TikTok StemDrop

While everyone was distracted speculating about a TikTok Music streaming service, TikTok was quietly working on… a new music format. Well, a “groundbreaking new evolution in global music collaboration” if you’d rather use the announcement blurb. It’s called StemDrop, and it’s certainly interesting.

Essentially it’s about releasing music onto TikTok as stems, which people can then use to create their own songs. There are some very big partners on board too: Universal Music Group, Simon Cowell’s Syco Entertainment, Republic Records and Samsung, as well as top-tier songwriters Max Martin, Savan Kotecha and Ali Payami.

It all goes live on 26 October, when the three musicians will release a 60-second clip of a new track, with stems available for people to play with and record new versions. Samsung is also working on a ‘StemDrop Mixer’ tool for TikTok which will help people to do this.

Meanwhile, there’s a big discovery angle to StemDrop too, with all the entities involved promising to dig out the best user-created tracks on a weekly basis. You could, if you were looking for an over-easy summary, think of it as a TikTok-era X Factor for emerging musicians.

(Syco does appear to be the driving force from the music side, as indicated by UMG boss Sir Lucian Grainge saying “we’re excited to partner with Simon and the incredible team he’s assembled to launch this new platform” in his quote hailing the launch.)

“We have no idea what’s going to happen. I do know there are so many incredibly talented people who are trying to stand out and I hope and believe this could make a big difference to their careers,” said Cowell. Meanwhile, TikTok’s global head of music Ole Obermann described it as a way to “supercharge music discovery in a way never seen before, using the power of TikTok to unearth new talent”.

TikTok as a music-streaming giant in waiting will continue to keep the industry gossip trains rolling, of course. But TikTok as a giant A&R talent pool is a concept that’s worth thinking about too. Oberman called out the “brilliant, undiscovered artists and songwriters” who are sharing their own music on TikTok.

For now, StemDrop seems to be about nudging those emerging musicians to create using the stems of megastar songwriters and artists. We wonder if there is scope in the future to also open up the StemDrop platform to those new artists too: as a way for them to collaborate with one another.

With it all going live on 26 October, there are some unanswered questions for now. How will StemDrop work in terms of royalties, for example: who will get paid and under what model? How will the rights ownership of these hybrid tracks work, and how will these new works be registered in the world of collecting societies?

Collaborative, stem-driven, user-generated music is a creative idea with plenty of logistical challenges. To see TikTok taking a big swing at it with UMG and Syco on board is fascinating. Roll on 26 October, and hopefully answers to some of those rights’n’royalties questions.

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Stuart Dredge

Music Ally's Head of Insight

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