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TikTok Sounds Library restricted in Australia to test music usage by creators

By | Published on Thursday 2 February 2023


TikTok is limiting the number of songs available within its app for some of its users in Australia to help it better understand how people creating and posting videos on the social media platform interact with and utilise the music that’s in its audio clips library.

The experiment comes as the music industry seeks to boost the value of its licensing deals with TikTok, in part by shifting those deals from the current lump sum arrangements to a revenue share model more akin to YouTube.

Although TikTok is a revenue generator for the music industry, not to mention a key marketing platform, most people in the music community reckon that the video-sharing app is not currently paying enough for the music which, they believe, is central to the video-sharing app’s overall experience.

Needless to say, TikTok is pushing back on the music industry’s demands for more cash. Because it makes audio clips available within its app, TikTok can’t rely on the copyright safe harbour as a negotiating tactic, like user-generated content platforms did in the past.

However, everyone is aware of the marketing power of TikTok, which can drive streams of both new and catalogue tracks over on the subscription streaming services where the record industry currently makes the most money.

This means that the latest licensing deal negotiations between TikTok and the music companies are built upon the key question: “Who needs who more?”

With that in mind, according to Bloomberg, those music companies fear that the current experiment in Australia will be used by TikTok to argue that music isn’t so crucial to its operations as the record labels and music publishers claim.

Reports Bloomberg: “TikTok and the labels disagree over the value of music in the app’s overall popularity. Music rightsholders argue that their songs are core to TikTok’s appeal, while TikTok sees music as just one part of a broader entertainment experience”.

“If usage of the app remains steady with less music”, it adds, “TikTok could argue it doesn’t need to pay music rightsholders as much. If usage falls, it will help music companies make their claims”.

Commenting on the experiment in Australia, a TikTok spokesperson says: “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.

“We appreciate it’s disappointing if a certain track is unavailable or if a sound is muted on a previous video”, they add. “This change will not be in place for long and not all music is affected. We look forward to restoring our full catalogue soon”.