|Original author(s)||Alex Zhu|
|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 Chinese 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. It is now known as TikTok. 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.
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. They were unable to secure further investment, and after losing traction, they shut the service down. Zhu & Yang then began searching for a new business model in the consumer, social, and multimedia space. It led to them focusing on video content again, this time shorter (15s - 60s), which they thought would help keep the content light and playful. They let users select music snippets for their videos, which helped build a very small user base. Eventually the product pivoted to lip sync snippets after noticing a spike in downloads Thursday evenings during Lip Sync Battle. The team's judgment at the time was that long music videos were 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 was to introduce a large amount of music, so that everyone can easily integrate music into the video, and a less fun video will become more fun. 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. Users could still produce videos between 15 seconds and one minute, but could now access a larger number of filters and effects, as well as smoother editing and publishing systems and higher-quality code.
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 March 2021, have over 12 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.
- Lin, Liza; Winkler, Rolfe (November 10, 2017). "Social-Media App Musical.ly Is Acquired for as Much as $1 Billion". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved October 19, 2018.
- "Company Overview of Musical.ly, Inc". Bloomberg. Archived from the original on October 19, 2018. Retrieved October 19, 2018.
- Baig, Mirza M. S. (February 12, 2018). "How did the founders of Musical.ly made $2b in 2016." Medium. Retrieved January 11, 2019.
- "How a failed education startup turned into Musical.ly, the most popular app you've probably never heard of". Business Insider Malaysia. May 28, 2016. Retrieved January 11, 2019.
- Dan Rys (June 29, 2016). "Fresh Off a Big Funding Round, Musical.ly Signs Its First Major Label Deal with Warner Music". Billboard. Retrieved June 29, 2016.
- Dan Rys (April 28, 2017). "Musical.ly, Apple Music Ink New Partnership, With More to Come". Billboard. Retrieved May 30, 2017.
- Kundu, Kishalaya (August 2, 2018). "Musical.ly App To Be Shut Down, Users Will Be Migrated to TikTok". Beebom. Retrieved May 30, 2019.
- Spangler, Todd (September 30, 2016). "Musical.ly's Live.ly Is Now Bigger Than Twitter's Periscope on iOS (Study)". Variety. Retrieved October 2, 2016.
- "为什么一个中国团队做的短视频 APP 登上了全美 iOS 总榜第一？【上海 · Talk】_详细解读_最新资讯_热点事件_36氪". 36kr.com.
- Newlands, Murray. "The Origin and Future Of America's Hottest New App: musical.ly", Forbes, June 10, 2016. Retrieved June 20, 2016.
- "Share a Coke: Turning Lyrics into Language". Shorty Awards. Retrieved September 5, 2018.
- Wallenstein, Andrew (June 24, 2016). "Musical.ly May Be the Spoiler in Livestream Race with Launch of Live.ly". Variety. Retrieved June 24, 2016.
- Lin, Liza; Winkler, Rolfe (November 9, 2017). "Social-Media App Musical.ly Is Acquired for as Much as $1 Billion". The Wall Street Journal. New York City. Retrieved November 12, 2017.
- "What is Tik Tok (formally musical.ly)?". Webwise. November 25, 2017. Retrieved September 5, 2018.
- Hamill, Jasper (July 6, 2015). "Don't Judge Challenge: Teens declare war on body shaming by making themselves up to 'look ugly'". Daily Mirror. Retrieved June 25, 2016.
- Kosoff, Maya (January 28, 2016). "60 teenagers reveal what they think is cool — and what isn't — in 2016". Business Insider. Retrieved June 26, 2020.
- Usborne, Simon (December 10, 2016). "'It's crazy, for sure': meet the stars of Musical.ly". The Guardian. Retrieved January 3, 2017.
- "'Baby Ariel' Talks Musical.ly, the Explosively Popular App for Teens"". ABC News. 6 April 2016. Retrieved June 20, 2016.
- Nava, Kathleen (September 16, 2016). "'Dance Moms' 2016 News & Update: What Do Chloe Lukasiak And Mackenzie Ziegler Have In Common After Leaving Show?". Game & Guide. Retrieved January 3, 2017.
- Jacob Sartorius 'Sweatshirt' American iTunes Chart Performance. iTunes Charts. Retrieved July 1, 2016.
- Jarvey, Natalie. "UTA Sains Musical.ly Star Jacob Sartorius", Hollywood Reporter, June 30, 2016.
- Reeve, Elspeth (July 20, 2016). "90 MILLION TWEENS, A FREE APP, ONE GOAL: FAME". Elle. Retrieved January 3, 2017.
- "Fresh Off a Big Funding Round, Musical.ly Signs Its First Major Label Deal with Warner Music". Billboard. Retrieved October 10, 2018.
- Andy Malt (May 2, 2017). "Musical.ly announces Apple Music integration". Complete Music Update. Retrieved October 16, 2018.
- Peter Kafka (April 27, 2017). "Musical.ly syncs up with Apple Music". Recode. Retrieved October 16, 2018.