Artists and their teams have long paid top influencers to promote their songs on TikTok and other social media platforms, with the most popular influencers charging five figures (or more) per post. But Challenges adds a new gamification element to the mix by allowing anyone to compete for and claim the rewards, regardless of their following -- while giving artists who may not be able to (or want to) afford pricey influencer deals the opportunity to capitalize on TikTok's hit-making power.
"It levels the playing field," Markel tells Billboard. "Now, the people who are creators that may not have always gotten the fancy deals can accept a Challenge and show the results and participate in deals that they may not have gotten previously."
Challenge creators can also set up multiple reward milestones, with no minimum dollar amount, "so someone with a smaller following could aim for one of the smaller rewards," Mason says. Artists who list Challenges can include a video intended as inspiration for users' posts, but Mason and Markel agree that Challenges work best when users are given as little direction as possible, leaving room for creativity.
Pearpop recently tested the feature with a Challenge for DJ Snake and Selena Gomez's March single "Selfish Love." DJ Snake's management team committed $25,000 to the Challenge, offering $50 to the first 500 creators who got at least 5,000 views on their posts using the song clip.
Launched on April 16, the Challenge "sold out" within two days, with participation from popular accounts like @iamferv, @coctyan and @itsasmallterworld. Uses of the sound on TikTok surged from 7,000 just before the Challenge launched to 42,000 three weeks later. Knowing that DJ Snake's team only paid for 500 of those uses, it seems that the Challenge helped create enough momentum to fuel organic posts by other users.
"If you could imagine that administrative burden of coordinating 500 different creators, it would be just really time consuming," Markel adds. "You're able to scale very rapidly."
Of course, TikTok campaigns only succeed if users seek out the song and artist off-platform. For "Selfish Love," the TikTok posts translated to an 86% streaming bump, from roughly 671,000 total on-demand U.S. streams the week before the Challenge to 1.25 million the week-of, according to MRC Data. "When you post the challenge, it allows you to ignite the fire," says Mason.
Next on Challenges, rapper 24kGoldn is offering rewards of between $10 and $80 for posts using his new song "Company" featuring Future.
While some creators in pursuit of a quick buck may inevitably accept Challenges for songs they don't actually enjoy, Markel has faith that the TikTok community will weed out disingenuous posts.
"When you don't connect with the song, it's really apparent, and [the post] ends up not performing well," he explains. "The creator community is very critical of things that come across very mercenary. Authenticity is something that we've really pushed in our ethos."
Next in the pearpop pipeline: A feature allowing artists to partner with a "sponsor" influencer on their Challenges, who will receive extra payment for helping spread the word. Pearpop also plans to branch out to other social media platforms in the future.
"I think you could imagine a world where pearpop is a part of every major platform," Mason says.