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TikTok Tests Exclusive Deals With Music Artists, Edging Into Labels’ Turf

Art by Mike Sullivan.
Art by Mike Sullivan.
May 12, 2023 6:00 AM PDT

Over the past few years, TikTok has become a viral hitmaker, sending musical artists like Lil Nas X to the top of the record charts and propelling the careers of Olivia Rodrigo and Megan Thee Stallion. Now TikTok’s parent, ByteDance, is angling to play a bigger role in these artists’ careers, which could reduce the increasingly steep costs of licensing their music.

TikTok has been pursuing dozens of artists to exclusively distribute their work through its one-year-old service, SoundOn, in custom deals that are more typical of major record labels, according to two people with direct knowledge of its efforts. Some artists, such as rapper K Camp, whose single popularized the Renegade dance challenge, have already inked such deals with SoundOn, which mostly operates as a self-service platform to place musicians’ works on streaming sites.

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From left: Paul Graham, Garry Tan and Michael Seibel. Photos by Getty. Art by Mike Sullivan.
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