News July 10, 2019

Tik Tok will help break Australian acts, but users could face a dark side

Tik Tok will help break Australian acts, but users could face a dark side

Tik Tok’s growing interest in the Australian market could see the local music industry benefit immensely.

The irreverent Chinese short-form video app, with 700 million global monthly users (most of whom are aged 16—24 and attached 24/7 to their smartphones), is said to be looking at setting up a team here.

Executives from its $75 billion parent company ByteDance have been visiting the country to increase the number of local content users and, initially cut deals with brands wanting to tap into its high rate of Gen Z users.

The app, which has been downloaded a billion times globally, has already started local ad campaigns and developing “monetising products.”

One of its executives told Ad News last month, “Australia is a key market for Tik Tok, and we’ll be exploring opportunities to establish a stronger presence in the market as our business continues to grow.”

Ad News reported music companies Warner and EMI have been working with Influencer agency Born Bred to be integrated into the platform.

Like Apple, Tik Tok keeps its plans and figures to itself, but music is rapidly becoming a key element of its future business strategy as its strike rate increases rapidly.

Its greatest success is Lil Nas X, the 20-year-old Atlanta college drop-out who was sleeping on his sister’s lounge room floor before his country-trap hit ‘Old Town Road’.

The memes he used to promote the track were adopted by Tik Tok creators and before you knew it, a record company bidding war had started, and a remix featuring Billy Ray Cyrus was a #1 hit around the world.

The rapper has said: “I should maybe be paying TikTok, they really boosted the song.”

Tik Tok’s lip-syncers also boosted the careers of Los Angeles singer-songwriter Ava Max, Japanese singer Joji, Drake-endorsed rappers ZaeHD & CEO and Caribbean-born New York-raised hip hop identity Supa Dupa Humble.

Tik Tok is currently testing an artist discovery tool/program called Spotlight in Japan and South Korea for unsigned artists.

It includes a dedicated channel through which “hidden talent” can submit their music to users who could help turn it viral.

A panel of producers, songwriters and singers will help select the top 5 to 10 submissions based partly on user popularity and get them a label deal and Tik Tok marketing.

Spotlight’s industry partners in Japan include Spotify, Universal Music, Sony Music and Warner Music, while the list numbers Universal, Warner and C-JES Entertainment in South Korea.

Tik Tok has the music industry on-side: it cuts licensing deals with rights-holders and pays songwriters their royalties.

However, it’s also had a dark history which Australian authorities should be aware of.

In February, it agreed to pay $5.7 million to US federal authorities after it was accused of illegally collecting personal data of children aged under 13 without parental knowledge.

Technically, those under 13 are not allowed to use the app.

In April, India banned new users from downloading the app because it encouraged pornography and other illicit content.

The ban was lifted a week later after Tik Tok proved it could prevent nudity. The app revealed it lost $500,000 per day when the ban was enforced.

In the UK, a BBC investigation found that content creators were promising to share their phone numbers, or make split-screen “duets” or send personal messages, in exchange for between £48.99 (A$88) and £150 ($269.50) worth of “digital gifts”.

A 12-year-old English girl told the broadcaster she spent £100 ($179.65) for the number of a US video maker’s phone which was never answered.

The mother of an 11-year-old Toronto girl was shocked to discover she had run up a bill for $400.

In a statement, Tik Tok said: “We do not tolerate behaviours that are deceptive in nature and we are sorry to hear some of the users’ experiences.

“We recognise there is always room for improvements in terms of making guidelines and information more accessible, clear and easy-to-understand for all users.”

It promised to strengthen its policies and guidelines but did not explain exactly how.

Some of the influencers – who said they could make “thousands” of pounds during one livestream – told the BBC that the app kept 50%.

The broadcaster called for UK regulators to introduce a users’ age limit or “cool down” period for payment of gifts.

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