Banding youth with pop culture

Updated 2017-02-27 09:28:26 China Daily
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Musers (users of Musical.ly) perform at a show to mark Local Video Day in Berlin in August 2016.

Musers (users of Musical.ly) perform at a show to mark Local Video Day in Berlin in August 2016.

Musical.ly hits the right notes with international expansion

Jacob Sartorius, 14, a U.S. national based in Reston, Virginia, spends several hours a day producing and uploading short personal videos on to Musical.ly, a video-sharing and social networking app owned by an eponymous Shanghai-based startup.

In the age of YouTube and Youku, that's pretty standard for a tech-savvy teenager, you might think. Only, Sartorius has 15.4 million fans or followers-a social media superstar among teenagers and young people under 20, if you will.

That's the power of young talent. Sartorius has a talent for producing 15-second personal videos that show him lip-synching to song soundtracks. Girls find him cute and charming. Through similar videos, other teenyboppers showcase their talent like dancing.

Musical.ly has made a name, and money, for itself by monetizing such talent.

Ever since its launch in 2014 with focus on users in the United States, the Chinese firm's digital product has been a runaway success.

Louis Yang, co-founder and co-CEO of Musical.ly, claimed the app has almost 15 million active daily users and more than 150 million registered users in all.

Although it would not share details, the business earns advertising revenue. Products like Coca-cola are advertised on the app. Other sources of revenue are partnership fee from offering specific theme campaigns on the app.

Global investors love the Chinese-founded app. So far, they have poured 0 million into it, including over 0 million in the latest C round of funding in May 2016.

Now, Musical.ly wants to expand, and expand fast and wide. And square up to digital giants such as Facebook and Twitter too by diversifying into real-time or live streaming through Live.ly.

The scale of its expansion plan indicates its ambition. Having made significant inroads into the U.S. market, Musical.ly is eyeing markets in Europe, South America, Southeast Asia and India now.

Yang said Musical.ly was also looking not just to expand internationally but to focus on facilitating localization in overseas markets. "We'll focus on overseas markets. After the U.S. and Europe, we'll give more attention to the emerging internet markets such as South America, Southeast Asia and India. The potential for growth in those emerging markets is huge."

Yang knows a thing or two about sensing market potential early. Musical.ly's story so far is testimony to that ability.

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An online celebrity from Muscial.ly poses for selfies with a group of fans at Local Video Day in Berlin in August 2016.

An online celebrity from Muscial.ly poses for selfies with a group of fans at Local Video Day in Berlin in August 2016.

Inspiration for the startup came from an experiment to create an online music education product. Yang and his team wanted to make video-making and video-sharing an entertaining experience for the users.

"After receiving over 200 very encouraging emails from the early users in the U.S., we realized that the format that combines music, short videos and online social networking was really making a difference."

Soon after its launch, the app took off and kept going up, up, up, gaining tremendous popularity among U.S. teens, topping the app store charts, rubbing shoulders with Snapchat and Instagram.

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