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Why Did Musical.ly Shut Down? A Case Study

Musical.ly, once a popular social media platform, captivated the hearts of millions with its unique approach to short-form video content. However, in 2018, it abruptly shut down, leaving users and fans puzzled. In this case study, we delve into the story of Musical.ly, its rise, and the reasons behind its shutdown.

Why Did Musical.ly Shut Down?

The Birth of Musical.ly


Founded by friends Alex Zhu and Luyu Yang in Shanghai, China, Musical.ly came into existence with a different vision. Initially, Zhu and Yang attempted to create an educational social network app, that allowed users to teach and learn various subjects through short-form videos. Despite securing investors, the venture struggled to gain traction and create engaging content. Failing to secure further investments and losing momentum, they decided to move their focus.


Changed Focus to Short-Form Videos


Zhu and Yang focused on consumer-friendly, short-form video content. They believed that shorter videos, ranging from 15 to 60 seconds, would make content more enjoyable and shareable. To differentiate themselves, they allowed users to incorporate music snippets into their videos, a feature that attracted a small but dedicated user base.


Musical.ly's Official Launch


In August 2014, Musical.ly officially launched. This marked the beginning of its journey towards becoming a social media sensation. The platform's unique approach to combining music and short videos struck a chord with users, particularly teenagers.


Music.ly's Explosive Growth and Strategic Moves


Musical.ly's initial launch targeted both the Chinese and American markets. However, while it received a lukewarm response in China, something magical happened in the United States. American teenagers embraced the app enthusiastically, giving it a strong foothold in the American market. The relatively small team at Musical.ly recognized this trend and decided to focus primarily on the U.S. market.


By the summer of 2015, just a year after its launch the app attracted millions of users who used it to create lip-sync videos to millions of songs. This surge in popularity propelled Musical.ly to the number one position in the iOS App Store.


It became the most downloaded free app in over 30 countries, including the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, Brazil, the Philippines, and Japan.


This rapid rise attracted significant investments. In August 2016, Musical.ly raised $16.6 million in funding from prestigious investors, valuing the company at over $550 million.


Features That Set Musical.ly Apart


Musical.ly was more than just a lip-syncing platform. Users could record videos of various lengths, lip-sync to sounds, and employ comedy to engage their audience. The app offered 14 pre-set filters and effects for editing, allowing users to experiment with different styles. Additionally, Musical.ly introduced "live moments," enabling users to create GIFs with music. The platform encouraged interaction among users through features like "Ask a Question" and "Duet," fostering a sense of community.


Coca-Cola's Influence


Musical.ly's impact extended beyond lip-syncing. In June 2016, Coca-Cola launched its #ShareACoke campaign on the platform, introducing the "User-Generated Ads" model. This innovative approach played a crucial role in shaping Musical.ly's future.


Musical.ly officially launched Live.ly


On July 24, 2016, during VidCon, Musical.ly ventured into live video streaming with the launch of Live.ly. This new platform allowed users to connect with their Musical.ly followers through live broadcasts, further enhancing the app's appeal.


Musical.ly Trends and Impact


Musical.ly had a knack for making trends go viral. The platform's popular hashtags often revolved around pop culture and internet trends, turning events within the app into global phenomena, especially among teenagers. One of the most notable campaigns was the "Don't Judge Challenge," which gained widespread participation.


Notable Users


Musical.ly propelled several users to stardom. Users with a substantial following received crowns as verification symbols. Names like Baby Ariel, Mackenzie Ziegler, Maddie Ziegler, Jacob Sartorius, Loren Gray, and Lisa and Lena became famous not only on Musical.ly but also beyond.


ByteDance Acquisition of Musical.ly


Musical.ly's meteoric rise caught the attention of ByteDance Ltd., the company behind Toutiao, a popular program. On November 9, 2017, ByteDance Technology Co. acquired Musical.ly Inc. for a substantial sum, estimated to be around $800 million. This acquisition marked a turning point in Musical.ly's history.


Shutdown of Musical.ly and Transformation into TikTok


ByteDance wasted no time in reshaping the social media landscape. On August 2, 2018, ByteDance merged Musical.ly and TikTok, consolidating them into a single app under the name TikTok. Users could still create videos ranging from 15 seconds to one minute but gained access to an expanded set of filters, effects, and enhanced editing capabilities.


While Musical.ly's journey was brief, it left a lasting impact on the world of short-form video content and social media. Its legacy lives on through its merger into TikTok, where the creativity and engagement of its users continue to thrive.


Frequently Asked Questions


1. Who founded Musical.ly, and when was it created?


Musical.ly was founded in 2014 by Alex Zhu and Luyu Yang.


2. What was the primary purpose of Musical.ly?


Musical.ly was a social media platform that allowed users to create, share, and discover short video content set to music.


3. What led to Musical.ly's rapid growth and popularity?


Musical.ly's growth was driven by its focus on teenagers, viral lip-syncing videos, strategic partnerships, and a user-friendly redesign.


4. Who acquired Musical.ly, and for how much?


Musical.ly was acquired by ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok, for $800 million in November 2017.


5. Why did ByteDance choose to merge Musical.ly into TikTok?


ByteDance merged Musical.ly into TikTok to leverage its technology, user base, and licensing agreements to establish TikTok as a global social media platform.


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