Just like TikTok in the western world, Douyin changed the way music is created, distributed, and consumed in China.
There’s no doubt how drastic the impact of video-sharing social media apps is on everyone’s life. According to the 2020 Douyin Music Ecosystem Report (which will be referred to as the report in this article), Douyin now has more than 600 million daily active users.
However, the impact of Douyin on the music industry is less well-understood.
In 2019, more than 22 million content creators earned more than 41.7 billion RMB on the platform. A large number of established artists registered to become Douyin Musicians, the most famous among which are KUN(蔡徐坤), Adam Fan(范丞丞), and Yang Kun(杨坤).
Douyin has become a part of the standard distribution channel for music. Last year, we covered the story of “Wild Wolf Disco” going viral on Douyin with millions of people covering the song and the dance moves which became a cultural phenomenon in mainstream media as well. Between January and July 2020, Douyin musicians collectively gained more than 300 million followers, with the top 50 musicians gaining on average 6.28 million followers per person. 6 of them added 10 million followers. In terms of the number of streams, the top 10 most frequently played songs on Douyin have been streamed a total of 94.5 billion times, which means on average, every Chinese person streamed these 10 songs 67 times.
For established artists, Douyin is a platform that they spend a lot of time trying to promote themselves on. Releasing new songs on Douyin becomes standard practice. For example, Feng Timo(冯提莫)’s “Buddha Girl”(《佛系少女》) and Bibi Chou(周笔畅)’s “The Most Beautiful Expectation” (《最美的期待》) both first went viral on Douyin before charting on music streaming platform NetEase Cloud Music. Some artists also create dance challenges to promote their songs or cover viral dances on Douyin, bringing themselves closer to their fans.
For lesser-known artists, Douyin offers them a chance to go from nobody to famous overnight, or at least have a real shot at making a living with their music. Douyin musician Dong Jiji (董唧唧) was a student before his first song became a hit on Douyin. He said: “I never thought I could be a full-time musician. After I saw the money coming in from Douyin and making music that I start to believe I can actually be a real musician.”
To become a registered Douyin musician, you only need to spend a couple of minutes registering online and uploading your music.
With the rise of popularity of music streaming platforms and music production technology, the barrier of entry for music creation has become very low. On one hand, a lower barrier of entry makes it easier for musicians to start their career, but on the other hand, it increases the level of competition and makes it harder for musicians to get discovered.
To solve that problem, Douyin started a program called See Music, through which Douyin promotes a series of original songs selected by music industry veterans from public submissions. “He Was Just Passing By,” one of the recent hits on Douyin went through the program. Four months ago, this song was still unheard and unused like most songs on the platform. The success of this program proves that Douyin isn’t just a place for gimmick songs without much artistic value. Good music approved by industry experts can also win the hearts of millions on the platform.
Musicians used to travel to major cities for a shot of making it in the music industry, but now they can be anywhere in the world thanks to Douyin. That gives both users and musicians from smaller cities a voice in society. Now, only 18.9% of registered Douyin musicians are from first-tier cities, 23.8% are from new first-tier cities, and the majority are from the rest of the country.
Douyin’s algorithm allows users to explore their preferred sound, genre, style, and favorite musicians. Small fan communities of niche genres are able to engage with each other. Folk music is the most widely used by people in Yunnan Province. Sichuanese users love hip hop the most. Chinese style music is the most popular in Henan, as rock music and electronic music are in Guizhou and Jiangsu, respectively.
The social app provides users with an environment to “see” music, which allows them to use different music to suit different situations and further engage with the music. According to the report, from January to July 2020, the top 5 types of videos on Douyin created with background tracks are family, lifestyle, food, pets, and travel.
In addition, DOULive, the live streaming function in Douyin has become a popular setting for musicians to interact with fans. In the first half of 2020, Douyin musicians live-streamed 2.04 million times on the platform, drawing a total audience of 9.8 billion. On average, every Douyin musician streamed 162 minutes a day, 21 hours a month, and 63 hours in total. Douyin has held 124 formal online concerts, the total view count of which is 42 million.
Douyin is still a new social construct. We are only scratching the surface of how they are shaking up the music industry. But whether we like it or not, it is here to stay and all we can do is to adapt and make good use of it.
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