When it comes to breaking songs on TikTok, record labels are increasingly turning to Flighthouse, a popular brand on the ascendant video-sharing platform whose influence has helped launch the careers of a number of emerging artists.
Boasting more than 22 million followers, Flighthouse (which was acquired by Create Music Group in 2017) has become a TikTok powerhouse. Under the direction of 21-year-old CEO Jacob Pace, the brand is now a valuable promotional tool for emerging artists who hope to become the next Lil Nas X (“Old Town Road”) or Ava Max (“Sweet but Psycho”) — both of whom now have thriving mainstream careers after enjoying viral hits on the wildly-popular app.
Spotting the potential, labels including Atlantic, Capitol, Island, Warner Music Group, Interscope and 300 Entertainment have recently struck marketing partnerships with the brand, with an eye to getting their artists or tracks embedded in Flighthouse’s short-form original content.
The most recent partnership is with Republic Records, which has collaborated with Flighthouse on the new regular TikTok series Certified Superfan, which features young Republic artists interacting with their biggest admirers. The idea grew out of an existing relationship between the label and brand, who were looking for a larger project after working together on a number of standalone campaigns. With regular short-form Flighthouse series like Finish the TikTok Lyrics and Dance Charades having taken off, mounting a new series together was an enticing proposition.
“I think since the beginning, we’ve kind of wanted it to be a statement of just how forward-thinking we are working with the labels, and how involved we’re going to get to really try and break artists in a new way,” Pace tells Billboard. He adds, “Republic is a very innovative label. I think they’re very on top of the game and the culture.”
The concept of Certified Superfan is simple: After being invited by Flighthouse to talk about their favorite artists on camera, fans are surprised to find the artists themselves waiting in the wings. The ensuing discussions are later condensed into two or three 30 to 40 second clips on TikTok over the course of a week, with longer two-minute versions being made available on YouTube and Instagram’s IGTV.
It’s a concept tailor-made for the TikTok audience — 60% of which falls in the 16-to-24 demo — not to mention Republic’s stable of young artists looking to get a career boost by aligning themselves with the influential brand. The first installment, which premieres today (Feb. 18), features singer Conan Gray, who was recently dubbed “the pop prince of sad internet teens” by Teen Vogue. Future installments — which will feature one artist per week — will put the spotlight on Republic artists BENEE, Jeremy Zucker, Shaylen and Gianni & Kyle.
Republic is clearly banking on the partnership to lift some of these artists to the next plateau. By getting Gen Zers where they live and knowing what they want, Flighthouse has elsewhere amplified the careers of artists including pop group Surfaces, whose single “Sunday Best” jumped from 200,000 daily Spotify streams to 1.5 million after it was featured in a recent Flighthouse campaign. The catchy track is now featured in a total of 1.6 million TikTok videos and boasts more than 250 million views on the platform.
Breakthrough rapper Arizona Zervas also saw a massive uptick in interest after working with the brand on his song “Roxanne.” Since Flighthouse helped the track go viral with an influencer-focused campaign, it has racked up 2.3 million videos and topped 1 billion views on TikTok, later hitting No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100. (The success ultimately sparked a major label bidding war that resulted in Zervas signing with Columbia.)
Perhaps only an executive like Pace could have so effectively capitalized on the power of Flighthouse, which began as a music curation channel on Musical.ly (the now-defunct platform that was folded into TikTok in August 2018). Indeed, he himself is squarely in the TikTok demo and was only a teenager when, as a recent hire at Create Music Group, he convinced CEO Jonathan Strauss to get involved with the brand.
“We just noticed that it was very different, because every other big page on Musical.ly at the time was a big influencer whereas Flighthouse was massive, but with a brand,” says Pace. “And so I think we just thought there was something that could be done there from a publisher’s perspective.”
You can watch the first installment of Certified Superfan featuring Conan Gray here.
conangray surprised his biggest and got to know her! — #certifiedsuperfan