Music is a great way for brands to connect with the target consumer they are aiming for when promoting a product online. Social Media Today reports that brands using music and sounds on TikTok experience a 120% increase in awareness, with 88% of consumers stating that the sound on a TikTok is vital to the viewing experience. To reach consumers in the most effective way through music, Sephora has created Sephora Sounds, a collective that supports up-and-coming artists while complementing the retailer's social media content.
Sephora Sounds features over 55 emerging artists and aims to highlight their proprietary music and soundtracks by showcasing through the retailer's social media posts. When creating the initiative, Sephora learned that 70% of participating artists had never been given a paid brand collaboration, and 60% stated that their friends in the music industry had similarly never been given such an opportunity. The retailer wanted to provide this opportunity for a range of talented artists and has reported that within just one month of a pilot campaign, Spotify listenership has grown by an average of 30K for each musician.
Artists featured in Sephora Sounds include 2023's spotlights: Aint Afraid, a sister duo composed of twins Inah and Yahzi who used singing to overcome the struggles of poverty and homelessness at a young age; SuperKnova, aka Ellie Kim, a Korean-American transgender musician who creates Queer Pop music, helping listeners to embrace their true selves; and Precious, a Nigerian-American pop singer/songwriter who has collaborated with well-known industry names including Baby Tate.
"For Sephora, inclusivity among creators doesn't just end with beauty. We believe it should exist across all forms and industries, and that begins with giving voices a platform to be heard," Brent Mitchell, Vice President of Social Media and Influencers at Sephora, tells BeautyMatter. "Within the sound-on world of TikTok and social media today, we're thrilled to be able to feature and amplify a diverse range of musical artists on our social platforms, showcasing the soundtracks that make up the sounds of Sephora—a sound of strength to empower all creators."
To be selected as one of the 55 artists featured on Sephora Sounds, musicians must fit at least three of the following five descriptors: authentic, memorable, uplifting, empowering, and unexpected. "These descriptors are unique identifiers in the catalog for a reason. Often, artists are boxed into one genre or label that doesn't represent them or their music. This roster of artists is inclusive, diverse, and allows them to fully express their creativity and authenticity without limitation. The dedication to this process is what sets Sephora Sounds apart," Mitchell continues.
Examples of content being created using Sephora Sounds range from inclusive storytelling to brand launch debuts. In one video, Sephora Squad member Azelia (@azelialisciousbeauty) gives an eyeliner tutorial in honor of Arab American Heritage Month, explaining how eye makeup is a must for her because, as in many Arab countries, this is the only part of the body not covered, making it worthwhile for makeup looks to be perfected—the video features the song "Chosen Roses" by highlighted artists Aint Afraid. Another example is presented in a video announcing Glossier's launch at Sephora, featuring the song "You" by Sephora Sounds artist Alli Fitz, featuring Ark Woods.
Sephora Sounds comes at a time when many brands face licensing issues on social media regarding the music they use on posts promoting their businesses. In a notable case, drinks brand Bang Energy was ruled liable for copyright infringement after using several Universal Music Group's tracks within their TikTok content and ads. The brand claimed that it believed the usage came under TikTok's music licenses; however, all music used by brands must be synchronized—"an agreement between a music user and the owner of a copyrighted composition (song) that grants permission to release the song in a video format." UMG was not the only one to sue Bang Energy; Sony Music also did, with the case's outcome still pending. The closing of the UMG case predicted Bang Energy was on track to pay "millions in damages." Sony Music has also previously sued fitness brand GymShark, among others, for similar licensing issues.
To tackle infringement issues, TikTok launched the Sound Partners program in 2021, providing users with a library of pre-cleared production and commercial music for brands to freely use. However, most of the time, popular songs that often gain consumer attention are not a part of the program, leaving brands slightly stuck when it comes to the most effective audio they can use for marketing.
"We've done some back-of-the-envelope math where we look across all of the smaller business accounts and commercial accounts we have on TikTok who are wanting to use music in the videos that they post," TikTok's music boss Ole Obermann said back in 2021. "If you run the numbers on that, I think we (through Sound Partners) could make this a billion or even multi-billion dollar business in a very short period of time."
Sephora has arguably done the best thing it can for its social content, as any music produced by Sephora Sounds artists is freely available for them to use in their posts without the risk of copyright infringement. The program will not only uplift artists and give them the recognition they deserve (as 83% report they turn to social media to find new artists) but also make the retailer's social content more fun and engaging for its viewers. As stated by Obermann, TikTok and social media music programs have the potential to become multibillion dollar successes, adding yet another positive potential for the outcome of Sephora Sounds. As music companies continue to crack down on audio licensing across social media, it would be wise for other beauty brands to follow the steps Sephora has taken, seeking out artists that fit their vision and morals while complementing their social media strategies.
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