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TikTok Royalties: All You Need to Know

TikTok Royalties: All You Need to Know

TikTok has recently entered the arena of artist royalties, joining established players like Spotify and Apple Music. To facilitate payments for music streamed on TikTok, most labels and distributors have inked licensing agreements with the platform. But before we delve into the nitty-gritty of payment procedures, let's first understand how music distribution functions within the TikTok ecosystem.

TikTok's Creator Fund: How musicians can earn money through it

By having your music available on TikTok, you're essentially granting millions of users permission to incorporate your music into their videos. You'll receive a proportional share of TikTok's subscription revenue each month, calculated according to the terms outlined in your distributor's comprehensive contract with TikTok.

In July 2020, TikTok introduced its Creator Fund, aimed at compensating the platform's most successful creators. Now, artists enrolled in the Creator Fund report earnings ranging from $0.02 to $0.04 per 1,000 views. For instance, a moderately successful video garnering 500,000 views could potentially earn you around $20. Consequently, creators boasting tens of millions of followers could earn approximately $100,000 to $200,000 annually from the Fund.

Royalties and revenue sharing: How TikTok collects and distributes royalties

Music royalties come from TikTok's revenue stream. Your distributor acts as your representative, gathering your royalties and then transferring them to you. Each distributor and label operates under their own specific agreements with TikTok, dictating the artist's payout. Once more, compensation is only based on the number of videos featuring your music, not the number of plays. And you need a distributor to receive TikTok royalties. If you’re an artist and choose to upload your music directly to TikTok, you won't receive royalties since these payments are handled by distributors in accordance with their agreements with the platform.

The exact amount can fluctuate depending on the distributor, and it can also vary from month to month. However, it's worth noting that earnings from TikTok are considerably lower compared to those from platforms like Spotify, mainly because only a snippet of your song is typically featured in the videos. 

Based on the latest available data, TikTok pays about 3 cents for each new video that includes your song. This implies that you'd need 1,000 videos using your music to earn $30. With these numbers in mind, $1,000,000 uses of your track would generate approximately $30,000.

TikTok disburses royalties on a quarterly basis, so you can anticipate receiving payments from your distributor or label approximately every three months.

There have been legal tussles and disagreements among artists, record labels, and TikTok concerning royalty payouts and licensing arrangements. These incidents shed light on broader issues within the music industry, particularly around ensuring fair compensation for artists in today's digital landscape.

In January 2024, Universal Music Group made headlines by threatening to yank its music from TikTok amidst a royalties dispute. Such a move would deprive over a billion platform users of access to a vast library of tunes by heavyweights like Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande, and Rihanna. Universal, in an open letter, accused TikTok of attempting to develop a music-centric business model without adequately compensating artists. In response, TikTok asserted it had struck "artist-first" deals with all other labels and publishers.

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TikTok royalties compared to Spotify or Apple Music

TikTok employs a different method for calculating royalties compared to other major music streaming platforms. While Spotify and Apple Music pay royalties based on stream numbers or play count, TikTokpays you based on the amount of videos that use your music. That is why a high volume of views on TikTok does not necessarily mean substantial royalty payments. 

For instance, hundreds of videos featuring a specific sound, even if they have no views, could generate more revenue than a single video with a million views. In the context of TikTok, the number of streams is irrelevant.

Impact on new and independent artists: Opportunities and challenges on TikTok

Every month, TikTok welcomes over 100 million new users. The most successful videos have propelled users to chart-topping singles, overnight stardom, and great record deals. This is largely due to the fact that anyone can gather millions of TikTok streams.

The benefits

  • TikTok serves as an expansive platform where emerging independent artists can swiftly gain exposure and connect with a global audience. Through the platform's viral challenges and trends, relatively unknown artists have the potential to skyrocket to fame almost instantly, leveraging TikTok's vast reach to showcase their talent and captivate viewers from all corners of the globe.
  • Moreover, TikTok's algorithm for content discovery offers independent artists a great opportunity to be stumbled upon and appreciated by users worldwide. By surfacing content organically based on user preferences and engagement patterns, the platform enables even artists with a modest following to be discovered and embraced by audiences across various demographics, further amplifying their reach and potential fanbase.
  • The platform's emphasis on short-form, captivating content perfectly aligns with the attention spans of today's audience, providing independent artists with a creative outlet to share compelling snippets of their music. By leveraging this format, artists can spark intrigue, foster engagement, and potentially convert viewers into devoted fans, establishing valuable connections with audiences in the process.
  • Also, TikTok facilitates direct interaction between artists and their fans through features such as live streaming, comments, and duets. This direct engagement fosters a sense of community and intimacy, allowing artists to cultivate loyal followings and deepen their connection with their audience. By leveraging these interactive features strategically, independent artists can nurture fan relationships, gather feedback, and build a dedicated fanbase that supports their journey.

The challenges

  • The opportunities are significant, but there are also some drawbacks for new independent artists. Monetization is the number one hurdle despite the platform's vast exposure potential. Converting this exposure into tangible revenue can be particularly challenging, especially for smaller creators. While TikTok offers monetization options such as the Creator Fund, these may not always result in substantial earnings, leaving many independent artists struggling to monetize their content effectively.
  • Next, TikTok's algorithm is both a blessing and a curse. The platform's algorithm plays a crucial role in determining content visibility, often favoring established or trending artists over lesser-known ones. This inequality in visibility can make it difficult for independent artists to gain traction and reach wider audiences, hindering their growth and potential success on the platform.
  • More than that, independent artists on TikTok face copyright issues that can complicate their journey. Instances of copyright infringement, where users utilize music without proper licensing or attribution, are a significant concern. This poses challenges for artists, particularly independent ones, in protecting their intellectual property and ensuring fair compensation for their work, further complicating their efforts to monetize their content effectively.
  • And while TikTok can generate viral moments and short-term exposure, building a sustainable career as an artist requires more than just fleeting fame. Independent artists must navigate the challenge of sustainability by strategizing how to capitalize on TikTok's opportunities while also establishing a broader presence across multiple platforms and revenue streams. This requires careful planning and execution to ensure long-term success and viability in this competitive landscape.

Case studies and success stories: Musicians who have benefited financially from TikTok

Countless musicians have seen their fortunes soar and their careers flourish thanks to their presence on TikTok. Here are a few standout case studies and success stories:

  • Lil Nas X's breakout hit ‘Old Town Road’ is one of the best examples. The track gained immense popularity on TikTok before conquering charts worldwide. Its success on the platform played a pivotal role in propelling Lil Nas X to stardom and financial success.
  • Doja Cat's track ‘Say So’ became a TikTok phenomenon as users choreographed dance routines to its catchy tune. The viral challenge propelled the song to the pinnacle of the charts, contributing to the artist’s commercial triumph and bolstering her earnings.
  • Saweetie's ‘My Type’ went viral on TikTok, with users showcasing their ‘type’ in videos set to the song's chorus. The song's widespread adoption on the platform elevated Saweetie's profile, expanded her fanbase, and opened doors to financial opportunities.

These stories show how TikTok serves as a potent platform for musicians to gain exposure, connect with audiences, and ultimately achieve financial success through increased streams, downloads, merchandise sales, and various revenue streams.

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How much does TikTok pay per 1,000 views?

Top creators have disclosed that TikTok compensates them at a rate ranging from $0.02 to $0.04 per 1,000 views through Creator Fund. 

Why does TikTok pay so little?

TikTok's payment structure relies on the Creator Fund, which is a fixed pool of funds divided among creators irrespective of platform growth. As the creator base expands, the fund is distributed among more individuals, resulting in lower earnings per view for each participant.

Are there different royalty rates for different types of content on TikTok?

Usually, TikTok doesn’t have different royalty rates for different types of content based on the genre or category of the video. Royalties are determined by agreements between TikTok and music rights holders, such as artists, record labels, and music publishers. These agreements may specify a standard royalty rate or a percentage of revenue earned from advertisements or other monetization methods on the platform.

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Gregory Walfish
Co-founder of Xposure Music, Gregory Walfish stands at the intersection of music, tech, and culture. With a software engineering background, he's passionate about artist development and technology.

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