The most valuable startup in the world is planning to launch a streaming music app.
According to Bloomberg, Bytedance—the company behind TikTok—plans on debuting the new service as early as spring. It will likely come out in “poorer countries” that don’t have large streaming music audiences yet, as Bloomberg so gracelessly put it.
South China Morning Post first wrote last month that Bytedance was building a Spotify-like app, but the article was short on details.
Bloomberg’s sources asked not to be identified as the company has not yet announced the music service. TechCrunch also confirmed with familiar sources the app is coming “as soon as end of this quarter.” Bytedance did not respond to a Gizmodo request for confirmation that it is launching the app.
On Monday, Bytedance launched a chat app, called Feiliao (Flipchat in English). The app seems to be more than just a WeChat or WhatsApp duplicate—it can also be used for delivery orders, ride-hailing, and money exchange.
While a Bytedance chat service may have seemed inevitable due to the ubiquity of messenger apps, a Bytedance music service feels equally obvious. After all, TikTok began as a lip-synching app, and most posts within these apps contain 15-second soundtracks.
This has led to an interesting relationship between Bytedance and music companies. Deals between Bytedance and the three biggest record labels—Sony Music, Universal Music, and Warner Music—reportedly expired in the spring, driving the labels to demand higher payment from Bytedance for the songs it was using, according to a separate Bloomberg report.
But in recent months TikTok has been recognised as the “new music kingmaker” after it led to a Fitz and the Tantrum song climbing the charts in South Korea, and made Lil Nas X’s “Old Country Road” a viral hit that landed at No. 1 on the Billboard charts.
Trying to harness this newfound music power, TikTok launched a talent show-like program for discovering rising stars last month. So one can reasonably assume reports that it will expand on its music designs by launching the streaming app are accurate.
So far, Bytedance has reportedly locked down rights with Times Music and T-Series, which as Bloomberg points out, are the two biggest labels in India. It apparently hasn’t secured rights from Sony, Universal, and Warner.
However, even though Bytedance has had some difficulties with those top labels recently, it might be in a good position to make a deal with the companies. Bloomberg suggests major labels will welcome a Bytedance music subscription streaming service because it provides a clear way to get real money from the Chinese company, and the addition of a major streaming service will limit free music options online.
This streaming product would be the latest in a growing pile of apps Bytedance has created or acquired. Bytedance lists more than a dozen apps on its site. Among the company’s various products are its news aggregation service Toutiao, (Helo is the India version and TopBuzz is the international version) and short-video app Xigua Video.
Bytedance has acquired Flipagram (rebranded as Vigo Video) and Musicl.ly (which was fused into TikTok), and European news app News Republic. Before launching the Feiliao chat app, it created a video chat app called Douyin. Underlying these global apps is Bytedance’s AI technology that is analysing and learning from user interactions and feedback.
TikTok and its China version, Douyin, have reportedly surpassed 500 million downloads, making it the fastest growing social media platform in the world. It’s clearly leveraging that power to influence the music industry and grow its cultural currency. Soon we’ll start to see some of the other ways it’s gaining control and dominance throughout the world.