Snapchat, Like Everyone Else, Gets In the Music Game

Everyone’s a musician nowadays — and every tech company is also a music company, it seems. This week alone, two separate news items hinted at where strong winds are blowing for the music industry: first, a paid streaming service created by the owner of TikTok, and second, a new feature within Snapchat that may offer music in users’ posts.

On Monday, Bloomberg reported that ByteDate, the Chinese parent company of the video-app-slash-meme-wonderland TikTok, will launch a paid music-streaming service in several emerging territories later this year, with ambitions to expand it to other countries as well. And at the close of the week today, the Wall Street Journal reported that Silicon Valley darling Snapchat is in talks with Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group and Sony Music Group to acquire licenses to “expand the ways users can include music in posts on its flagship Snapchat app,” which would presumably allow the use of thousands of song snippets into the platform’s signature disappearing photos and videos.

Unrelated as the Snapchat and ByteDance projects are to one another, both hallmark the increasingly rapid tumbling of the music industry into the tech world — and in ways outside of the ones that were predicted several years ago. When music streaming became the most popular way of listening to records in 2017, many in the music business predicted that a wave of tech firms would produce Spotify lookalikes to try and grab market share. (Some, like YouTube, did go do exactly that.) But social media apps have been a bit savvier about their relationships to the industry.)

Last year, Facebook and its sister apps Instagram and Oculus inked wide-ranging deals with the three big record companies to put music inside of user content rather than alongside it. The Snapchat negotiations seem to be following in that line; ByteDance, too, is said to be vigorous discussion with the major labels about how much artists should get paid from the seconds-long clips of their music used in TikTok videos, and the outcome will influence the status quo for ByteDance’s new paid music service as well. The case-by-case basis of all these talks suggests the music industry hasn’t yet standardized royalty negotiations with user-content tech companies — but if the quickening pace of convergence continues, it may have to figure one out soon.

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