MuchMusic is relaunching on TikTok as a 'digital first' network

In a Thursday press release, parent company Bell Media announced that the Canada's MuchMusic will relaunch on TikTok as a “content-driven digital first network.”

Network to fully relaunch on July 7, says parent company Bell Media

Paris Hilton arrives on the red carpet at the MuchMusic Video Awards in Toronto, June 18, 2006. On Thursday, Bell Media announced the network is relaunching on TikTok. (Aaron Harris/The Canadian Press)

The once-massive music broadcaster MuchMusic is making a comeback — though this time, the relaunch won't be televised. 

In a Thursday press release, parent company Bell Media announced that the Canadian programmer will relaunch on TikTok as a "content-driven digital first network."

That will include live performances and "artist-hosted" streams, as well as revivals of established segments Video on Trial, Intimate and Interactive and MuchMusic Spotlight

"With hosts and creators that speak directly to Gen Z and younger Millennials, the all-new multi-platform MuchMusic stays true to its spirit as a seminal brand with an authentic voice," Stewart Johnston, Bell Media's senior vice-president of sales and sports, was quoted as saying in the release.

Despite the relaunch, which is scheduled for July 7, MuchMusic hasn't fully gone off the air since its 1984 founding. The MuchMusic brand was first bought by Bell in 2006, with the channel rebranding in the early 2010s to drop "Music" from its name and logo. 

Bell Media released this image of the new MuchMusic logo on Thursday. The network is officially relaunching on July 7. (Bell Media)

In line with that change, they began airing mostly comedy and reality TV with less focus on music, cutting down to a single hour of music videos a day in 2019.

At the time, a Bell spokesperson said that change was made due to a "significant erosion" of the channel's TV audience. 

The new MuchMusic won't do much to change that. Justin Stockman, vice-president of content development and programming at Bell Media, said MuchMusic's TikTok page won't have music videos like it did before the paring down that's occurred over the past decade. 

Instead, he said it will offer "interesting, fun content," and a Canadian viewpoint on youth and pop culture — including music.

TikTok a growing force in music

MuchMusic's pivot to TikTok comes amid the app's growing influence in the music industry. During the COVID-19 pandemic, when live music and traditional avenues to fame were largely shuttered, the platform helped usher Canadian stars Tate McRae, Curtis Waters and Powfu to fame. 

In interviews with CBC News, all three said TikTok has emerged as a pipeline to success for young artists. Due to that pipeline, McRae's You Broke Me First, which came out in April of 2020, was certified platinum later that year.

Meanwhile, Curtis Waters Stunnin' became the fastest unsigned record to be added to Spotify's flagship playlist, and Powfu's Death Bed (Coffee For Your Head) passed one billion streams earlier this week. 

From left, Tate McRae, Powfu and Curtis Waters all managed to make it big during a pandemic using TikTok. (Sony Music, Columbia Records, Jillian Clark)

Even established stars have found a home on the app. Singer Jason Derulo told the Rolling Stone in their June print issue that he was able to pivot from live music earnings, to relying almost entirely on paid promotions from TikTok.

"I would even go on to say that it's made me even more than in the past," he was quoted as saying. 

Still, as the app's influence has grown, so have difficulties in using it. Ananmay Sharan, a University of Toronto student who also runs the TikTok music review page Loveinamovie, told CBC that music labels have increasingly turned to the app for promoting their artists. 

That congestion has hindered independent musicians' ability to find new audiences, he said.

"It has become harder and harder for musicians to be able to [break through] as more and more people start using the platform," he said.

While Thursday's announcement was primarily concerned with MuchMusic's move to TikTok, it also revealed that other MuchMusic content will be available from multiple social media platforms. The network has already released some teaser posts on its page.

Bell Media said it will announce the MuchMusic talent lineup soon, while Stockman said their personalities and creators will work remotely for now, due to the pandemic.

"But it's going to be an evolution," he added. "We're going to see what makes sense. The good news is with this, we can try almost anything and see what works and what doesn't."

With files from The Canadian Press