TikTok’s Ollie Wards wants to be the ‘referee’ between the music industry and the audience
TikTolk’s newly appointed director of music, Ollie Wards, says he’ll be performing successfully in his role if he’s acting like a rugby referee between the music industry and the platform’s audience.
That’s not to say he’ll be constantly blowing a whistle, stopping the flow, issuing yellow cards and enforcing the rules. In fact, if anything, he wants to be invisible to the massive crowd, and ensure their enjoyment of the best possible product.
“I see my role as being a conduit between the industry and the audience on TikTok. I was kind of thinking of it like a referee in a rugby match or NFL… Just in the sense that if you don’t notice the referee in the game and they’re doing a good job and the game is good,” he said at Indie-Con last week.
“If the two sides, being the music industry – the two sides in this tortured analogy – the music industry and the audience, and if I’m in the middle of that, then the smoother the interaction between those two are, then the better I’m doing.”
Wards said he’s still figuring out exactly how the platform’s editorial processes work to make sure that the right artist is at the right place at the right time to get their music in front of people.
In that sense, perhaps, he is more coach than referee?
He does indeed coach artists not to modify their personal brand, music or approach simply to try to find success on TikTok.
“I don’t think anybody should ever modify their art for any particular platform, but what is helpful is going ‘Well what is the clip of our track that will stand on its own two feet and will make sense to people?’ It might be something that inspires creativity,” he said.
“I would encourage artists and management throughout this time where all these platforms keep turning up and there’s all these different ways to get your music heard, to just believe in what you’re doing and not start trying to outsmart yourself or outsmart an algorithm or some other music program or something like that. Because it’s just ultimately going to end up not being you, and I think that will, if it doesn’t come out in the sound, it will come out in your approach to your music in some other way, and it will ultimately limit your success and your satisfaction.”
Wards noted how different artists and labels are exploiting this opportunity, some with more sophisticated approaches than others.
“Some labels and promoters and artist management are quite sophisticated with their approach to how they’re getting their sounds to creators. Others are using personal relationships and sliding into DMS and saying ‘Hey, I’ve released this new track, can you get around it?’ And others are just organically finding them, and that might be through our Sounds page that we editorially curate, or it might be through just coming across it in the For You feed…
“So there’s a lot of different recipes you can use to bake the cake, but everyone can have a slice,” he said.
From rugby referee, to NFL coach, to cake baker – the analogy may keep changing, but Wards is clear on what success looks like for his role as TiTok’s first local director of music.
“The success of Australian and Kiwi acts is my goal.”