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How a media company that turns songs into TikTok trends helped 'Sunday Best' appear in over 20 million videos and become a global hit on Billboard and Spotify

Adi Azran Flighthouse
  • TikTok's imprint on the music industry is undeniable, as tracks that gain popularity on the app continue to chart on streaming platforms and the Billboard Hot 100.
  • While songs often take off organically on TikTok, marketers and record labels also hire influencers to promote new releases.
  • The Gen Z media company Flighthouse works with record labels and artists to promote tracks through influencer marketing on the app. 
  • Business Insider spoke with Flighthouse's head of marketing, Adi Azran, and strategy lead, Sher Chaudhary, to learn more about the company's strategy for making a song trend on TikTok.
  • Click here for more BI Prime stories.
TikTok has become a hit maker in the music industry.
The app's music-friendly interface and its users' penchant for dance challenges have made TikTok a key promotional tool for artists and record labels alike. One need look no further than the Billboard 100 or Spotify Viral 50 to see the app's imprint on popular music in recent months.
Songs can take off on TikTok by accident, as with the sudden surge in popularity of Matthew Wilder's 1983 hit "Break My Stride" earlier this year. In other instances, marketers or artists try to make songs trend by tapping into existing TikTok fads, creating original songs, or adapting tracks for TikTok's short-video format and hiring influencers to promote them.
"TikTok has opened up this door where anything's at play," Adi Azran, the head of marketing at the TikTok-focused media company Flighthouse, told Business Insider. "All old records, all new records — people don't care on TikTok as long as it's fun to make content with."
In addition to running its own popular TikTok account with about 25 million followers, Flighthouse, which is owned by the music-technology company Create Music Group, has a marketing team that works with record labels to promote artists' songs on the app. The company is led by Gen Zers — its CEO, Jacob Pace, is 21 years old — and it has developed a formula to help make songs take off on TikTok by first making small modifications to artists' tracks and then tapping the right influencers to boost a song's visibility.
"You can take a song that's just not great for TikTok and add some custom pieces to it and add some new things to it to make it more 'TikTokkable,'" Azran said.

Creating a version of 'Sunday Best' that's more 'TikTokkable'

Flighthouse was recently hired by the independent record label 10k Projects to put together an influencer campaign for the Surfaces' song "Sunday Best," which helped drive over 20 million user-generated videos on the app and aided in the music duo's rise to the No. 1 spot on Billboard's emerging-artists list earlier this month.
The company helped create momentum for "Sunday Best" (first released in January 2019) by hiring influencers and uploading new versions of the song that they thought would make it spread further on TikTok.
"Something we do at Flighthouse is a lot of custom audios where you can add certain things to a song, before or after, to manufacture a punchline or create context for the song on the platform," Azran said.
"This song is phenomenal. I think that kind of goes without saying," Sher Chaudhary, Flighthouse's strategy lead, said. "But when Flighthouse gets hold of a record, it's kind of incumbent upon us to create context for a song, especially for TikTok."
To boost the popularity of "Sunday Best" almost a year after the song was first released, Flighthouse created a video concept in which users would post highlight videos of things that happened to them in 2019 with "Sunday Best" playing in the background. The company uploaded a new version of the track on TikTok (with its record label's approval) that began with a voice-over calling out the "2019 rewind" challenge.
Adding a callout at the beginning — along with a sound effect of a tape rewinding — gave users the context they needed to create their own "rewind" videos, Azran said.
The company hired about 20 TikTok influencers to make their own "2019 rewinds" during December, choosing creators who generally made "positive content," he said. Flighthouse looks at the comments section on TikTok to understand more about how creators are perceived on the app.
"Just studying the culture and studying comments and studying what's going on, knowing how the audience feels about these people," Azran said. "We take all of these things into consideration on who can just straight up move the needle."
Flighthouse declined to share the names of influencers it hired for its initial "Sunday Best" TikTok campaign, but Addison Rae Easterling may have been an early participant — she appeared in a video on Flighthouse's account in which she said "I did that one for you guys" while listening to the track.

Creating a 2nd wave of TikTok popularity for 'Sunday Best'

The initial "2019 rewind" campaign in December sparked the creation of hundreds of thousands of user-generated videos on TikTok that included Surfaces' "Sunday Best."
By January, Flighthouse decided it was time to give the track a fresh sound on TikTok, since the video concept of looking back on the previous year was growing stale.
"At some point we're like, 'How much longer are people going to want to make compilations?'" Azran said. "It was kind of getting to that point where emails don't really say 'Happy New Year' as much."
The company worked with the TikTok audio creator Rapidsongs to create a more dance-oriented version of "Sunday Best" for a new dance challenge.
"I tapped into rapid," Azran said. "We kind of went back and forth on some ideas. I presented it to the label, and they were cool with it, and so that's what that remix was."
Flighthouse sent the new version of "Sunday Best" to various influencers to create original dances, including the Hype House member Ondreaz Lopez, who posted a video on January 18.
"Luckily, of the first two or three people we chose, Ondreaz was in there, and that was the one that worked," Azran said. "Ondreaz's dance was the one that obviously caught on the most, and then we fully went behind that and spread that out."
Lopez's dance to the remixed version of "Sunday Best" took off, and Rapidsong's upload has been used in 23.8 million videos to date.

'Sunday Best' takes off on streaming platforms like Spotify

The impact of the new dance campaign immediately became evident on streaming platforms.
"Sunday Best" made its first appearance in the top 200 US tracks list on Spotify on January 18, the same day Lopez's dance went live on TikTok.
A little over a week later, the track cracked Spotify's top 100 with about 300,000 daily streams in the US (about 940,000 globally). It broke into Spotify's US Viral 50 on February 11, and as of yesterday, it is the 21st most played song on the streaming platform with over 2 million daily streams globally, according to data provided by Spotify.
The spike in popularity of "Sunday Best" is, of course, not exclusively the result of Flighthouse's TikTok marketing effort. The music group Surfaces, composed of Forrest Frank (25) and Colin Padalecki (22), have performed to live audiences, have an official music and lyrics video on YouTube, and performed on the late-night talk show "Late Night With Seth Meyers" in March.
But TikTok has certainly had a big influence on the artists' recent rise to fame.
Flighthouse said it has worked on a variety of other tracks that have trended on TikTok, including Arizona Zervas' "Roxanne," but most record labels ask them not to disclose when they're involved in running a paid promotion.
Azran and Chaudhary said much of their success in music marketing on TikTok stemmed from spending many hours on the app to identify trends and popular creators.
"I just have my phone taped to my face on TikTok all day," Azran said. "Obviously I'm working on it all day and looking at songs that we're working on, and then just surfing the 'For You,' seeing what's working, why is it working."
"I think I'm on this thing too much," he added.
For more stories on how record labels, artists, and marketers are taking advantage of music trends on TikTok, check out these other Business Insider Prime posts:
  • A Sony Music exec explains the label's TikTok strategy and how it responds when a song like 'Break My Stride' catches fire: Business Insider spoke with the marketing team at Sony Music's Legacy Recordings to learn about its strategy for promoting trending songs on TikTok.
  • The agency behind one of TikTok's top ad campaigns says brands can build a massive audience through original music and dance trends but the 'window is closing quickly': Business Insider spoke with the cofounders of Movers and Shakers to learn more about their TikTok strategy and how brands fit into the app's future.
  • Music artist Tiagz explains how he mastered TikTok's algorithm to score a major record deal, with help from Charli D'Amelio and a 1950s jazz classic: The Canadian rapper Tiagz (Tiago Garcia-Arenas) has built a career as a producer by strategically uploading songs to the short-form video app TikTok.
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* This article was originally published here
https://www.businessinsider.com/how-tiktok-campaign-helped-surfaces-sunday-best-song-become-hit-2020-5
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