Power Marketers of the Music Industry Talk TikTok and Vinyl at Variety’s 2022 Entertainment Marketing Summit

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Among the many topics discussed during the Power Marketers of the Music Industry panel at Variety‘s 2022 Entertainment Marketing Summit, clearly TikTok and the importance of fan relationships were at the front of the group’s minds. Moderated by Variety‘s Andrew Hampp, the panel sorted through the many questions surrounding the marketers who are behind some of today’s top and developing music acts.

This year’s music marketing panelists included: Krystian Santini of RocNation; Corey Sheridan of TikTok North America; Kendra Ellis of Atlantic Records; Val Pensa of RCA Records; and Alissa Pollack, executive VP of global music marketing at iHeartMedia.

Pollack opened the conversation by discussing the key to Doja Cat’s TikTok success: “Doja Cat’s gonna do what Doja Cat wants to do,” she said. Since the release of “Planet Her,” Doja has found remarkable success on the video app which favors “snackable soundbites” — not only making her new releases go viral but also bringing light to her older songs.

Sheridan, who is the head of music partnerships and content operations of TikTok North America, said “Authenticity is the key to success on TikTok,” for a community like Gen Z that seeks to resonate with their favorites. He offered a list of pointers for those looking to break on the algorithm-based app: TikToks should be 17-20 seconds, with a punchline at the end, filmed vertically and using official sounds. Ellis, VP of marketing for Atlantic Records, pointed to Roddy Ricch’s “The Box” as a pivotal moment for the label. The track was never thought to be “single material” until there was a viral trend attached to it — “TikTok forced our hand,” she said.

To set the record straight, TikTok’s Sheridan clarified “We don’t manufacture hits on TikTok.”

The entire operation relies on how “an artist engages closely with their community,” Sheridan said, referencing Jack Harlow’s “First Class,” which hit No. 1 on TikTok a week before it was No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. “We aren’t telling them you need to post three times a day; find your voice, be authentic and be consistent — that’s what matters the most,” he said.

In light of the recent debate surrounding Halsey — who recently shared her frustrations with her label prohibiting the release of their new single without a “viral moment” on TikTok — Ellis responded, “I think it’s just about finding out what’s organic to them… It’s an education process for artists.”

“It should be challenged to make sure [artists] are still being supported,” added Pensa, senior VP and head of marketing at RCA Records. “The reality is you need to engage and develop an audience and this is a tool and a platform that allows you to upsell your music which we’ve never been able to do before — how incredible is that?”

The panelists noted that even language barriers don’t mean much when you can reach the entire world from your couch.

“I don’t see [TikTok] as any different than the promo we used to do in the clubs… It’s about [building] familiarity around the record,” concluded Pensa.

For the panel’s speed round, Santini, who is president of equity distribution for RocNation, touched on the success of vinyl. He described it as an artistic opportunity for the artists and a collectible experience for fans but added that it needs to be more easily accessible and at a faster rate.

Variety‘s annual Entertainment Marketing Summit aims to identify the best opportunities to engage with today’s evolving audiences and consumers who continue to be fast-moving targets across growing media platforms.