taking a byte

A TikTok Music app could be Spotify's toughest competition yet

A U.S. patent filing suggests ByteDance is interested in creating TikTok Music, a music streaming app to rival the likes of Spotify and Apple Music.

BRAZIL - 2022/07/06: In this photo illustration, a silhouetted woman holds a smartphone with the Tik...
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When it comes to music streaming, there’s still pretty much only one name you need to know. I’ll give you a hint: it starts with “S,” and ends in “potify.”

While competitors like Apple Music have made significant headway, Spotify remains king of the proverbial streaming castle. According to subscriber numbers from June assessed by market research firm, MIDiA, Spotify controls about 31 percent of the market, while Apple weighs in at about half that. In other words, not even Apple has been able to unseat Spotify from its streaming throne. And Amazon Music? Do we even have to go there?

Needless to say, if a challenger were to arise, it would have to be a sizable company; one with deep pockets and a penchant for music; one like, say, TikTok. As it turns out, TikTok may agree with that assessment. Recent U.S. patent filings, as reported by Insider, suggest TikTok parent company, ByteDance, is more than casually interested in creating “TikTok Music,” an app that would allow users to “purchase, play, share, download music, songs, albums, lyrics...” and a heck of a lot more.

TikTok Music — Let’s be clear here: the existence of a patent filing does not mean that TikTok Music is coming to blow up the music streaming industry for good. But it doesn’t not mean that either. For starters, ByteDance is already in the music streaming game with its Resso app — a music streaming service available to users in Brazil, India, and Indonesia. As noted by The Information, Resso already has about 40 million users spread evenly across those markets. Not a bad start for a potential Spotify challenger.

There’s also the fact that ByteDance’s explanation of a TikTok Music app — though only a 3,000-foot view of its plans — seems to encompass quite a lot. The patent makes mention of a social component for sharing lyrics and songs, the ability to watch videos (duh, this is TikTok after all), and perhaps my favorite nod: some kind of karaoke functionality.

The company even alludes to the existence of “interactive media” having to do with “entertainment, fashion, sports, and current events.” I’m pulling for podcasts that you can participate in.

In every way that Spotify has made a name for itself in the music streaming space — a large catalog of music and a unique social element — ByteDance’s potentially nascent pie-in-the-sky competitor has an answer, or even a one-up. If I were Spotify, my eyebrows would be firmly raised.

Spoti-bye? — ByteDance obviously isn’t the first company to entertain the idea of taking a slice of the music streaming pie, but it’s arguably in one of the best positions of any entrant so far. Not only does it have a head start with Resso, but it has the social media acumen to devise a music app that might actually be worth using.

For the average consumer, a new player in the music streaming market is probably a good thing. To make TikTok Music attractive — if it ever comes to fruition at all — ByteDance could offer competitive pricing compared to Spotify or Apple Music. Or maybe ByteDance will feel compelled to offer features the Spotify doesn’t. Amazon Music, for example, released its first hi-fi audio service in 2019, and now Apple Music and Spotify both have their own versions.

For the likes of Spotify, however, TikTok Music is probably a less welcome prospect. What if ByteDance finds an audience with younger generations accustomed to the TikTok ecosystem? What if, God forbid, TikTok Music decides to pay artists more for the ability to license their music? For now, it’s all theoretical, but Spotify, just like Netflix, isn’t infallible. Even the best artists can’t remain at the top of the charts forever.