An Open Letter To Emerging Artists

Dear Artist,

I have good news: “social media stardom” is a myth. It doesn’t exist. The term was invented by digital immigrants like me to cope with boring 9-to-5 jobs while the younger generation built dream careers out of mom and dad’s bedroom. There’s already a word for people who launch successful careers after building large followings online. They’re called “celebrities.”

Right now there are teens, with no musical training, self-releasing hit singles to huge audiences on Musical.ly and making $100,000 per night on tour. It’s time to stop dismissing them as second-rate “social media stars” and to start embracing their methods as your clearest path to commercial success.

Maybe you cheered the death of Vine as validation of your decision not to embrace new social media platforms. If so, listen up: Musical.ly is not Vine.

Musical.ly has the luxury of hindsight. They know the hazards that brought down the 6-second goliath. They understand, for instance, that their top users are more powerful than the app itself, which is why they prioritize the personal growth and happiness of their community above all else. They recognize that lip-sync culture isn’t going to last forever and that building new communication tools within the app is the only way to stay relevant.

Chinese companies are renowned for replicating the successes of their competitors. Shanghai-based Musical.ly, with 140 million users and a $100,000,000 war chest, is doing just that. Their livestreaming app, Live.ly, is already challenging YouNow. This month, Musical.ly released its own Snapchat/Instagram Stories clone called Channels, complete with face filters and 24-hour expiring uploads. And they’re just getting started, according to founder Alex Zhu:

“You either can become a huge general platform like Instagram or Snapchat, or die. There’s nowhere in between. I believe Musical.ly can become a general social network.” -- Source: Bloomberg 

Soon, all of your communication tools will be available on one app, where your largest, most passionate pool of potential fans are. So here’s my advice: shed the limiting beliefs of my jealous generation and embrace so-called “social media stardom” as a legitimate pathway to celebrity status; find the latest platform with the most users and convert them to fans; be confident, daring, and first. The opportunity right now is on Musical.ly.

- Max

The Chinese Music App That Wants to Be The Next Facebook // Bloomberg

Musical.ly's Teenage Revolution: How the Trend-Setting Lip-Sync App Is Changing the Music Industry // Billboard

The Influencers // 60 Minutes

Musical.ly Live-Streaming Stars Are Earning Thousands of Dollars From Adoring Fans // Variety

How Maria Shabalin, a Musical.ly Star, Spends Her Sundays // NY Times

This lip-syncing app for teens is making money hand over fist // Business Insider

Corporate Tastemaking: The end of Vine and rise of Musical.ly // The Daily Cardinal

Lip-synch battling: what's it like to spend 24 hours on Musical.ly? // The Guardian