If you thought that industry news and announcements would be slowing down as we approach the end of the year then you would be mistaken. TikTok is beginning to roll out powerful new features to help monetize your content, meanwhile, significant changes on YouTube and Instagram have also been making the headlines. Here’s the lowdown on the most important industry news stories from the past month that you should be aware of.
1. TikTok Is Testing Out Social Commerce Features
TikTok has started to allow some of its users to add a URL link in their bio, similar to a feature first made popular by Instagram. It is also adding social commerce features which will allow creators the ability to easily send viewers/fans to third party websites within the app directly from their videos. These features are currently being tested in China but given the rate at which TikTok is growing and adding improvements, it shouldn’t take too long for these functions to roll out to all users.
Why This Matters
Some of you may already be taking advantage of going live on TikTok and receiving tips from supporters but these additions go way beyond that - your profile could soon become a complete one-stop-shop for your music/brand. The link in your bio could link to your website or direct traffic to your music through smart URL song links, meanwhile, your videos could encourage users to buy merchandise directly in the app. What’s particularly effective about the way the platform is preparing to implement this social commerce feature is that it doesn’t appear like an obvious/obnoxious advert. Instead, it’s a subtle, small call to action box that doesn’t detract away from the main content of the video, something which Instagram has never really managed to get right.
2. *IMPORTANT*: You Need To Change The Settings On Your YouTube Channel Immediately
YouTube is updating its terms of service. Failure to act and comply with these changes could result in your content and channel being deleted and you could receive a fine of $42,530 per video! Here’s why: The platform has gotten itself into hot water with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on a number of occasions in recent years, with a major one centering around violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). The Act states that no digital platform can collect data on anybody under the age of 13 and YouTube was fined a serious amount of money for breaching this back in 2017. Now as a result, with the FTC set to seriously clamp down on this issue and go after specific channels from January next year, YouTube is changing its terms of service to shift the responsibility onto you to deem whether or not your content is suitable for children. I’ll explain what you need to do to avoid this below.
Why This Matters
These changes affect all users regardless of whether you make content for kids or not. By failing to act and not changing your channel settings you are effectively saying that your videos are appropriate for and made for kids. So if your videos include inappropriate language then you’re going to be hit with a hefty fine.
Here’s what you need to do. It only takes 1 minute to change your settings: First go to your YouTube Creator Studio and click settings. Then click channel, followed by advanced settings. Underneath where it asks: “Do you want to set your channel as made for kids?”, select “No, set this channel as not made for kids.” This method will apply this across your entire channel but you can also adjust this setting for individual videos if you wish.
WARNING: Don’t select the option “Yes, set this channel as made for kids.” just because you want an increased audience reach. If you do select it you will instantly lose access to comments, a selection of adverts, info cards, end screens, stories, the ability to save videos for later, notification bells and playlists. This is due to the fact that these are all classified by the FTC as forms of collecting data. Make these changes asap.
3. Open-Source AI Tool Spleeter Isolates Vocals & Instruments In Any Song
The French music streaming platform Deezer has released a new open-source package that splits audio files into two, four or five separate audio tracks (stems). The AI tool named Spleeter has the ability to isolate vocals from any track as well as separate various other specific instruments. Running on a dedicated GPU, the tool can split audio files into stems 100 times faster than real-time. Spleeter comes with three pre-trained models: two stems – vocals and other accompaniment, four stems – vocals, drums, bass, other and five stems – vocals, drums, bass, piano, other. The code is available on Github for anyone to download and use for free.
Why This Matters
This tool is perfect for producers, DJ’s and mashup artists and provides the perfect opportunity to make fun and engaging social media content. What’s exciting about Spleeter is that whereas before you could only find stems online for popular songs, now it’s possible to turn all recorded music into a mashup or karaoke without access to the source audio. There are other programs out there with this capability but many sources online are reporting that this is the best that’s been released to date and more importantly, unlike many, it’s free. I’ve been impressed with the results with its ability to isolate vocals and you can listen to several examples to judge for yourself here. However, you will need some tech expertise to use this software and unless you’re regularly playing with software like Python or Google’s AI toolkit TensorFlow you’ll have to download a few programs to get everything up and running. You’ll also need to be comfortable using a command-line input (albeit a very simple one) instead of a more accessible visual interface but there are several online guides showing you how to set everything up.
4. Instagram Is Now Hiding “Like” Counts For U.S. Users
Instagram has expanded its testing of hiding the number of “Likes” for users’ posts in the Feed. The testing began in Canada earlier this year and swiftly rolled out to Brazil, Japan, and Australia and now with its big trial in the US, it would indicate that it will roll out worldwide in the not too distant future. “Likes” counts have been removed from public posts in the Feed on the desktop platform, mobile apps and in profiles. Only the account owner is now able to view the number of “Likes” their own posts receive.
Why This Matters
Many artists use the “Likes” metric as a form of social proof and a way to impress prospective managers, labels, A&R’s and playlist curators but you are going to need to potentially rethink your content and marketing strategy on the platform. This isn’t necessarily a bad move from Instagram and could lead to a shift towards deeper levels of engagement, which is far more valuable than just simply double-tapping on your screen and moving on. Rather than chasing likes you should be thinking about ways to encourage this deeper engagement through the form of comments. Pose questions in your captions and interact in an extended dialogue with your fans in the comments, this could help convert them into super fans that rock with you for life and invest in your success. It’s also worth mentioning that this move isn’t very radical as they’re not completely removing likes - ultimately you will still be able to see the “Like” stats on your posts.
5. You Can Now Pay To Promote Your Music On SoundCloud
SoundCloud has introduced a new self-service promotional tool for its SoundCloud Premier creators called Promote. This new tool will allow artists to pay to boost their original tracks to the top of listeners’ feeds and mobile homepages. Artists are able to set their own budget and choose from a variety of advanced targeting options to help drive track plays and reach more listeners. Any artist/creator who is a SoundCloud Pro or Pro Unlimited subscriber can access its Premier program for no extra cost to take advantage of this advertising as well as the free distribution to other streaming platforms that SoundCloud offers.
Why This Matters
Swiftly following in the footsteps of Spotify after they unveiled their “Brand New Music For You” paid pop-up alerts feature last month, SoundCloud are finally introducing their own paid-advertising services. However, while this paid promotion sounds appealing and looks good on paper, from what I’ve read online by users who have tested it the results have not been encouraging. It appears that the targetting is quite limited only with the following options: Country, City, State, Device, Genre, Age, Gender - also note that there aren’t many countries available to choose from yet and the genre list is also quite limited. The minimum budget for a campaign is also $50, quite a lot for independent artists to pay for a new and unproven feature. That $50 doesn’t generate a lot of impressions either it seems, with the automatic calculator on SoundCloud only estimating a mere 2,000-3,000 in some cases for the minimum spend. It’s still only in Beta testing so it’s likely that this service will improve significantly over time but it’s probably best holding off for now. If you are interested in testing this and paying for a campaign then I would recommend reading this artist’s experience first.