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- TikTok has transformed the music industry in recent months as tracks that go viral on the app have taken over the Billboard 100 and Spotify Viral 50 charts.
- TikTok’s music-friendly interface and its users’ penchant for dance challenges have made it an indispensable promotional tool for the music industry.
- Business Insider compiled a power list of the 24 music marketers, artists, digital creators, record labels, and other industry insiders who are using TikTok to help define popular music in 2020.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
On January 13, the marketing team at Sony Music Entertainment noticed that one of its artist’s songs was surging on TikTok.
Like most record labels, the company had been monitoring activity on TikTok for months as the short-form video app had emerged as a major driver of song streams on platforms like Spotify, Apple Music, and YouTube.
Sony had seen Doja Cat, who signed with its RCA Records imprint in 2014, blow up on the app in December after 17-year-old TikTok star Haley Sharpe created a popular dance to her song “Say So” (a dance that Doja Cat ultimately ended up using in her music video).
But this time, it was one of the label’s older catalog songs, a Matthew Wilder track from 1983 called “Break My Stride,” that had caught the fancy of TikTok’s largely Gen-Z user base.
“Our entire music catalog is effectively tracked on a daily basis,” said Andy McGrath, the senior vice president of marketing at Legacy Recordings, the division within Sony that manages Wilder’s song catalog. “We’re constantly monitoring actions, reactions, and trends that happen on TikTok. We watch what’s happening and how many people are creating their own challenges and sharing existing challenges, et cetera, and then we start to say, ‘Okay something’s happening here.'”
For large music conglomerates like Sony and independent labels alike, TikTok has become an essential marketing tool.
Songs can rise on TikTok by accident, as was the case with Wilder’s “Break My Stride.” In other instances, marketers or artists try to make songs take off by tapping into existing TikTok fads, creating original songs, or adapting tracks for TikTok’s short-video format and hiring influencers to promote them.
“Every music label, every record label, they have a budget now for TikTok because it’s becoming so huge,” Ariell Nicholas Yahid, a talent manager at the TikTok-focused talent-management upstart the Fuel Injector, told Business Insider.
In addition to helping artists and labels launch new tracks, song promotion has become an important source of revenue for TikTok’s top creators who are looking for ways to make money on an app that still has limited monetization features.
And for up-and-coming artists, TikTok can offer an effective way to build an audience quickly. You can see that clearly in the seemingly instantaneous music careers of TikTok stars like Dixie D’Amelio, Jaden Hossler, and Josh Richards, to understand the app’s ability to create overnight stars.
Artists like Abigail Barlow and the group Avenue Beat have also used TikTok to test out new tracks before releasing them on streaming platforms. Avenue Beat’s recent smash hit, “F2020,” blew up on TikTok first before the group committed to recording a full version of the song in July. It’s since landed on Apple iTunes’ top 50 chart for pop songs.
“We hadn’t finished writing the song, we’d literally just written a verse and chorus,” Avenue Beat’s Savana Santos said. “We just threw it up on TikTok, not thinking that anything was going to happen because we’d never had a video really take off before. We went to bed and we woke up and the next day it had 4.5 million views.”
TikTok isn’t the first social-media platform to leave its mark on the music industry.
YouTube has long been a key promotional tool for record labels and artists alike (Justin Bieber was a YouTuber before he became a pop star). And artists have recently used other social platforms like Instagram and Twitch to perform shows remotely for fans as live performances have come to a halt during the coronavirus pandemic.
But music is at the core of the TikTok experience.
The short-form video platform’s song-friendly interface (adding a “sound” is part of each user’s video upload process) harkens back to the app’s roots as the dancing and lip-syncing app Musical.ly, which TikTok’s parent company ByteDance acquired and merged with TikTok in 2018.
Some of TikTok’s biggest stars are dancers who can spark the creation of millions of user-generated videos and streams of a new song by posting a single dance video. And TikTok’s content recommendation page (the “For You” page) serves up an algorithmically determined assortment of posts that can make any song go viral, whether a track is being used in a paid promotion by a top influencer or in an original dance routine conceived by a non-famous teenager.
One need look no further than the Billboard 100 or Spotify Viral 50 to see the app’s imprint on popular music in recent months.
To understand the power players driving music on TikTok forward, Business Insider compiled a list of the music marketers, artists, digital creators, record labels, and other industry insiders who are using TikTok to define popular music in 2020.
The list was determined by Business Insider based on our reporting and the nominations that we received. We took into consideration how a company or individual has used TikTok to grow an artist’s, song’s, or label’s prominence in the industry.
Here are the 24 music industry players that are using TikTok to reshape popular music in 2020 (listed in alphabetical order):
Business financial make money capital trading 300 Entertainment
Rayna Bass (SVP of marketing)
300 Entertainment is a US independent music label headquartered in New York.
The company works with a variety of artists who have taken off on TikTok in recent months, including Young Thug, whose song “Relationship (feat. Future)” appeared in over 35 million user-generated videos on the app. The label also represents Megan Thee Stallion, whose song “Savage” sparked one of the app’s most viral dance challenges.
After being promoted to SVP of marketing at 300 in January 2019, Rayna Bass has helped the label’s artists grow and adapt to a changing consumer environment driven in part by song and dance trends on TikTok.
Before joining 300 Entertainment, Bass held roles at Island Def Jam Music Group and Clear Channel Radio. Bass was one of Billboard’s picks for its Women In Music Top Executives list for 2019.
Business financial make money capital trading 740 Project
Charley Greenberg (managing partner)
740 Project is a music marketing firm and record label that was cofounded by Charley Greenberg, Rahim Wright, and Jesse Edwards in 2015.
Greenberg serves as a managing partner at 740 and also works on the company’s independent label Blac Noize!
The label’s first signing, the group Tokyo’s Revenge, blew up on TikTok this year as two of its songs, “GOODMORNINGTOKYO!” and “THOT!” went viral on the app, appearing in hundreds of thousands of user-generated posts and dance videos from popular creators like Charli D’Amelio and Loren Gray.
Greenberg also helped promote DeathbyRomy’s single “Problems” on TikTok.
Business financial make money capital trading AWAL
Michael Pukownik (head of artist marketing)
AWAL is an independent record label formed by the publishing company Kobalt Music Group and based in London, UK. The company provides artists with services like marketing and distribution while letting them keep full ownership of their copyrights. AWAL artists’ songs are available on TikTok through a deal with the digital rights agency Merlin.
Over the past two years at AWAL, Pukownik has built an artist marketing team responsible for driving discovery, audience development, marketing strategy, and release execution for the company’s roster of artists.
Under Pukownik’s tenure, AWAL artists have built large followings on TikTok, driving millions of video views and streaming platform plays for artists like Alaina Castillo, Lauv, Yung Bans, girl in red, and Gus Dapperton (who collaborated with Benee for one of TikTok’s most popular tracks, Supalonely).
Before joining AWAL, Pukownik worked in marketing roles at Warner Bros. Records, Capitol Records, and EMI Music.
Business financial make money capital trading Collab
Eric Jacks (chief strategy officer)
Collab is a digital talent network and entertainment studio that works with TikTok music creators like Spencer X, Jon Klaasen, Scotty Sire, and Baby Ariel, who collectively have over 90 million followers on the app.
The company was started by a brother trio of former creators (James, Tyler, and Will McFadden) and former Fullscreen Executive Soung Kang, to provide software, sales, and services to independent creators.
As Collab’s chief strategy officer, Eric Jacks has helped Collab navigate partnerships with record labels, handle in-app music promotions, and work with TikTok-first music producers and artists.
The company has worked on music promotions for artists like Juicy J, Blink-182, Megan Thee Stallion, Dua Lipa, and Lauren Jauregui.
Collab also worked with music producers and writers to create an original song “Bright Idea” for a Bliss Cosmetics TikTok campaign earlier this year.
Business financial make money capital trading Def Jam
J.D. Tuminski (VP, digital marketing)
Tuminski runs digital strategy and marketing at Def Jam, working on artist promotions on TikTok and other social-media platforms.
He led the label’s campaign for Justin Bieber’s 2020 album Changes. One of Bieber’s tracks on the album, “Yummy,” has appeared in over four million videos on TikTok.
Tuminski has also worked on promoting artists like Jhené Aiko, Kaash Paige, 2 Chainz, Alessia Cara, 070 Shake, and Fredo Bang on social media. This year, he’s led efforts to engage fans during quarantine with digital events like a virtual reality performance by DaniLeigh.
Before joining Def Jam, Tuminski worked in digital marketing at Columbia Records and in corporate communications at HBO.
Business financial make money capital trading Doja Cat
Doja Cat (Amala Ratna Zandile Dlamini) (music artist)
While Doja Cat has sparked controversy, her imprint on the music and dance culture of TikTok is undeniable.
The artist’s embrace of TikTok has extended well beyond posting videos on the app. After 17-year-old TikToker Haley Sharpe posted a viral dance to her single “Say So,” Doja Cat incorporated the dance in her official music video for the track with a cameo appearance from Sharpe.
And Doja Cat recently made a guest appearance during The Weeknd’s live concert series on TikTok on August 7.
With song after song going viral on the app, Pitchfork described Doja Cat’s reign on TikTok as “unimpeachable.”
Business financial make money capital trading Flighthouse
Jacob Pace (CEO), Ash Stahl (general manager), Amy Hart (music marketing), Adi Azran (music marketing)
In addition to running its own popular TikTok account with about 26 million followers, Flighthouse, which is owned by the music-technology company Create Music Group, has a marketing team that works with record labels to promote artists’ songs on the app.
The company is led by Gen Zers — its CEO, Jacob Pace, is 21 years old — and it has developed a formula to help make songs take off on TikTok by first making small modifications to artists’ tracks and then tapping the right influencers to boost a song’s visibility.
Flighthouse was recently hired by the independent record label 10k Projects to put together an influencer campaign for the Surfaces’ song “Sunday Best,” which helped drive over 20 million user-generated videos on the app and aided in the music duo’s rise to the No. 1 spot on Billboard’s emerging-artists list.
The company has worked on a variety of other tracks that have trended on TikTok, including Arizona Zervas’ “Roxanne,” but most record labels ask them not to disclose when they’re involved in running a paid promotion, the company said.
“TikTok has opened up this door where anything’s at play,” said Adi Azran, the head of marketing at Flighthouse. “All old records, all new records — people don’t care on TikTok as long as it’s fun to make content with.”
Read more about Flighthouse’s work on TikTok: How a media company that turns songs into TikTok trends helped ‘Sunday Best’ appear in over 20 million videos and become a global hit on Billboard and Spotify
Business financial make money capital trading Interscope
Chris Mortimer (head of digital marketing)
Chris Mortimer leads all digital marketing efforts for Interscope’s roster of artists including Lady Gaga, DaBaby, Billie Eilish, Selena Gomez, and Lil Mosey.
Interscope’s campaigns on TikTok have helped promote streams for songs like Trevor Daniel’s “Falling”; Lil Mosey’s “Blueberry Faygo”; “Rain On Me” by Lady Gaga with Ariana Grande; and “Rockstar” by DaBaby ft Roddy Ricch, which has appeared in over 1.7 million videos on TikTok and has held steady as a top ten track on streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple Music.
Prior to Interscope, Mortimer was in the startup media and entertainment space. He holds an MA in communications management from USC.
Business financial make money capital trading Jason Derulo
Jason Derulo (Jason Joel Desrouleaux) (music artist)
While Jason Derulo achieved fame as a music artist well before TikTok entered the social-media scene, the singer has leaned heavily into the short-form video app in recent months.
Derulo’s newest single “Savage Love (Laxed – Siren Beat),” which he co-released with New Zealand music producer Jawsh 685, came to life after Derulo used an unauthorized sample of a Jawsh 685’s track that had taken off on TikTok. The pair reconciled their differences and the song has continued to chart on streaming platforms like Spotify.
Derulo also does sponsored posts for brands on his TikTok account. The artist told Complex Media last month that he earns over $75,000 for brand promotions on TikTok.
Business financial make money capital trading Legacy Recordings
Andy McGrath (senior vice president of marketing)
Legacy Recordings manages Sony Music’s catalog of songs from artists that may or may not be still producing music, including performers like Billie Holliday, Bruce Springsteen, and David Bowie.
The company mostly takes a reactive approach to engaging with TikTok, though it has tested out promotions for some of its older tracks in the past year, enlisting influencers to try to draw attention to the 15th anniversary of Ciara’s “Goodies” in September.
Once a song does take off on TikTok, the company will encourage artists to create TikTok accounts and join in on a trend that involves their track.
“We drop a note to the artist, or his or her team, and say ‘Hey, there might be something here. Are you aware of this? Are you interested in participating?'” Andy McGrath, senior vice president of marketing at Legacy Recordings, told Business Insider in May.
“If we’re talking about catalog artists — 90s, 80s, early 2000s — a lot of these artists may or may not have TikTok accounts,” said Kerry Abner, a marketing manager focused on social media and streaming at Legacy Recordings. “We want to get them on the platform and start engaging with their fans there by inserting themselves into the challenge.”
Read more about Legacy Recording’s strategy on TikTok: A Sony Music exec explains the label’s TikTok strategy and how it responds when a song like ‘Break My Stride’ catches fire
Business financial make money capital trading ReignDeer Entertainment
Larry Rudolph (CEO)
Larry Rudolph runs ReignDeer Entertainment and is a senior partner at Maverick Management, a division of Live Nation Entertainment. Rudolph’s ReignDeer Entertainment manages several of TikTok’s biggest music stars including Loren Gray, Jaden Hossler (JXDN), and more recently Josh Richards.
Rudolph also serves as a formal advisor to TalentX Entertainment (which represents Hossler and Richards), where his son serves as VP of music.
Rudolph is perhaps best known for discovering and managing Britney Spears. He has also served as a manager for Steven Tyler (Aerosmith), Pitbull, and The Backstreet Boys.
“New young audiences want to consume music differently,” Rudolph told Business Insider. “To have some TikTok star with 20 million eyeballs using your song gets an enormous amount of attention and gets an enormous number of active music listeners. As a marketing tool, it’s a massive platform.”
Business financial make money capital trading Republic Records
Tim Hrycyshyn (VP of digital marketing)
As VP of digital marketing at Republic Records, Tim Hrycyshyn leads a team of marketers focused on the label’s online strategy for artists like Post Malone, Lil Wayne, Ariana Grande, Nicki Minaj, James Bay, the Jonas Brothers, and The Weeknd (who recently performed live for TikTok users in the app’s first-ever augmented reality concert).
Hrycyshyn joined the label in 2015 as a director of digital marketing after working in marketing roles at Independent Label Group and the Alternative Distribution Alliance.
Business financial make money capital trading Roc Nation
Carolyn Girondo (associate director of digital marketing)
Founded by Jay-Z in 2008, Roc Nation is a full-service entertainment agency that works with a variety of stars from Rihanna and Shakira to Lil Uzi Vert and Big Sean.
As associate director of digital marketing, Girondo told Business Insider that TikTok has had a huge impact on the agency’s new music releases as well as older songs in artists’ catalogs.
When the company noticed that Mariah Carey’s 2009 track “Obsessed” was taking off on TikTok, the company quickly helped Carey create an account to help promote the song to its users. “Obsessed” has since appeared in nearly four million user-generated videos on the app, and Carey now has 3.6 million fans on TikTok.
Business financial make money capital trading TalentX Entertainment
Gavin Rudolph (VP of music) and Michael Gruen (VP of talent)
Having grown up in the music industry (his father Larry Rudolph is also featured on this list as CEO of ReignDeer Entertainment), Gavin Rudolph runs the music department at TalentX Entertainment, a talent management firm focused on TikTok creators.
During his tenure at TalentX, Rudolph helped the upstart TikTok agency form a partnership with Sony/ATV Music Publishing, which is offering publishing and artist development services to TalentX’s songwriters and artists. He also helped facilitate a deal with Warner Records to create TalentX Records – a joint venture between the two companies to promote TikTok artists like TalentX’s Josh Richards.
Michael Gruen manages TalentX’s roster of TikTok stars as the company’s VP of talent. He helped facilitate Richard’s deal with Warner Records and signed former Sway LA member Jaden Hossler, who has since built out a career in the music industry.
Business financial make money capital trading The Fuel Injector
Devain Doolaramani (CEO and founder) and Ariell Nicholas Yahid (talent manager)
The Fuel Injector is a talent-management company that primarily focuses on TikTok creators. The company does a lot of music marketing on the app, working on four to five paid song integrations a week, according to Ariell Nicholas Yahid, a talent manager at the company.
“It seems like a lot, but in the music industry there’s about 100 songs a week,” Yahid said.
“I started music marketing back when it was Musical.ly, when I managed all these audio accounts,” Doolaramami said. “We built out the roster with dancers and actual personas so we started marketing within our talent in different music niches.”
The company told Business Insider that it’s worked on influencer-marketing promotions on TikTok for Rontae Don’t Play’s “I’m Single and I’m Lit,” “Civil War” by Russ, and $uicideboy$’s “…And To Those I Love, Thanks For Sticking…”
Read more about The Fuel Injector’s work in music marketing on TikTok: TikTok influencers are getting paid thousands of dollars to promote songs, as the app becomes a major force in the music industry
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Business financial make money capital trading Tiagz
Tiagz (Tiago Garcia-Arenas) (music artist)
The Canadian rapper Tiagz, 22, built a career as a music producer by strategically uploading songs to TikTok.
Tiagz’s strategy for growing an audience on TikTok has been to write songs that directly reference a phrase or idea that’s become popular on the app. Since joining TikTok in August 2019, several of Tiagz’s songs have gone viral through this method, appearing in millions of user-generated videos across the platform.
Two years after he started producing music, Tiagz is now signed by the record label Epic Records and has millions of monthly listeners on streaming apps like Spotify.
“I tried to understand the platform,” Tiagz told Business Insider in April. “The trends work, but the quality of the music matters too because a lot of songs that I made are flops.”
Read more about Tiagz’s rise on TikTok: Music artist Tiagz explains how he mastered TikTok’s algorithm to score a major record deal, with help from Charli D’Amelio and a 1950s jazz classic
Business financial make money capital trading TikTok’s music division
TikTok is well aware of the integral role that music plays in its platform’s success, and it’s staffed up accordingly to support artists, record labels, and music-oriented creators and brands who use its app.
The company’s music division is divided into three focus areas: music operations, music partnerships and artist relationships, and business development.
The music operations group handles all music programming decisions on the app. The team curates the playlists and songs that are promoted to TikTok users when they are looking to add a “sound” to a video. Its “Emerging Artists” playlist can help yet-to-be-discovered artists take off on the app.
The company told Business Insider that “nearly 50 songs programmed by the TikTok music ops team reached the Billboard Hot 100 in May and June 2020 alone.”
TikTok’s music partnerships and artist relationships team serves as the company’s liaison between the app and artists and labels. Team members work with the music operations team to jumpstart TikTok trends and support official playlisting and hashtag promotions, while also helping to onboard new artists onto the app. The music partnerships and artist relationships team also handles artist events tied to TikTok, including The Weeknd’s recent virtual performance on the app.
The music business development team focuses on negotiating content licensing deals with labels, publishing companies, and distributors.
Here is the full list of team members at TikTok who focus on music:
- Corey Sheridan (head of music content operations, North America)
- Isabel Quinteros, Sr. (manager, music partnerships and artist relations)
- Mary Rahmani (director of music content and artist relations)
- Daniel Gillick (senior manager, music content & label relations)
- Brandon Holman (label partnerships manager)
- Chayce Cheathem (label partnerships)
- Yuko Shen (music operations)
- Alec Feld (music operations)
- Macie Spear (music operations)
- Chayce Cheathem (music content & label relations)
- William Gruger (music editorial lead)
- Ben Markowitz (director of music operations)
- Jordan Lowy (director of music partnerships)
- Christina Beltramini (music partnerships)
- Todd Schefflin (senior manager of music partnerships)
- Bryan Cosgrove (creative music licensing)
- Tracy Gardner (head of label licensing & partnerships)
- Leah Linder (director of communications, music)
- Ole Obermann (VP, global head of music)
- Paul Hourican (music operations, EU)
- Farhad Zand (music partnerships, EU)
- Hari Nair (head of digital music, India)
- Fennie Chin (head of digital music, Southeast Asia)
- Henrique Fares Leite (music industry relations, Latin America)
- Toyin Mustapha (music content and artist partnerships, EU)
- James Underwood (music content manager, EU)
Business financial make money capital trading TuneCore
Andreaa Gleeson (chief revenue officer)
TuneCore is a tech platform designed to enable artists and labels to distribute songs on platforms like TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Spotify, Google Play, and Tidal. The company makes money by charging a flat rate for each album, song, or ring tone that it distributes.
Since it launched its distribution partnership with TikTok in October 2019, 200,000 of TuneCore’s artists have distributed 300,000 releases on the app.
As chief revenue officer, Andreea Gleeson oversees marketing, artist support, international work, and entertainment relations at TuneCore. Her efforts have helped up-and-coming artists build fan bases on TikTok.
Gleeson previously served as TuneCore’s chief marketing officer.
Business financial make money capital trading UnitedMasters
David Melhado (head of artist marketing)
UnitedMasters is a music distribution company that helps artists get songs placed on music streaming platforms and social-media apps like TikTok, YouTube, and Instagram. The company makes money by taking a 10% split of artists’ royalties or charging creators a flat annual rate to use its platform.
UnitedMasters has become a key tool for newcomer artists to get their music distributed on the short-form video app.
Currently the head of artist marketing at UnitedMasters, David Melhado is responsible for promoting artist, product, and brand efforts for UnitedMasters’ artist community.
Melhado has helped develop the careers of some of today’s biggest rap artists including NLE Choppa (3.8 million TikTok followers) and Gunna (450,000 TikTok followers), whose track “Drip Too Hard (Lil Baby & Gunna)” has been used in tens of thousands of user-generated videos on the app.
Business financial make money capital trading Universal Music Group
Celine Joshua (general manager, commercial, content, and artist strategy)
Celine Joshua joined Universal Music Group in 2018, where she leads the company’s 10: 22 pm imprint, a division of UMG focused on signing social-media influencers, digital-media creators, and recording artists.
Joshua and 10: 22 pm have sponsored the TikTok creator house Kids Next Door LA as part of their work promoting 10: 22 catalog songs. Her team also worked directly with TikTok to test out the platform’s push notification feature in order to promote electronic music artist Alesso’s new track “Midnight.”
Prior to joining UMG, Joshua worked at Warner Music Group in the IT department, at Disney Music as Head of Digital, and at Sony Music Entertainment’s Epic Records.