TikTok launches talent search competition in Japan, South Korea

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TikTok Spotlight’s announcement event in Japan (Image credit: Bytedance).

Bytedance-owned short video app TikTok launched an in-app talent search program on Friday aimed at discovering independent musicians, starting with those in South Korea and Japan.

First unveiled in Seoul on Mar. 28, TikTok Spotlight is intended to “discover and support independent and unsigned artists,” according to the company. Artists can upload original music videos through the program’s portal from Apr. 5 to May 31 to compete for a number of prizes such as record deals and performance opportunities.

Music videos that artists upload will be promoted on a featured playlist for other users. Over the course of five months starting Apr. 5, or what TikTok refers to as the first season of the program, the app will hold three rounds of judging to narrow performers down to five to 10 winners.

The first round will select the top 100 participants based on the number of plays their songs and music videos garner on TikTok as well as input from the judging panel. The second round will bring that number down to 18. The winners will be determined by a final round, including live performances and total play count on TikTok and Line Music, according to the program’s Japanese website.

TikTok Spotlight is held in partnership with 21 record labels, including Sony Music, Spotify, Universal Music, and Warner Music. It has also recruited 26 producers, songwriters, and singers from Japan and South Korea as mentors and judges.

Prior to the program, TikTok has made significant advances in the two countries. The short video app collaborated with musicians in South Korea including the hit boy band BTS and girl group Blackpink. It also created more than 280 official hashtag challenges on TikTok Japan in 2018.

Bytedance declined to provide further details about the program to TechNode.

However, TikTok Spotlight’s trajectory could be complicated by demands from Sony Music, Universal Music and Warner Music for higher royalties for songs on Douyin and TikTok after contracts expire this spring, according to Bloomberg. With the two sides making little progress in negotiating new deals, support for the new program from the three labels remains uncertain.