TikTok stars wanted to be taken seriously in 2018. Now, one year after Musical.ly became TikTok and skyrocketed its creators into mainstream fame, they want to start earning money for the videos they produce.
“On YouTube, you get money from the views you get, but on TikTok you don’t get money from views right now,” Javi Luna, a TikTok creator with 4 million followers, told theBBC.
For the most part, TikTok doesn’t offer creators a way to make money on its platform. Creators can secure sponsorships and brand deals for individual posts, but those deals have to be secured without TikTok’s help. A select group of creators hand-picked by TikTok can also earn money through tipping in live streams, but that doesn’t cover the most popular part of the app. This lack of monetization options could make it harder for TikTok to get its top talent to stick around, and it’s already led popular creators, like Brendan Robert, a creator with close to 3 million followers, to direct fans to their YouTube accounts. After all, that’s where they can earn money far more easily.
There are ads on TikTok right now, but none run directly on creators’ videos and offer a cut of the money, like on YouTube. Monetization on TikTok is difficult because videos don’t run longer than 60 seconds, and putting a lengthy ad in front of them would ruin the fast-paced experience. The company is “exploring a variety of opportunities to create value for our brand partners, with our main focus being on creating a great experience for our community,” a TikTok representative toldThe Verge. The representative did not mention whether a program like AdSense would ever come to TikTok.
“TikTok is a platform for creative, fun, and positive experiences,” the representative said. “The brands we see having the most success are those that embrace the creativity and authenticity of the TikTok community.”
If TikTok doesn’t find a solution for creators, it could face the fate of another beloved short-form video app: Vine. Vine never figured out a way to pay its creators, and they went to YouTube as a result.
“When you’re making videos, you go to whoever’s the most excited about what you’re doing and who sees the most potential in your brand, and that includes paying you for it,” Pace said. “TikTok wants to be a short-form YouTube. It can be, instead of Snapchat or Instagram, but it has to help out creators.”