by Carissa Dunlap
Hit social media platform and video-based mobile app, Musical.ly, is changing the game for the music industry’s marketing tactics. The app made its debut back in 2014 when creators Alex Zhu and Luyu Yang noticed a trend among teens. They often observed teens using other social media platforms, like Snapchat, to record videos of themselves dancing or lip-synching to popular songs. In the first year, the mobile app topped the App Stores Free Chart and gained more than 133 million users, or “Musers,” worldwide.
Users can select from a menu of their favorite songs and record a 15-second video of them lip-synching or dancing along to the music. There is a multitude of editing tools and filters that allow users to easily and quickly create content and share it with followers. Followers will reward videos with likes, comments, and views. In a 24-hour period, those with the most likes will rise to the top of the app’s leaderboard for the most popular musers at the moment.
The landscape of music discovery has immensely diversified as social media outlets like Vine, Instagram, and Youtube have launched the careers of many artists. Using the apps to gain a fanbase has become a new way of marketing music—and Musical.ly is primed to be the next gatekeeper in artist and music discovery. So far, it has pipelined the careers of viral stars Baby Ariel—who remains the most followed Muser—and Jacob Satorius, the same way YouTube launched Justin Bieber and Vine launched Shawn Mendes.
The app launched a #NewWave program to take advantage of the music discovery trend. Each month, the app takes fifteen songs by emerging artists and challenges Musers to create video content using their favorite of the songs. The song that generates the most videos each month gets promoted on the app’s homepage. One previous winner, Anne-Marie’s “Alarm,” went on to be a chart-topping hit in the UK and streamed worldwide on Spotify.
Musical.ly has become a powerful promotional vehicle for popular music artists as well. Katy Perry’s hit new song “Chained to the Rhythm” was first promoted on Musical.ly 3 days before the track’s initial release. Selena Gomez has used the app multiple times to promote new singles, such as hit song “Kill Em With Kindness” and new song “It Ain’t Me” with Kygo. Both campaigns allowed users to “duet” with Gomez by splicing the original clip into their own videos. The app also promoted Hailee Steinfeld’s “Starving,” where over 26.5 million videos were created. According to Steinfeld’s record label, there was an 11 percent increase in streaming and 23 percent increase in sales after the song was promoted on Musical.ly. With the app’s wide promotional success, there has been an increase in pitches from celebrities and corporations to create challenges and promotional videos—from Paris Hilton to Coca Cola and the MTV Video Music Awards.
The 15-second snippets created by users entice them to branch out of the app to streaming sites where they can listen to or purchase the full song. Musical.ly has multiple licensing deals with major labels and publishers, allowing more than one million songs to be available to Musers. These deals have also expanded the app’s ability to market new music, incorporating a new feature called Lively. Similar to Facebook or Instagram videos, Lively allows artists to share live video streams with their followers. This has provided a new way for musicians to connect with fans on an intimate level. The app has changed the relationship between artists and fans in an exciting and inventive new way, and has changed the promotional game of marketing music.