TikTok-style feeds are surging in music as streamers battle for young listeners

  • SoundCloud is joining Spotify and other music apps in adding a TikTok-like feed.
  • The feature encourages active listening by allowing users to comment and “like” songs in-feed.
  • The streaming world is fighting to court young users who want a blended social-music experience.

SoundCloud will begin rolling out a TikTok-style visual feed to all users today, joining a growing number of music-streaming apps that are adding features to match the listening habits of young consumers.

SoundCloud’s discovery feed, which it began testing earlier this year, resembles TikTok’s “For You” page. Users can scroll through vertical “Discover” or “Following” feeds that contain static images linked to 30-second song snippets. They can then “like” a song, add it to a playlist, leave a comment, or subscribe to an artist.

SoundCloud isn’t the only streaming service that has embraced TikTok-style song discovery and active listening. In March, Spotify launched a short-snippet feed. Last month, YouTube Music introduced a “Samples” short-video feed and recently expanded user commenting to its “Now Playing” screen. In addition, TikTok has a “For You” page in its recently released music-streaming app, TikTok Music, which is currently available in five countries.

The rise of scrollable short-format feeds in the music industry demonstrates how streamers are attempting to court young listeners who have grown accustomed to actively interacting with songs rather than simply playing tracks during a subway commute or treadmill workout.

SoundCloud’s app has long encouraged active listening by putting commenting at the forefront, providing a messaging tool, and encouraging artist-to-fan interactions. However, TikTok has helped to accelerate the trend.

“I do think TikTok helped accelerate that shift because it was the first major social platform that allowed users to really engage with music in that way,” Tatiana Cirisano, a music-industry analyst and consultant at MIDiA Research, told Insider in August.

She went on to say that “younger consumers are more interested in having a more social streaming experience.”

In a Q4 2022 survey of 9,000 global consumers, MIDiA discovered that just over half of US adults aged 25 to 34 were interested in social features such as profile pages and messaging in their streaming apps. In a previous survey conducted in Q3 2021, the company discovered that Gen Z respondents preferred active, social experiences similar to TikTok scrolling.

Cirisano believes that as TikTok expands its own music-streaming product into new markets, competition for young users will heat up.

“If they’ve grown up with TikTok before spending money on any subscriptions, and then TikTok Music is out there,” she says, “that could be pretty scary for Spotify and some of these other players if they’re thinking about the next generation.”

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