Has the ‘TikTok War’ reached a ceasefire?
ByteDance just might have engineered a ceasefire in the TikTok War.
In quick-time, the short-form video platform has struck a US$200 million “Creator Fund” and announced a multi-year, global partnership agreement with the U.S. National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA), ending a months-long war of words.
It’s an impressive pivot for the Chinese tech company which has a long, uneasy relationship with the music industry and faced intensifying accusations of roguish behaviour from the United States.
TitTok also has many critics closer to home. In recent weeks, its services were banned in India, the market with the biggest number of users outside China.
Overnight, TikTok and NMPA announced a new agreement which accounts for TikTok’s past use of musical works and establishes a forward-looking partnership.
Through this arrangement, NMPA members can opt-in to a licensing framework that enables them to monetise their works on the platform, effective retroactively as of May 1, 2020.
“We are pleased to find a way forward with TikTok which benefits songwriters and publishers and offers them critical compensation for their work,” comments David Israelite, President & CEO of NMPA.
This new deal “respects the work of creators and gives them a way to be paid for their essential contributions to the platform,” Israelite continues.
Consider, less than a year ago Israelite and the trade association he helms urged Congress to probe the activities of the video-sharing app, which the lobby body had accused of “consistently” violating copyright law.
APRA AMCOS stood in support of NMPA.
TikTok, a popular hub for video snippets where users can create content that, just maybe could go viral, is a beast, particularly among Gen Z.
Kids are engaging with music on the platform, and artists are building careers off of it, from Lil Nas X to Benee and the current U.K. singles chart king, Jawsh 685.
As part of this olive branch to the music community, TikTok has announced its multi-million-dollar fund to “encourage those who dream of using their voices and creativity to spark inspirational careers,” the company’s U.S. general manager Vanessa Pappas wrote in an official blog post.
The U.S. fund will start with $200 million to help support “ambitious creators who are seeking opportunities to foster a livelihood through their innovative content.”
TikTok is “a platform rooted in creativity,” writes Pappas. “While the past few months have been challenging for many, we’ve been awed by the outpouring of empathy, humor, and truly uplifting content from our users.”
The fund will be distributed over the coming year and is expected to grow over that time.
The fund opens to applications from U.S. creators in August. Under its criteria for admission, users must be 18 years or older, meet a “baseline for followers” and post content which meets its “Community Guidelines.”
It’s unclear if and when TikTok will extend a fund to creators in Australia. What is certain, is that the business is expanding its Australian presence, and has been on a major recruiting drive for its Sydney office.
Among its targets is a head of music, who will be responsible for flexing its music strategy and pushing Australian talent on its platform.
Owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, the app reportedly hit 1 billion downloads worldwide in February 2019, with the United States accounting for about 10 percent of the traffic.
By April 2020, that figure had hit 2 billion downloads. The following month, it was recognized as the most downloaded app globally, according to market researcher Sensor Tower, with 112 million installs in a single month, a double-fold increase from the same period in 2019.
It would appear Tiktok has been listening to its content providers.
In January of this year, the tech company struck a worldwide licensing deal with Merlin, the independent music community’s digital rights agency which represent more than 15 percent of the global recorded music market, in a deal which means all artists, labels and others in the indie chain get paid for plays.
TikTok’s evolution doesn’t stop there.
U.S.-based investors in ByteDance are reportedly discussing pooling funds to buy a majority stake in the service, The Information reports.
ByteDance’s billionaire founder Zhang Yiming is said to be considering a sale.
It’s not exactly a bailout. Think of it as strategic manoeuvre which could enable the business to settle escalating tensions with the U.S. administration.
Speaking on Fox News earlier this month, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo admitted the U.S. was considering banning TikTok and other Chinese social media apps over national security and privacy concerns.
Should deep-pocketed U.S. businessmen and women take a sizable chunk in ByteDance, it might avoid a forced divestiture or outright ban and convert the ceasefire into a legit playing field.
Read more on the “TikTok War” here.
This article originally appeared on The Industry Observer, which is now part of The Music Network.