Musical.ly, haven’t HEARD of it? You will. Here’s what you need to know.

By Rachel Herskovitz

“Another video social network is born and this time with a gentle twist of audio.”

Musical.ly, the video social network that is most popular with young teens (Generation Z) has 70 million registered users now and has not dropped out of the Top 40 in the iTunes store, which is the only way to promote your app on Apple devices. It’s a little like Snapchat (instant stories), a little like Dubsmash (music lip synching) and a little like YouTube (you can become a star with your content).

Musical.ly’s premise is fairly simple. Users (or musers) upload 15 second videos to the platform, but the catch is that the users pick music in the background, and lip sync to the song. Forgetting the copyright issues here, they can then share this on Musical.ly, Instagram, Vine, and/or Twitter. So, my millennial self downloaded Music.ly to see what this is about.

There is the music. Singing and dancing along to your favorite songs is something we’ve all done. Musical.ly takes the joy we find in James Corden’s “Carpool Karaoke”, adds a time – lapse aesthetic, and shares it with your community of friends and followers. Users can upload their own original tunes too, launching music into the community they’ve already built.

There is more than music too.

Musical.ly provides the ability to shoot videos with a trending phrase as the music. For example, the phrase last week was it’s “time to go back to school”, and musers uploaded a series of videos showing (similar to music) them saying the phrase in short-form video. The videos are then displayed in a category on the application that has 10-15 additional phrases in the form of hashtags. This is clever way Musically - Generation Zto test into an experience that is outside of music.

As the preferred network of 12-20 year olds, Musical.ly is capitalizing on a generation that has grown up in a digital world, knowing YouTube and reality stars as well as (if not better) than Oscar winning celebrities, and still has the time to create, upload, and spend time on a platform. While I spent my teen years scrap booking my memories into an album, today’s teens are able to document in real time. And that they are.

What does the future look like for the fledgling network?

As Musical.ly raises $100 million in funding, the question (as always)`begs whether the platform can drive revenue and become profitable. There are some things to consider as the company moves in that direction: (1) Does advertising work here? (2) How does the age (12+) impact what can be done? (3) How does the music industry use?

  1. Advertising, in the traditional sense does not work here. The key here, is to camouflage advertising into something Generation Z wants to see. Influencers, then become the key to reaching the audience. While this doesn’t seem all that different from millennials, it is more prevalent. On top of that, Generation Z is expecting it. They want brands and advertisers to reach out to content creators and have them help make the brand/product more relevant. The playbook is there for this generation. As for Musical.ly, they may eventually roll out advertising products to sell (all platforms do), but for now the best way to advertise is to partner with top musers, or existing artists that have your potential audience as a fan base.If Musical.ly was looking for my opinion, I’d take the “trending phrase” phenomenon currently on platform and add branded “jingles”. You remember these, right? “Gimme a break, gimme a break, break me off a piece of that… Kit-Kat-Bar!” THIS is the perfect medium to deliver a high impact, NATIVE, audio message that people can muse along to, and share.
  2. But, Musical.ly’s issue is going to be a traditional partnership with advertisers. Since the age is 12+, most brands have stringent guidelines around how and what they can say (or even they cannot) to this audience. Their pool for partners is going to be smaller, and right now, that probably works since they are still in the early adopter phase. Once they reach the tipping point (say, where Snapchat is today), they will have to add age restrictions to targeting and messaging.
  3. Right now, Musical.ly (as the name suggests) focuses on music. Live-streaming (periscope style) is next, as well as the snackable videos that have fun, trending phrases. But, music is the lifeblood of the social network and already they are working closely with the music industry to secure rights with major labels to feature the work of some big-name artists. Because of the partnership mentality and the fact that many artist’s audiences are on the platform, there has been a positive response. Music.ly provides links to purchase the music, as well

Musical.ly is one to watch.

It will be interesting to see how they ramp up outside of music, position themselves to drive revenue, and combat the existing giants of social media: Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat. We’ve already seen the likes of Vine fall by the wayside, or get scooped up in an acquisition. Here’s hoping to Musical.ly’s success and it’s help in understanding the next generation of consumers.

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