TikTok Post-Universal Purge & What It Means For Brands

Universal Music Group’s decision to part ways with TikTok has shaken both the music industry and social media users alike. As we enter a new age of TikTok, here are our first thoughts on the benefits for brands in this space.

Universal Music Group’s decision to part ways with TikTok has shaken both the music industry and social media users alike. With the likes of Drake, Taylor Swift, Olivia Rodrigo and more’s catalogues being pulled from the platform overnight, TikTok most definitely looks (well, sounds) different than it ever has. There’s no doubt that this has thrown a wrench in the plans of many content creators (we see you social media managers who’s carefully crafted monthly content now needs an emergency overhaul!), but the situation doesn’t come without its upsides. As we enter a new age of TikTok, here are our first thoughts on the benefits for brands in this space.

@someguynameavery The day the music died…. #umg #UniversalMusicGroup #soundremoved #soundremovedfromtiktok ♬ original sound – Some Guy Avery

Strategy > Trends

It can’t be denied that trending audio in a TikTok asset can skyrocket engagements, but it can also all come crashing down. As more brands became TikTok savvy, there’s been an increase in content that feels more akin to jumping on the bandwagon and trying to shoehorn brand messaging into a song-sized box, that often doesn’t quite fit. Not only does this oversaturate a trend and wear out its life cycle faster, but it leads to content that falls flat and relies more on the song than what the actual point of the content is, and how it fits into a greater content strategy beyond simply “views, I guess.” Without the crutch of the latest hit to lean on, brands will be forced to revisit their TikTok strategies, and if they play it right, come away with a more robust plan that’s more creatively sound.

With trending songs being such a mainstay on the platform, it’s easy to forget that part of TikTok’s initial appeal was the wide variety of content available, and its algorithm that optimized content based on personal preference. There are a myriad of lenses to approach content creation through that go well beyond what the hottest hook is, from follow along vlogs, ASMR, skits, and original sounds (let’s not forget e.l.f.’s original song that led to a viral TikTok campaign). Plus, opening up the sandbox a bit could be just what brands need to take their content to the next, and even a brand new level.

@talialevinger #eyeslipsface true story. #foryou ♬ Eyes. Lips. Face. (e.l.f.) – iLL Wayno & Holla FyeSixWun

Apart from adapting strategies on TikTok itself, this is a good push for brands to begin to dip their toes into other platforms (if they’re not already doing so). Instagram has long been pushing its Reels to fight off TikTok competition, and with YouTube Shorts reaching 70 billion daily views worldwide in 2023, both are solid short-form options. As an added bonus, both allow you to use popular music (with some limitations for YouTube), which means brands can still scratch their trendy audio itch, if it’s decided that’s a must-have element to their strategy.

Micro > Mass

While popular songs are an integral part of TikTok culture, they are not the be-all-end-all of the platform. In fact, TikTok is known for its numerous micro communities where people create content and connect over their shared interests. TikTok has long been recommending brands to take advantage of these spaces, to find and engage individuals who are most inclined to be receptive to their messaging. The Universal shake-up is a great chance for brands to forego watered down “trending” content that appeals to a mass audience. Instead, they can work on cultivating relationships with communities that are aligned to what they’re offering.

With social media being a fast-moving space, it can be hard to remember that what truly matters is reaching and engaging your audience. That what’s best for your brand is not chasing crazy high impressions that don’t convert into tangible action. And thankfully, TikTok has well-developed resources to help you do just that (regardless of the top trending track out there). From its Creator Marketplace to help match brands with creators best suited to their needs, to a wide variety of ad offerings depending on goals and budgets. Not every brand necessarily wants or needs to do a large scale TikTok campaign, but there are still solid options if you want to beef up your content offering or work with platform experts and take your presence to the next level.

@butthatsmyopinion Could TikTok survive without popular music? #tiktokmusic #universalmusicgroup #tiktoktrendingsong ♬ original sound – But That’s My Opinion

With Universal Music Group’s exit, it leaves a space for brands to develop their own unique voice and presence on TikTok. In an age where authenticity matters more than ever, consumers are bound to respond to content that feels true to brand values vs. chiming in where they don’t belong. At the end of the day, it’s about fostering long-term loyalty that matters, and the best way to do that doesn’t always include hopping on the latest trend, nor does it have to. In fact, there’s something even better: why not create your own?