Musical.ly was once a famous social media platform that allowed users to create, share, and discover video-based content. However, the app was shut down by its owner, ByteDance. This decision was made in order to merge Musical.ly’s technology and user base into another app.
Despite its brief existence, Musical.ly gained a significant following and had a major impact on the social media landscape. This article will explore the rise and fall of Musical.ly as well as its legacy in the world of social media.
Table of Contents
What is Musical.ly?
Musical.ly is a popular social media platform that allows users to create, share, and explore video-based content. One of the most notable features of the app is its focus on music, with users typically lip-syncing to thousands of different songs available on the platform.
To promote content, Musical.ly highlights trending videos and provides dedicated song charts and leaderboards. In addition, the app offers various video editing tools, including cropping, filters, and color enhancements.
The social aspect of Musical.ly comes from the ability to follow other accounts, like, comment, share content, and directly message other members. Videos created on the app can be shared on other platforms, such as Instagram or Facebook, with a Musical.ly watermark.
To ensure authenticity, Musical.ly manually verifies users, with every verified member account featuring a crown emoji. The platform can only be accessed by downloading its mobile app, which is available on both Android and iOS devices.
In mid-2018, Musical.ly was sold to ByteDance and subsequently shut down. The reasons for its closure, as well as its origins and the people behind it, will be explored in the upcoming chapters.
What Happened To Musical.ly?
Musical.ly was founded in 2014 by Alex Zhu and Luyu Yang, with its headquarters based in Shanghai, China. The company’s initial idea was to create a short-form video platform called Cicada, which included educational content between three and five minutes long. However, the idea failed to resonate with its intended audience and educators, leading to the company’s inability to take off.
After his failure, Zhu returned to SAP to do some soul-searching. During one of his daily commutes to SAP’s San Francisco office, he saw young people recording themselves using their front-facing camera while lip-syncing to the music they played. This inspired Zhu to create a platform that combined music, videos, and social networking to attract the early-teen demographic on one platform.
Musical.ly struggled to take off initially, with only a few thousand people downloading the app within its first week. The Chinese market, in particular, proved to be a tough market due to vastly different browsing patterns. The Chinese market is dominated by so-called super apps like WeChat, which offer anything from food delivery to booking hotels.
Reasons Why Musical.ly Became Successful
To make matters worse, the company began to run out of cash. However, scarcity often leads to added creativity. In the case of Musical.ly, the team made a few key changes that completely altered its growth trajectory.
- One key realization that the team had was that the Musical.ly logo (known as the watermark) was automatically cropped out every time a user shared his or her content on other social platforms. As a result, they repositioned the logo, vastly increasing the reach that each video had.
- Another key to its success was its pivot to lip-syncing type of content. Zhu noticed that Musical.ly saw an uptick in downloads every Thursday. He soon discovered that this trend was a direct result of the Lip Sync Battle TV show. After the show, people would search the app store for tools to create similar videos, which more often than not prompted them to Musical.ly. The team decided to double down on that use case by heavily promoting lip-syncing-related features within the app.
- Additionally, the team revamped the app’s home screen and made the whole platform easier to navigate. As a result, literally exploded. By the summer of 2015, a year after launching, Musical.ly had hit the number-one spot in the App Store.
The exponential growth was rewarded with another round of funding. In August, Musical.ly raised a whopping $16.6 million in funding from prestigious investors such as Greylock, GGV Capital, and others. Musical.ly’s rampant growth also brought on other competitors. Startups like Dubsmash were riding the lip-syncing concept to millions of users themselves.
Some of Musical.ly’s creators, such as Ariel Martin (known as Baby Ariel), even reached international fame and amassed millions of followers in the process. By the end of 2015, Musical.ly had grown to more than 40 million users.
This growth allowed the team to raise yet another round of funding. In May 2016, Musical.ly announced another round of $133.5 million, valuing the company at more than $550 million. That same month, it launched a second app called live.ly, which enabled users to launch livestreams.
Musical.ly’s rather lax stance on age monitoring led to some hefty public backlash, all while user numbers kept rising. By the end of 2016, Musical.ly had 130 million registered members, of which 40 million were logging in every month.
Its continuous success prompted the company to continue experimenting with new video-related concepts. In February 2017, it launched Ping Pong, a video group chat app that mimicked the likes of Houseparty. Two months later, Musical.ly entered a partnership with Apple Music, which began to power its music catalog. Now that its registered member base has grown to over 200 million, it has pivoted away from lip-syncing only to surfacing any form of video content.
Musical.ly, to support the tactical shift, inked a deal with Viacom, NBCU, and Hearst to create short-form and original content on its platform. Examples included Nick Cannon’s Wild ‘N Out comedy show or Greatest Party Story Ever.
Additionally, the team unveiled a major redesign of the app in August 2017 with an increased emphasis on personalization and recommendations. This included dedicated ‘Featured’ and ‘What To Watch Next’ sections, among others.
Why Did Musical.ly Shut Down?
Musical.ly was shut down because its parent company, ByteDance, wanted to merge its technology and userbase into another app it owned called TikTok. ByteDance had launched a Chinese version of TikTok, known as Douyin, in September 2016, which was able to amass millions of users in its home market. However, the company struggled to establish the app in foreign markets.
On the other hand, Musical.ly had achieved success in the United States, with its app resonating with American youth, while failing to do the same in China. ByteDance saw an opportunity to expand its reach and acquire Musical.ly’s user base, which boasted hundreds of millions of registered members at the time of acquisition.
ByteDance had also acquired Flipagram, another video-based content app, just nine months prior to acquiring Musical.ly. Both companies had negotiated licensing deals with all four major music labels, making it easier for ByteDance to create content based on viral music and establish TikTok’s success strategy.
Given ByteDance’s financial resources, it was able to pay a significant amount to acquire Musical.ly’s users and merge its technology into TikTok. Over the following months, ByteDance spent even more money to advertise TikTok and establish it as one of the world’s most popular social media platforms.
In summary, Musical.ly was shut down because ByteDance saw an opportunity to expand its reach and acquire Musical.ly’s users, which it merged into another app it owned called TikTok. This move allowed ByteDance to establish TikTok as one of the world’s most popular social media platforms, thanks in part to the successful strategies of both Musical.ly and Flipagram.
Who Owns Musical.ly?
Musical.ly is owned by ByteDance, a Chinese tech company. In 2017, ByteDance’s sub-organization Toutiao acquired Musical.ly for a purchase price ranging between $800 million to $1 billion. Following the acquisition, ByteDance merged Musical.ly into its existing app, TikTok. Today, TikTok is valued at around $50 billion, while ByteDance itself is valued at $425 billion.
FAQs “What Happened to Musical.ly?”
Why was Musical.ly rebranded as TikTok?
In 2017, the Chinese technology giant ByteDance acquired Musical.ly. By August 2018, they chose to rebrand Musical.ly as TikTok, integrating it with their pre-existing short-video platform, Douyin, which already had significant traction in China. The primary aim was to create a consolidated global brand and expand its reach beyond the predominantly teenage audience of Musical.ly.
What changes were made to user accounts during the Musical.ly to TikTok transition?
Musical.ly users transitioned to TikTok without any loss of content or followers. Despite this, the app saw substantial modifications in its features and interface. For instance, TikTok rolled out advanced video editing tools and a revamped homepage.
Will Musical.ly ever make a comeback?
ByteDance has shown no indications of bringing back Musical.ly. Their focus remains on enlarging TikTok’s user community and rolling out innovative features.
When was Musical.ly originally launched?
Musical.ly made its debut in 2014.
How did users react to the transition from Musical.ly to TikTok?
The shift from Musical.ly to TikTok garnered mixed reactions from its users. While some were disappointed with the changes in the app’s features and interface, others embraced the enhanced platform and its diverse content opportunities.
Were there any legal or regulatory challenges with the Musical.ly to TikTok rebranding?
In 2019, TikTok came under the lens of the US Federal Trade Commission following allegations of unlawful data collection from users below 13 years of age. As an outcome of the probe, a $5.7 million fine was levied on the company. Moreover, data privacy and national security concerns led to bans and constraints on TikTok in various nations, including the US and India