|Original author(s)||Alex Zhu, Luyu Yang|
|Developer(s)||Musical.ly Inc. (April 2014–November 2017)|
ByteDance (November 2017–August 2018)
|Initial release||August 2014|
|Operating system||iOS, Android|
|Available in||35 languages|
Musical.ly (stylized as musical.ly) was a social media service headquartered in Shanghai with a US office in Santa Monica, California, on which platform users created and shared short lip-sync videos. The first prototype was released in April 2014, and the official version was launched in August of that year. Through the app, users could create 15-second to 1-minute lip-syncing music videos and choose sound tracks to accompany them, use different speed options (time-lapse, fast, normal, slow motion, and epic) and add pre-set filters and effects. The app also allowed users to browse popular "musers", content, trending songs, sounds and hashtags, and uniquely interact with their fans.
ByteDance Ltd. acquired Musical.ly Inc. on November 9, 2017, and merged it into TikTok on August 2, 2018. The same time Musical.ly Inc. changed its name to TikTok Inc. This introduced TikTok to a bigger, worldwide community.
Musical.ly Inc. was founded by long time friends Alex Zhu and Luyu Yang in Shanghai, China. Before launching Musical.ly, Zhu and Yang teamed up to build an education social network app, through which users could both teach and learn different subjects through short-form videos (3–5 minutes long). After having investors fund this venture, it took them about 6 months to build the product. However, once launched, this online self-learning platform did not get enough traction and the content produced was not engaging enough. With some money left from the original investment for this failed venture, Zhu and Yang started to look for new ideas. They decided to shift their focus to the entertainment industry. The main idea was to create a platform that incorporates music and video in a social network. The team's judgment at the time was that the short music video was not very widely popular before, and the fundamental reason was that although people are willing to watch short videos, the supply was small, as there were too few people who were willing to shoot and share. Therefore, Musical.ly's entry point is to introduce a large amount of music, so that everyone can easily integrate music into the video, and a less fun video will become fun at once. The first version of Musical.ly was officially launched in August 2014.
At the beginning, the team launched the app in both the Chinese and American markets. However, compared to the domestic market's tepid reaction, their app was particularly popular in the American teenager market. As their team size was small, they decided to mainly focus on the U.S. market. The product quickly accumulated a group of loyal users, and although the total number of the users continued to be not very large, the activity level of the users was very high.
In July 2015, the app began to attract millions of users, allowing "musers" (Musical.ly users) to lip-sync to millions of songs. Musical.ly climbed up to the number 1 position in the iOS App Store, becoming the most-downloaded free app in over 30 countries, including the US, Canada, UK, Germany, Brazil, the Philippines and Japan. In May 2016, Musical.ly reached 70 million downloads, with over 10 million new videos posted every day.
In June 2016, Coca-Cola launched its #ShareACoke campaign on Musical.ly, which introduced Musical.ly's "User-Generated Ads" model. On July 24, 2016, during VidCon, Musical.ly officially launched Live.ly, its new live video streaming platform. On Live.ly, users could live-stream to their Musical.ly fans.
Merger into TikTok
On November 9, 2017, the Wall Street Journal reported that Musical.ly Inc had been sold to Bytedance Technology Co., which operates the program Toutiao, for as much as US$1 billion. However, Recode estimated that the sale would be for around US$800 million. On August 2, 2018, Bytedance consolidated the user accounts of Musical.ly and TikTok, merging the two apps into one and keeping the title TikTok.
Musical.ly users could record videos of 15-seconds to 1-minute in one or multiple shots, lip-syncing to sounds or comedy. The platform also enabled editing, through 14 pre-set filters and effects that allow a change in speed or reversing the motion of the recording. Additionally, Musical.ly also had a feature to create shorter videos, named "live moments", which were essentially GIFs with music. Users could "remuse" (reuse) sounds created by other users, which instills a new level of engagement with the content. Other ways in which users could interact with each other were through features such as "Ask a Question" and "Duet". In this regard, Musical.ly had an option called "Best Fan Forever", through which users can select certain followers who can participate in duets with them. Users could also send private messages to their friends using the direct.ly feature.
Musical.ly had a sister app called Live.ly (stylized "live.ly", in which users could live-stream to their Musical.ly followers. On Live.ly, one could buy coins to send gifts to favorite creators, which equal real currency. There was also a collaborate option on Live.ly, meaning one could go live with a friend, guest fans to talk to them, and more.
Musical.ly's structure allowed the viral dissemination of trends throughout the platform. The hashtags that were popular on this social network usually make reference to bits of pop culture and trends among the internet world. Because of its massive usage, a lot of events launched within the app could become viral global events, especially among teenagers. One of the most notable campaigns launched by Musical.ly was the "Don't Judge Challenge", which became widespread on the platform, as millions of teenagers around the world participated.
Active users with higher rates of popularity were assigned crowns by Musical.ly, which was the app's verification symbol. Some users of the platform gained great traction and a huge following not only within Musical.ly, but also outside it as well. Baby Ariel, also known as Ariel Martin who, in May 2017, had 19 million followers on Musical.ly alone, is one of several users who gained major media attention through Musical.ly. In April 2016, she was interviewed live on Good Morning America. Mackenzie Ziegler and Maddie Ziegler became more famous on Musical.ly when they finished Dance Moms. Jacob Sartorius, who later became a social media influencer, promoted his first single "Sweatshirt" on Musical.ly, after which the song reached number 10 on the iTunes Store. In June 2016, it was reported that Sartorius had signed with United Talent Agency. Loren Gray also started on Musical.ly and was at one point the most-followed individual on the platform after it became TikTok. Loren Gray was also the first person to reach 40 million followers on the platform. Lisa and Lena started on Musical.ly and reached 32.7 million followers by the end of March 2019. They later deleted their account due to the "unfun" vibes of the app. They created a new TikTok page on May 7, 2020, and, as of July 2020, have over 7.9 million followers.
Rights, permissions and licensing
In June 2016, Musical.ly signed its first major label deal with Warner Music Group, allowing its music to be licensed for use on the Musical.ly platform and the app users to interact with WMG's artists and songs. Besides continuing to work with the UK-based 7digital, Musical.ly also teamed up with Apple Music in April 2017 permitting users to sign up to the streaming service to listen to full songs and cut out a fifteen-second segment of the songs for lip-syncing on the Musical.ly platform.
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