Social media platforms have long been the go-to incubators for emerging talents—from the long-gone McBling MySpace age to the rise of today’s creator economy, social media helps young artists find exposure and quite often, fame. Instagram has previously been the platform of choice for influencers but recent research shows that its days of reign are over.
Enter TikTok, gen Z’s favourite rabbit hole for everything from aesthetic recipes to trending subculture fashion tips, and even new music. You name it, there’s a questionably viral TikTok trend or audio for it.
Speaking to SCREENSHOT, leading digital talent and creator communities specialist Jo Burford noted that “a recent Google-commissioned survey found that almost half of gen Z searchers now go directly to TikTok to find what they’re looking for. This is a huge opportunity for music discovery.”
Burford went on to add, “#Musictok has had over 3 billion views and it’s a sensory explosion of content from curators, producers, fans, journalists, publications, artists, and musicians. As an independent music fan myself, I would be digging around for hours on Bandcamp, Soundcloud and YouTube. Now, I can access new music with one hit of a TikTok hashtag.”
Today, TikTok has amassed a vast community of over one billion users that actively consume and create content—constantly pushing the boundaries of artistic inspiration while promoting collaboration.
Creators on the platform have in turn been able to build one of the internet’s most authentic communities. As expected, the astronomical success of the app has already caught the attention of mainstream media moguls including Universal Music. In a recent statement, the corporation noted: “At the heart of TikTok is the belief that anyone can take a sound, creative idea, trend or cultural moment and flip it to collaborate with others and create something entirely original, entertaining and engaging.”
TikTok has already experimented with a series of features that enable creators to collaborate with one another and share their work in short video formats that have overnight viral potential. Its latest design, StemDrop, offers aspiring musicians the unique opportunity to join forces with big hitters within the industry and create something bespoke. There’s also the added bonus of reaching new heights in regard to online exposure.
StemDrop officially landed on the app on 26 October 2022—pushed forward creatively by Syco Entertainment and Universal Music Group’s Republic Records. The feature was also heavily backed by electronics giant Samsung Galaxy. Following the launch of the new ‘stems’ option, TikTok shared a news broadcast wherein it explained the ways in which the online community could best utilise it. “[This is] a groundbreaking new evolution in global music collaboration and discovery that will give artists and creators a platform to showcase their talent to the world and collaborate with some of the best songwriters of all time.”
Paul Hourican, global head of music operations at TikTok went on to note: “The breadth and diversity of musical talent emerging on TikTok every day is breathtaking and we’re committed to opening doors for artists and propelling new talent to find sustained success both on and off the platform.”
SCREENSHOT had the opportunity to speak directly with StemDrop’s co-creator Tim Van Rongen about his involvement in creating the new feature. “I’m thrilled to be part of the next step in talent discovery. It’s the exact right moment to launch a music project where the creative process is fully in the hands of the creators on TikTok. I can’t wait to see what everyone will come up with and think that the world will be surprised by the enormous creative variety that StemDrop and the TikTok community will deliver,” Van Rongen explained.
The platform launched in direct collaboration with an expert songwriting team, led by prolific hit maker Max Martin—revered for his collaborations with iconic singers such as Britney Spears, Céline Dion and Katy Perry—along with producer Ali Payami and fellow songwriter Savan Kotecha.
The trio worked together to create a brand new song titled ‘Red Lights’ which was released exclusively to TikTok. Moreover, community members on the platform will have access to the song’s individual stems, thereby making it possible to experiment with the rhythm section, the individual back or front vocals, or even the drums or bass. This will allow creators to formulate their own remixes simply by using the StemDrop feature.
For any ambitious musicians out there, the new tool also allows creators to produce their own, personalised version of the track by simply downloading the individual stems from the StemDrop website. In addition, TikTok users will have the opportunity to musically engage with the original creators not only by taking inspiration from the song but by posting their versions online with the hashtag #StemDrop001 on the app.
According to Burford, StemDrop is indeed a great venture for promoting artistic creativity, “Innovation is at the heart of creativity and this feature is another move from TikTok showing that they are three steps ahead. The opportunities for artistic collaboration are endless, and if the powerful forces at record labels can open doors for more talent to be recognised, then, I feel this can only be a good thing.”
Ole Obermann, global head of music at TikTok, agreed: “Every day, brilliant, undiscovered artists and songwriters turn to TikTok to share their music and find a global audience; StemDrop will put a spotlight on this talent and act as a springboard to help them build their careers.”
A new generation of hitmakers is underway, powered by the powerful, diverse, ever-changing TikTok community and we can’t wait to hear what’s next.