TikTok unveils new ‘Fan Spotlight’ feature with Billie Eilish

A few weeks ago, it seemed TikTok and Universal Music Group (UMG) were completely on the outs. Now, the relationship between the two companies seems to be closer than ever.

The latest sign of this has to do with superstar artist Billie Eilish, whose new album, Hit Me Hard and Soft, released via UMG’s Darkroom and Interscope labels, dropped on Friday (May 17).

A day earlier, Eilish participated in a TikTok takeover, which featured challenges for fans that unlocked exclusive artwork, and the ability for fans to be featured on Billie’s own TikTok homepage.

That last item, it turns out, marked the launch of a new feature on TikTok: Fan Spotlight, which allows artists on the platform to pin fan videos to their music tab.

“An artist can choose to showcase up to five of their favorite fan videos at a time, by ‘pinning’ them to the top of their music tab as a ‘Fan Spotlight’,” TikTok said in an announcement on Monday (May 20).

“If a video is chosen as a ‘Fan Spotlight’ by the artist, the creator will receive a notification. The video will then remain pinned to the top of the artist’s music tab for up to seven days, after which the artist can choose to pin new fan videos.”

The feature is now available to all artists on TikTok.

Eilish, who’s signed to UMG labels and has a publishing deal with the company as well, joined TikTok in 2020, and has since amassed 60.8 million followers, who have given her content nearly 309 million likes.

According to TikTok, her track Therefore I Am has been used in around 1.5 million TikTok creator videos, while What Was I Made For? has been used in 1.4 million videos.

Eilish’s TikTok takeover came just a few weeks after UMG announced that its months-long dispute with TikTok over licensing fees had come to an end, with a new agreement that reportedly secured higher payments for artists whose content appears on the platform.

Universal and TikTok sent shockwaves through the music and social media industries when UMG’s recorded music began to disappear from the short video platform at the end of January, as the licensing agreement between the two companies came to an end with no new agreement in place.

A month later, UMG’s publishing catalog also disappeared from the platform.

UMG said it was holding out for better payments from TikTok, and for greater assurances on issues such as “protecting human artists from the harmful effects of AI” and “online safety for TikTok’s users.”

TikTok retorted by saying that UMG had “put their own greed above the interests of their artists and songwriters.”

Even before UMG and TikTok announced they had reached a new deal on May 2 – the same day UMG released its Q1 earnings – there were signs of a thaw in the companies’ dispute.

In April, the music of another UMG-affiliated superstar, Taylor Swift, began reappearing on TikTok ahead of the release of her new album, The Tortured Poets Department. This happened despite there being no word of a deal between UMG and TikTok at the time.

Swift’s return to TikTok included some of the same features seen in Eilish’s takeover, such as curated playlists and the ability to unlock exclusive artwork.

Swift’s and Eilish’s promotions clearly show that, even though the days of TikTok artists being signed to labels on the strength of a single viral video are coming to an end, the video platform continues to be a useful medium for the promotion of music.

However, TikTok’s status is currently being challenged in the US, where President Joe Biden has signed a law forcing ByteDance, TikTok’s Chinese parent company, to divest TikTok’s US operations or face a nationwide ban on the app by January 2025.

TikTok has campaigned aggressively against the law, calling it an unconstitutional infringement on Americans’ free speech rights, and has filed a challenge to the law with a federal court in the District of Columbia.

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew assured US TikTok users that it will be business as usual on the app while the company fights the law in court.Music Business Worldwide

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