MELBOURNE, Australia — Labels trade body ARIA has questioned the motives behind TikTok’s “test” on users in these parts and demanded the short-form video platform immediately restore access to all music, for all Australians.
Earlier this month, ByteDance confirmed it was conducting an experiment in Australia, where TikTokers would have restrictions placed on their music options to soundtrack clips.
“Over the coming weeks we will be running a test in Australia to analyse how music is accessed and used on the platform,” reads a message from a TikTok rep. “Not all music is included in this test and we do not expect it to impact everyone on TikTok.”
The “test is underway,” and the app expects “that some of our users will not be able to access our full music and sounds library. For more than half of our community there will be no change to their experience and the test will not impact them.”
It’s unclear how many users have had their experience dampened, which titles and music labels have been removed, or precisely what TikTok hopes to gain from this procedure.
In one scenario, observers say, should TikTok find its users stay and stick to the app in the absence of major-label hits, the tech firm could gain an upper hand when it comes time to negotiate on content licenses.
On Wednesday (Feb. 15), ARIA addressed the elephant in the room.
In a carefully-worded statement, ARIA questions TikTok’s “decision to limit and remove access to music for select Australian creators and users” on its platform over the coming weeks.
“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,” comments ARIA CEO, Annabelle Herd, in a statement.
“After exploiting artists’ content and relationships with fans to build the platform, TikTok now seeks to rationalize cutting artists’ compensation by staging a ‘test’ of music’s role in content discovery.”
Herd points out the contraction in TikTok’s past mission statements.
“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,” adds Herd, “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.”
If this is the case, Herd explains, “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.”
And the results ARIA wants?
“Australians deserve better,” Herd concludes. “TikTok should end this ‘test’ immediately and restore music access to all users and creators.”
TikTok is a real hit with Gen Z in Australia, and is already a more popular social platform than Twitter among all Internet users in these parts, according to data published in the Digital 2022 Australia report.
The annual study found that users spent 40% more time scrolling the app each month compared with the previous year, and it’s now ahead of Twitter among the percentage of internet users who regularly use the platform.
Separately, TikTok recently launched SoundOn in Australia, a tool that allows creators to upload their music directly, and get paid.
The new platform, which is already live in the U.S., U.K., Brazil, Indonesia and elsewhere, helps independent emerging artists navigate its service, upload music and get paid for its use, market and promote themselves on TikTok and distribute their music to outside DSPs.