On November 9, app Musical.ly made headlines when it was reported that Chinese media startup Jinri Toutiao was buying Musical.ly for between $800 million and $1 billion. The reported sale price was especially impressive since Musical.ly (based in Shanghai) was founded only three years ago. The news was also notable for many other reasons, among them:
- Musical.ly is probably the first Chinese-created social app to penetrate the United States and has managed to operate independently of the Four Horsemen (Amazon, Apple, Google, and Facebook).
- Musical.ly has demonstrated how to capture and engage the attention of Gen Z, the cohort of digital natives that is growing up mobile and app savvy.
- The app has become a multimillion dollar powerhouse even though many casual observers have absolutely no idea what anyone really does on Musical.ly.
Musical.ly has often been described as a “lip-syncing app,” and indeed, the app permits its reported 60 million users to record elaborately staged lip syncs. But Musical.ly is a lot more than that. With its attendant app, Live.ly, Musers can broadcast livestreams of themselves hosting amateur shows where they engage with other Musers for hours at a stretch. Musical.ly is really a proving ground for digital natives to learn how to become self-made brands. The livestreams and lip syncs create ways for teens to figure out the art of engagement.