2022 was a massive year for music on social media, as short-video apps like TikTok became the dominant platforms for fans to discover new songs.
Music-industry execs are now setting their sights on social as the next big money-making opportunity. And tech leaders across platforms as diverse as Roblox, Peloton, and Snapchat are putting music front-and-center in apps as they recognize songs as a powerful way to drive engagement.
“Every short-format platform’s got music on it now,” Ted Suh, global head of music partnerships at Snap Inc., told Insider. “All this engagement on these types of services is really leading to the music industry finding incremental business value, whether it’s leveraging this data to help them get radio play, or more spins on Pandora, to even kicking off national tours.”
The marriage of short-form video and music has become so pervasive that it’s become a focus for tech incumbents including YouTube, which has 80 million paying subscribers across its YouTube Music and Premium services. Legacy music brands like the satellite-radio company SiriusXM are even creating TikTok-branded radio stations.
“I’ve always taken a very agnostic view as to where a piece of music comes from,” Steve Blatter, the senior vice president and general manager of music programming at SiriusXM, told Insider in November. “Through our relationship with TikTok, we are able to learn about new artists, new songs that are bubbling under.”
The shift to social for music discovery has had a big impact on artists’ career development, as well. A fleeting TikTok trend or viral YouTube video can jumpstart a career for an up-and-coming performer. A&R managers at record labels scan social media for new talent.
The process has been both democratizing and exhausting for performers who often have to maintain active accounts across social media to succeed.
“TikTok has now become a whole other part of our job that takes up such a significant amount of time,” music artist Taylor Upsahl told Insider in June. “As artists, we’re all still in a transitional phase of like, ‘Okay, cool, how do we find time and energy to now be essentially content creators and influencers?'”
Insider created this inaugural list of power players at tech platforms who are doing innovative work in music and social as we seek to understand the myriad ways that social media is changing the industry. We considered companies across media categories, including gaming, music streaming, messaging, and short and long-form entertainment, drawing nominations from our audience, experts in the industry, and the companies themselves.
All of the 15 leaders, listed below in alphabetical order by company, work collaboratively on teams. Insider is recognizing these particular individuals due to their work on specific projects that were new or innovative in music and social.
2022 was a transitional year for Meta, the tech giant that runs social apps including Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, and builds VR hardware like the Quest 2.
The company rebranded in late 2021 to make a long-term bet on the metaverse while also investing in social features like short-form video to compete with relative newcomer TikTok.
In the past year, the company’s music team worked with artists and rights holders to integrate songs deeper into apps like Instagram, Facebook, and its virtual-reality play, Horizon Worlds.
Malika Quemerias, Meta’s director of music-artist partnerships, led a team that worked directly with artists and their associates to build custom experiences across the company’s various apps. Those efforts included a Post Malone VR concert in Horizon Worlds, a project with The Notorious B.I.G. estate to bring Biggie to fans through VR, and the launch of a digital-collectibles product on Instagram with Jaden Smith. Quemerias’ team also partnered with Girls Who Code and RCA Records to create augmented-reality filters for artists Doja Cat and Latto.
“As we build towards the metaverse and the expansiveness of what it will mean for artists in the future, this year we focused many of our partnerships on building the bridge between our existing social platforms and what is to come,” Quemerias told Insider in an email in December.
Scott Sellwood, Meta’s director of music-business development and music-label and publishing partnerships, oversees the company’s business relationships with labels and publishers for its suite of apps and platforms.
In July, Sellwood’s team launched a new model for music and creator monetization for Facebook that allowed users to add licensed music to videos and still earn a cut of ad revenue, which was previously uncommon on most major platforms including YouTube.
“This launch both delivers on our promise to the music industry to build sustainable win-win businesses and provides creators with monetization options they didn’t have before,” Sellwood told Insider in an email. “We worked closely with the music industry to forge this model and share a belief that building community between creators and music (and the artists who make it) will grow the pie for everyone over time.”
Gaming is increasingly becoming a focus for the music industry as artists and labels look for new ways to grow digital revenue.
Roblox in particular has taken center stage as a new promotional tool for performers, with executives at the major labels calling out their work on the platform in earnings calls throughout 2022.
Karibi Dagogo-Jack oversees Roblox’s music partnerships, a role that centers on helping artists and their labels find creative ways to engage with the platform’s roughly 59 million daily-active users.
Artists like Elton John and 24kGoldn performed virtual concerts on the platform in the past year. Other performers have used Roblox to sell custom virtual merchandise for users to put on their avatars, such as band t-shirts. And several performers and music brands created custom environments within Roblox, such as the “Festival Tycoon” game launched by Gamefam Studios on behalf of The Chainsmokers, Columbia Records, Sony Music Entertainment, or Spotify Island, a custom gaming-and-sound-creation experience crafted for the digital streamer.
“We understand that this is a new space and we have to help partners onboard,” Dagogo-Jack told Insider. “We’ve seen uplift in off-platform listening from on-platform activity. I think that’s what’s encouraging so many partners to continue to think about us as a space to promote and market their music.”
Snapchat has invested heavily in its music offering over the last few years, opening up the ability for users to add songs from major labels, publishers, and thousands of other rights holders to messages, stories, and Spotlight videos.
Since licensed music was added in 2020 to features across Snapchat, the company said more than 2.7 billion videos have been created using songs that have been heard at least 183 billion times.
The company’s focus on direct messaging and its head start in augmented reality have made it a unique promotional tool for the music industry.
Ted Suh, the company’s global head of music partnerships who joined the company in 2018, was instrumental in securing its global licensing agreements with the major labels and independents. Suh also helped the company set up partnerships with distribution platforms like DistroKid that focus more on emerging artists.
“Because we’re a messaging platform, about 40% of all these videos that are created with music are going straight to the chat side of the app,” Suh told Insider. “You’re sending something to your best friend or a few of your best friends. They’re more likely to actually view that content and do something with it, whether it’s reply or go onto a streaming service and discover that full song.”
Manny Adler, Snap’s head of music strategy who joined in 2015, worked with Suh to launch the company’s Sounds product. In July, Adler helped roll out a creator fund specifically for music artists. He’s also worked on developing augmented-reality partnerships with music brands and performers, including working with Live Nation on a live-music experience project and helping artists with their music-promotion strategies that incorporate AR lenses.
“The opportunity that I’ve really spent a lot of time on is thinking about other distribution opportunities for that content outside of just sending a message with the song,” Adler told Insider. “How can we integrate it into augmented reality? How can we extend that content, give it a new life, and a new opportunity to reach an audience on Snapchat?”
SoundCloud offers a set of social features that are unique for a music-streaming platform.
Users have the ability to add comments at a specific moment in a song beneath each track’s waveform, for example. Artists can also chat with fans directly using the platform’s built-in messaging tool.
In October, the company rolled out “SoundCloud for Artists” in a push to blend features around creator monetization, analytics, and distribution into a single toolkit for performers. The company pays artists based on specific listenership through its fan-powered royalties program.
Leading the charge on the company’s creator strategy is Tracy Chan, its SVP of creator, who joined the company in June after serving as head of music at Twitch. Before Twitch, Chan was at Spotify where he helped develop its Spotify for Artists program.
“Our goal is to connect artists and fans and just help artists understand who their fan base is and make it really easy for them to have that bidirectional conversation,” Chan told Insider. “Most platforms are just this broadcast outwards and we think the power is actually that two-way conversation.”
The company views its platform as complementary to other streaming and social apps in the ecosystem.
“We know that creators have to be everywhere,” Chan said. “You have to be on TikTok. You have to be on YouTube. You have to be on Instagram, and all of those places. And that’s why through our distribution offering in SoundCloud for Artists, we distribute to TikTok. We’ll help you figure out what’s the right snippet that gives you the right heat that will eventually convert them over to listening to you.”
As a dominant player in the streaming ecosystem, Spotify’s built-in music-discovery features are an important tool for artists and labels. But the company’s off-platform social-media strategy, including its end-of-year Wrapped campaign, made the biggest splash in 2022.
Elissa Ayadi, global head of social-media marketing, helps execute the company’s organic social strategy on platforms like Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, and YouTube.
Most notably, Ayadi oversaw the company’s strategy for original social content for Wrapped, its annual data-based review of each user’s listening habits.
In the first 24 hours of the 2022 Wrapped campaign, the company nearly doubled its social mentions year-over-year, becoming a top 10 trending category on Twitter in more than 85 countries, and achieving around 678 million new TikTok views on videos featuring the #SpotifyWrapped and #SpotifyWrapped2022 hashtags.
The company began its “warmup phase” in social promotions for Wrapped in late October when users began chattering about the upcoming data drop.
“We started playing in the conversation as it was happening and really just talking back to fans on Twitter and participating with them and playing with them and sharing some of these memes,” Ayadi told Insider. “They’re really driving the conversation and we’re participating in it.”
TikTok has become a dominant player in music discovery.
Songs that first appear as 15-second snippets in TikTok videos often end up charting on the Billboard 100 or Spotify Viral 50 after users later stream full versions. Its influence in music has even become a source of leverage in negotiations with music-rights holders.
In 2022, the company expanded its music ambitions into new categories, launching a song-distribution tool called SoundOn, testing out new sound-editing features on and off its app, and encouraging producers to build remixed versions of tracks through its StemDrop promotion. Its parent company ByteDance may even be planning to launch a standalone “TikTok Music” app, per a trademark filing.
TikTok has a global team of music execs that oversee editorial content, events, licensing negotiations, and work with partners like record labels and artists.
These TikTok staffers helped execute some of the company’s innovative projects in 2022:
Lysa Cardenas, the global music-program manager at TikTok, oversaw the launch of “Rompiendo,” a company program designed to highlight Latin music both on and off TikTok during a year where the genre dominated across all platforms.
“Rompiendo” began as an editorial feature on TikTok’s sounds page and eventually expanded into artist performances and a segment on SiriusXM’s TikTok Radio channel. Artists featured through the program include Anitta, Daddy Yankee, Camilo, Feid, Yahritza Y Su Esencia, and Paopao.
“The number of Latin music artists trending and gaining traction specifically in the US but globally as well has just been enormous in 2022,” Cardenas told Insider. “We’re really looking at all of the ways that music can exist and be highlighted on platform and also out in the world.”
Kelli Slade, the company’s commercial music and creative licensing lead in EMEA, helped TikTok roll out its SoundOn product, organizing a three-day writers camp with BMG Publishing and SoundOn artists that led to the creation of 12 near-complete tracks. Slade also helped craft the commercial and UGC licensing agreements that enabled the company to launch its remix-artist focused StemDrop promotion with Samsung.
Steven J. Horowitz, the company’s music-editorial lead in the US who formerly served on the music-programming team at YouTube Music and as a senior editor and associate editor at Billboard, led all music-related live programming for TikTok in the region. This included overseeing livestreams for artists like Daddy Yankee, Madonna, Meghan Trainor, Becky G, and Pink. Horowitz also directed the company’s social-content strategy around off-platform events like the Billboard Music Awards and Latin Grammys.
Madina Sissoko, a music content and trends manager at the company, focuses on curating content for TikTok’s sounds page in North America as well as working with partners at SiriusXM to curate its TikTok-focused channel. Sissoko also led editorial initiatives at TikTok for campaigns around Black Music Month, Arab Heritage Month, Black History Month, #Afrobeats, and #RnBVibes.
Henrique Fares Leite, TikTok’s music-focused head of markets and partners development in Latin America, helped the company build its presence in the region, including hosting the company’s biggest livestreamed performance of a single artist, J Balvin, which drove 6.1 million unique views. Fares Leite also directed the company’s music-festival strategy in the region, with presences at events like EDC Mexico, Corona Capital MX, Vive Latino MX, and Lollapalooza AR and CL.
YouTube has long been one of the most important social-entertainment platforms for monetization in the music industry.
“YouTube’s aspiration is to be the biggest generator of revenues for the music industry,” Boyd Muir, CFO and president of operations at Universal Music Group, said in November at the Morgan Stanley TMT Conference.
In addition to serving as a music-video hub, YouTube has a standalone streaming service, YouTube Music, and a copyright-detection toolkit that has supported monetization for music-rights holders for years.
In 2022, the company’s highest priority project tied to music has been YouTube Shorts, its answer to TikTok. Thus far, Shorts has primarily served as a promotional tool for artists and record labels. Starting in early 2023, the company plans to begin sharing a portion of Shorts ad revenue with music-rights holders.
YouTube’s music strategy, including its approach to music on Shorts, is overseen by Lyor Cohen, YouTube and Google’s global head of music. Cohen, a former Warner Music Group exec who founded the label 300 Entertainment, told GQ that short-form video is his biggest focus when it comes to competition.
“I want our short-form video not to be a sugar high, but actually lead them to something more profound: a fandom that’s engaged,” he told the magazine in November.
Vivien Lewit, the company’s global head of artists, heads up its music-content-programming strategy, including coordinating artist performances and events.
Tuma Basa, YouTube’s director of Black music and culture, leads its efforts as it pertains to Black music, which he said included genres like hip-hop, R&B, Afrobeats, amapiano, and dancehall. Basa works across divisions like marketing, ad sales, artist-and-label relations, trust and safety, and communications. Like Cohen, Basa also touted short-form video as the next big opportunity for the music industry in a November interview on YouTube’s blog.