Of the countless viral hits that have exploded on TikTok in recent years, many have not even come out yet. Lil Nas X did it with “Old Town Road”, Jack Harlow did it with “First Class” and GAYLE did it with “abcdefu”, just to name a few. Now TikTok wants to make it easier for artists to test their material on the app and build hype for a wider release.
On Thursday (July 28), the app’s distribution and marketing platform, SoundOn, launched a new feature called “Pre-Release”. Artists who have signed up for SoundOn can now use the platform “to give TikTok listeners exclusive access to clips before releasing their songs.”
“Pre-release a song is a great way to test a song before it’s fully launched,” according to TikTok’s announcement. “Artists can gauge audience reaction and find the most viral song clips to maximize sharing, listening and interaction.”
Many artists, of course, already found ways to do this, including Jack Harlow, SZA, Charlie Puth and GAYLE, among others. Leading label executives now see this as an important part of marketing, and the music industry relies on “pre-save” technology to tap into fan demand as soon as a piece of a song sparks interest. TikTok users can click on a link, log into their streaming service of choice and pre-save a song so it’s added to their personal library immediately upon release. A high number of pre-saves is widely seen as a sign of the future commercial vitality of an unreleased track.
Teasing song sharing on TikTok is so common among big names that it has become controversial, especially in the songwriter and producer community. If a teaser doesn’t do well on TikTok, the track could be shelved completely, even if writers and producers spend weeks creating the record. “Sometimes you see songs on a hard drive die from the results of a TikTok that was on for 48 hours and [wasn’t viral enough]” Christian Johnsontold Hipgnosis senior director of A&R and production team manager The Monsters & Strangerz: Billboard in May.
TikTok launched SoundOn in March after testing it in several markets; it’s available in the US, UK, Brazil, Indonesia, and Mexico. “We heard from a lot of artists that they loved being on TikTok and were trying to build their community and hopefully reach a really large audience, but they were quite overwhelmed,” explained. Be ObermannTikTok’s global music head.
“So what we came up with was let’s have a special access to the platform that is only available to these new and undiscovered artists,” Obermann added. “Then we get the chance to work much more closely with them if this is the route they choose to enter. The goal is really that we find the promising artist and we take them from the backstage door to the main stage and they’re there, they’re performing, it’s an incredible show and they’ve found their audience.”