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News February 3, 2023

TikTok Is ‘Running a Test’ In Australia Which Could Have Ramifications For Its Content Partners

Senior Journalist, B2B
TikTok Is ‘Running a Test’ In Australia Which Could Have Ramifications For Its Content Partners

Australia would appear to be the test case — if not a battlefront — for TikTok going out alone without its major label content partners.

A number of TikTok users in these parts no longer have the choice to use some major label-licensed music in their videos, a story that was broken by Bloomberg and confirmed by Music Business Worldwide.

It’s unclear how many users are now hobbled with their music choices, and its unknown how many tunes and from which companies have been removed.

But this action would suggest that TikTok is embarking on a grand experiment, one that might be used as leverage in its round of next round of content licensing talks.

TMN approached a spokesperson for TikTok in Australia, who provided a prepared statement.

“Over the coming weeks we will be running a test in Australia to analyse how music is accessed and used on the platform. Not all music is included in this test and we do not expect it to impact everyone on TikTok.”

The “test is underway,” 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.”

So what would this “test” hope to achieve, and why use Australia as TikTok’s laboratory?

Like any good experiment, it’s about outcomes and money.

In a best-case scenario for TikTok, the experimental group — those unable to blend their preferred hit, viral tunes with clips — won’t see a dramatic drop away in stickiness on the platform when compared with the control group.

The data gleaned from all this could have a bearing on how many, or how little, TikTok would put on the table in negotiating rights.

Just don’t expect to see the results published anywhere, anytime soon.

Australia, with its affluent, English-speaking music-loving consumers, has been a handy test market since before the streaming revolution.

In the space of three months during 2013, Google Play Music and iHeartRadio both arrived Down Under, marking the respective services’ first expansion outside the U.S. It used to be that Australia had to get in the queue with everyone else, but, at that point, the market leap-frogged Europe’s top economies as the place where upstarts begin the roll out. Another

Also, a major blunder in Australia would be less costly than one in, say, the United Kingdom.

“We appreciate that it may be disappointing for our community and artists if a certain track is unavailable temporarily, or if a sound is muted on a video,” reads the official statement from TikTok.

“We apologise and look forward to restoring the full catalogue at the conclusion of the test period.”

TikTok is facing a test of its own in the United States, where a member of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee is urging Apple and Google to remove the short-video streaming platform from its app stores.

In a letter to the leaders of those tech giants, Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo. cites national security concerns, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

TikTok Music

The success of the service, which is a go-to for Gen Z, “raises the obvious risk that the Chinese Communist Party could weaponize TikTok against the United States” by forcing its parent, ByteDance, to “surrender Americans’ sensitive data or manipulate the content Americans receive to advance China’s interests,” the letter reads.

TikTok and its management is no stranger to pressure.

In late 2019, prior to the platform going legit with licensing deals, the U.S. National Music Publishers’ Association urged Congress to look into the behaviour of the video-sharing app, which the lobby body accused of copyright theft. APRA also had words.

Then, in 2020, matters came to a head when then U.S. president Donald Trump ordered the platform be sold-off into American hands. A D.C. federal judge put an end to those plans.


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