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News March 7, 2023

British MP Blasts TikTok For Australia ‘Test,’ Cutting ‘Artists out of the Equation’

British MP Blasts TikTok For Australia ‘Test,’ Cutting ‘Artists out of the Equation’

TikTok’s controversial “experiment” with its Australian users has drawn the ire of an unexpected ally — a Conservative British member of parliament.

As previously reported, TikTok quietly began running what its reps describe as a “test,” which essentially throttles Australians’ access to its music library.

“Over the coming weeks we will be running a test in Australia to analyse how music is accessed and used on the platform,” a rep told The Music Network via a statement, issued in early February.

“Not all music is included in this test and we do not expect it to impact everyone on TikTok.”

It’s unclear which content is restricted, for how long this trial will take, or whether any meaningful data has been gleaned from it.  

And the app-based business hasn’t confirmed how many users are affected – though, according to some reports, as many as half of Australia’s TikTok users aren’t able to access some or all music on the service.

The “test is underway,” the message continues, and TikTok 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.”

For now, observers can and will assume that Australian users are guinea pigs in a study to see if hit music really does matter on TikTok’s platform.

And depending on the numbers, when they’re adequately crunched, how much would the ByteDance-owned short-video platform be willing to pay for that content.

Now, Damian Collins MP has entered the fray.

Collins, who served briefly last year as a minister in the U.K. government’s Department For Digital, Culture, Media & Sport has penned an op-ed in The Telegraph in which he puts TikTok on blast, and warns of its “iron grip” on the global creator community.

TikTok and its patent have “capitalised handsomely on the enormous appeal of U.K. artistry, using it to help attract more than a billion estimated users worldwide and soundtrack many of the platform’s most viral and successful clips,” Collins writes.

“But now, TikTok is trying to cut artists out of the equation, launching a new trial in Australia which is silencing creators in favour of its own self-interests”.

Not only is this “action disruptive to huge numbers of local users,” the Tory MP continues, “but it presents a considerable threat to the creative community around the world”.

This “degrading of the music experience on the platform runs counter to what consumers want from TikTok by denying users access to the best content”, he explains.

“It also ignores the very talent that has helped create TikTok’s global significance – key among them British artists.”

Wrapping up, Collins notes: “We should be doing all we can to keep our British music industry globally competitive, protect our soft power and support our artists. We cannot quietly stand by and let ByteDance and TikTok stifle our world-leading creative sector with their Chinese technological iron grip while enriching themselves from it at the same time”.

Those comments from afar follow criticism closer to home — including a carefully-worded statement from ARIA and its CEO Annabelle Herd.

“Australians deserve better,” Herd explained in a statement issued last month. “TikTok should end this ‘test’ immediately and restore music access to all users and creators.”

TikTok is going gangbusters 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.

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