Snapchat hit the celebrity jackpot when it came time to launch its long-rumored new music feature, Sounds. In the wee hours of Thursday morning, a snippet of “Lonely,” Justin Bieber’s not-yet-released single with producer Benny Blanco, became exclusively available in Snapchat’s “Featured Sounds” list — almost 24 hours before its official drop time.
Fans were instantly able to soundtrack their Snaps with the ballad, as the company formally announced the ability to add licensed music to Snaps with Sounds. On the other side of the win-win, Bieber got a built-in marketing plan for his new music.
After opening a Snap with Sounds, users can swipe up to view the album art or click a “play this song” link, which redirects the user to their preferred streaming platform. (In Bieber-esque situations — when the song isn’t out — there’s a pre-save link instead.)
Asked whether Snapchat plans on partnering with more artists on pre-releases teases, a representative tells Rolling Stone only that the company “would love to do more.”
Putting official tracks in the social media ecosystem isn’t new: TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook are three other platforms that license music for users. Snapchat’s Sounds audio can be added pre-capture, allowing the user to dance to or interact with the audio more effectively. TikTok has done well with a similar functionality, and, like TikTok, Snapchat is currently “testing out the ability for Snapchatters to create their own sounds and add them to Snaps,” a representative said in a statement, adding that this component “will be rolling out globally in the coming months.”
Bieber released his first album in five years, Changes, back in February to lukewarm reviews. He then jumped on Ariana Grande’s “Stuck With U” in May and released his own single “Holy” with Chance the Rapper last month. “Lonely” is Bieber’s first collaboration with Blanco since the 2015 smash hit “Love Yourself,” which Blanco produced and co-wrote and is now eight-times platinum.
Of Bieber’s four songs that’ve netted more than a billion Spotify streams, three were from his album Purpose. (The other one was written with Ed Sheeran, who also helped out with Purpose.) Can the return of the dynamic duo, with an assist from Silicon Valley, bring Bieber back to otherworldly Purpose-era numbers? Snapchat users might figure out the answer before anyone else.