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TikTok Music reviewed: worth a look

Quick review

TikTok Music
The good
A different take on music services using TikTok controls
Music tracks can have comments applied, some of which will appear in album art
Lyrics are standard on supported tracks, encouraging you to sing along from the get-go
You'll find playlists!
It even has its own take on Shazam
The not-so-good
Algorithm isn't great at the moment
Doesn't have a lot to separate it from other music services beyond controls
TikTok integration seems limited in the beginning: this is mostly about interface and branding

What happens when TikTok creates a music service all of its own? It turns out how you control your music playlists changes with it, as the launch of TikTok Music shows.

What is TikTok Music?

You probably didn’t know you needed another music service, what with the number of options out there, but get ready for another.

Joining the popular trio of Spotify, Apple Music, and YouTube Music, not to mention Tidal, Qobuz, and the random other services you’ve probably not seen, social media service TikTok will also have its own music platform for people to choose between.

The idea is what it sounds like, as TikTok takes its style of app and applies it to a streaming music catalogue, priced at the standard $11.99 monthly price as other services, though in the beginning will cost $8.99 per month and offer one month free, it seems.

What is TikTok Music available on?

Still very much in its infancy, we managed to jump our way onto the service likely because it’s very much early days in Australia where it’s being tested.

That said, it looks as though Aussies can freely jump on as of late-September 2023, joining a handful of other places around the world. We expect that will gradually open up to the rest of the world, and when it does, the keen and eager will find TikTok Music on iOS for the iPhone and Android for pretty much every other mobile device.

What can you find on it?

While TikTok Music is new, the catalogue it pulls from isn’t going to be drastically different from what’s out there. In fact, from the testing we did, it seems as though TikTok Music is relying on the same catalogue both Spotify and YouTube Music use.

One album we tested isn’t on Apple Music, but was on Spotify, TikTok Music, and YouTube Music. This isn’t necessarily a be-all test for catalogues, but working out what is and isn’t on one service typically provides an idea of what music services are using.

So basically, if you like the music available on Spotify now, TikTok Music seems to have it, as well. That includes pop, rock, soul, jazz, hip-hop, electronic, and so on and so on. Frankly, we could build the Pickr Sound Test in TikTok Music if we wanted to, the service is that diverse.

Swipe up and down to change tracks, much like you would on TikTok. Swipe left and right to load listening choices and jump through features. And you can click on likes and comments, too.

Is TikTok Music a good service?

As to whether it’s a good service or not, that comes down to what you want and how it matures.

That said, in its infancy — and it is really young having only just recently launched — TikTok Music feels like a good option for anyone looking for a different take on music streaming today.

These days, music services are doing what they can to stand out in lots of different ways. YouTube Music has videos, Apple Music has lossless and spatial, and Spotify offers an AI counterpart to make your mix more interesting as well as wellness and podcast integration. Everyone is doing something different.

What makes TikTok Music so interesting is its controls and design, drawing from TikTok on the whole.

Controlling music is as easy as using TikTok itself, allowing you to swipe up and change songs, or even swipe from left to right in a playlist to change songs. It’s a refreshing UI change from the same old we’ve become used to in every app, and will feel like second nature to many.

Popular songs will load up and play the lyrics automatically, and there are other neato features such as way to listen to what’s being played around you and find it on TikTok Music. It’s not quite Shazam, even if it clearly also is the same as Shazam just stuck under a TikTok design and branding effort.

You’ll also have playlists you can save to, automated playlists you can start up, and one made “for you” based on your likes. There’s even an obvious “liked songs” playlist, plus a way to synchronise Spotify lists to TikTok. Handy.

What does TikTok Music need?

What it needs is a better algorithm in its playlists, because even “for you” seems to miss the mark much of the time.

If your music tastes are diverse and eclectic, where you can jump between metal and bop as if it was a natural state of affairs, TikTok Music doesn’t seem to work all that well, leaving you more in the popular styles rather than the less popular.

Unlike TikTok’s polished algorithm which tends to adapt to likes and dislikes very quickly, TikTok Music’s algorithm feels nascent and slow, as if it’s still struggling to work out what you like, even if you’ve peppered it with more musical tastes in the setup period than you were supposed to.

Users don’t need to spend more than a minute or so picking the artists they like to inspire the algorithm, but we must have spent a good five or six minutes doing just that, and it still didn’t get the effort right, leaving us in hard rock, alternative, and metal, but almost entirely missing the hip-hop and jazz artists we’d picked.

You’ll find the love heart to like things for yourself and even a comment box, but TikTok Music tracks also don’t link up to a TikTok presence just yet, which feels like a bit of a wasted opportunity.

Likewise, music videos don’t kick off obviously when they exist, and YouTube Music does a better job of music/music video syncing, which can seem very disconnected on the new service.

Worth noting that TikTok Music is so new, only a few countries have access, and that means there’s still plenty of time for TikTok to make it better, which it will over time. That’s what happens with every service. But it definitely needs to, and maybe add some extra features integrating it with TikTok itself.

TikTok Music supports music videos if they exist for the song.

Is TikTok Music good value?

At launch, though TikTok Music has something else going for it: value.

While the $11.99 individual price for the service is about as standard as it gets, TikTok Music has an $8.99 individual cost in the beginning after the trial, which itself can last anywhere between one month and three months depending on where you sign up.

Given that music services are all at that $12 price in Australia at a minimum, a service boasting the same catalogue for three bucks less initially is fairly compelling, though its student and family prices of $5.99 and $18.99 are about the same everywhere, too.

In short, if you wanted to spend less on your service, TikTok Music is worth a try, particularly given the trial periods. When the price goes back up, its value will be less of a thing, since it doesn’t yet seem to offer the extras that other music services deliver on.

Yay or nay?

At its launch, TikTok Music is definitely worth a look, particularly if you’re a TikTok user. It’ll definitely appeal to folks there, though the slightly more economical price is a drawcard for everyone else, at least initially.

Outside of the control and price difference, it’s yet another music service, though one without any majorly new feature. We’re sure that’ll change over time, but right now, it’s worth a look if you have the access. Australians seem to, and we suspect the rest of the world will soon, as well.

TikTok Music
The good
A different take on music services using TikTok controls
Music tracks can have comments applied, some of which will appear in album art
Lyrics are standard on supported tracks, encouraging you to sing along from the get-go
You'll find playlists!
It even has its own take on Shazam
The not-so-good
Algorithm isn't great at the moment
Doesn't have a lot to separate it from other music services beyond controls
TikTok integration seems limited in the beginning: this is mostly about interface and branding
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