered into deals with rights holders. This allows them to pay royalties in return for being able to use their music. Other platforms that use similar paths are apps, websites, YouTube, podcasts, radio stations and so on. In this scenario, there is usually a set fee or percentage in return for using artist’s music on the platform. This is how most of the music on TikTok is licensed.
TikTok Music: Royalties
The royalties that artists receive come from TikTok’s revenue. The distributor collects the royalties on your behalf and pays them to you. Each distributor has their own deal in place to determine how much artists are paid for their song use on the app.
The amount varies by distributor, and will fluctuate based on the song’s use within videos. TikTok’s videos can be either 15 seconds or 50 seconds long, and this will affect the royalties also. If artists choose to upload their music to TikTok on their own, they won’t receive royalties. This is because it has to be collected by distributors as per their deal with the platform.
TikTok & New Artists
TikTok also features up and coming artists on the platform. This provides the artist with exposure and publicity, and TikTok gets to use their tracks for free, or a lower fee. This is attractive for new artists struggling to reach a wide audience, who aren’t looking to make a living with their streams yet.