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Australian record industry hits out at TikTok restricted music test

By | Published on Wednesday 15 February 2023


The Australian record industry has formally hit out at TikTok’s ongoing experiment in the country to test the role music plays on the video-sharing platform. The Australian Recording Industry Association says it’s unfair to disrupt the experience of TikTok’s Australian users as part of an experiment that won’t result in any credible insights.

It recently emerged that TikTok is limiting the number of songs available within its app for some of its users in Australia. The restriction means that some tracks will not appear in the TikTok Sounds library for those users and the audio might be muted on existing videos that utilised that music.

Confirming that was all happening, a spokesperson for the social media outfit recently told reporters: “Some of our community in Australia will not be able to access our full TikTok Sounds Library at the moment. This will only affect certain music and is scheduled work while we analyse how sounds are accessed and added to videos, as well as looking to improve and enhance the wider Sounds Library”.

The experiment comes as music companies seek to revamp their licensing deals with TikTok, hoping to shift things from a lump sum fee model to a revenue share model, and certainly to increase how much revenue ultimately flows from TikTok into the music industry.

TikTok’s experiment may be partly to help management at the company better understand the value music delivers to its platform, especially if some kind of revenue share model will inevitably become part of its deals with the music industry in the future.

However, negotiators on the industry side obviously reckon that the aim – at least in part – is to provide TikTok with a stack of data about music usage that can be used beat down the record labels and music publishers on price. Except, of course, no one will really trust TikTok-controlled research on the value of music to TikTok.

Responding to all that, the CEO of ARIA – Annabelle Herd – said in a statement yesterday: “It is frustrating to see TikTok deliberately disrupt Australians’ user and creator experience in an attempt to downplay the significance of music on its platform”.

“After exploiting artists’ content and relationships with fans to build the platform, TikTok now seeks to rationalise cutting artists’ compensation by staging a ‘test’ of music’s role in content discovery”, she added. “This is despite the fact that in 2021 TikTok’s Global Head Of Music, Ole Obermann, said: ‘Music is at the heart of the TikTok experience'”.

“This ‘test’ is presented as an effort to analyse, improve and enhance the platform’s wider sound library, but as little as five months ago, TikTok’s Chief Operating Officer Vanessa Pappas said that 80% of content consumed on TikTok is programmed by algorithms”, Herd continued.

“If this is the case, then it’s difficult to trust that this is a true test. TikTok can set its Australian algorithm upfront to – within parameters they define – deliver the results they want. Australians deserve better. TikTok should end this ‘test’ immediately and restore music access to all users and creators”.