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“Short-form video that doesn’t lead anywhere is the most dangerous thing I’ve seen the music business face in a long time,” said YouTube’s music boss Lyor Cohen last November.

He was partly banging the drum for his own company’s combination of short-video (Shorts) and streaming service (YouTube Music), and its ability to drive viewers from one to the other AND track that journey. But he was also taking a very public jab at TikTok, suggesting that it couldn’t match that.

Well, here’s some news. TikTok is testing a new feature that integrates its app directly with music streaming services.

It takes the form of an ‘Add song’ button shown when people are watching videos that contain music. Tapping it brings up an ‘Add songs from TikTok to your preferred music app’ pane, currently with one option: Apple Music.

It’s the first time TikTok has offered this kind of direct link with a streaming service, and signing Apple Music as the first partner is a powerful statement of intent. The two companies have worked together in the past though: for example in 2020 on a promotion within TikTok’s app for Apple Music trials.

The wording of the pane (“your preferred music app”) makes it clear that TikTok’s ambition is to offer multiple options rather than just a single, exclusive partner. Contacted by Music Ally, TikTok offered us this statement. “We are always testing new products and features with the goal of enhancing the TikTok experience for our users,” said its spokesperson.

“We are currently testing a feature which will help fans who discover music on TikTok to save and enjoy that track on a premium streaming platform, which will in turn benefit artists and the music industry.”

Ole Obermann, global head of music business development and IP rights at TikTok’s parent company ByteDance, hinted at these plans when he spoke at the NY:LON Connect conference in January, and was asked about Lyor Cohen’s comments.

“I’ll call Lyor and ask him if he’ll let us integrate a TikTok video into the YouTube Music service,” joked Obermann. “You should be able to click: one click and you go to listen to the full-length song.”

Now TikTok is testing exactly that feature with Apple Music, with potential to add more DSPs in the coming weeks and months. For now, this is a test, with no confirmed date for a full rollout. Two members of Music Ally’s marketing services team spotted the new button while using TikTok.

ByteDance is continuing to negotiate with music rightsholders over its plans to roll its own Resso streaming service out more globally beyond its current markets of Brazil, India and Indonesia.

Clearly when that happens, Resso will be an obvious candidate for TikTok’s ‘Add song’ integration. But TikTok’s desire to forge direct links with non-ByteDance streaming services is notable too.

The music industry – YouTube Music included – already knows that TikTok virality DOES lead somewhere: it generates streaming spikes on all the big DSPs.

Direct integrations with those services, besides being a nice feature for TikTok’s users, will also give the app some hard data to quantify its impact on streams. That data could also be very valuable for labels and artists’ teams, if TikTok is willing to share it with them.

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Stuart Dredge

Music Ally's Head of Insight