British MP slams TikTok’s Australia music test, says app is ‘silencing creators in favour of its own self-interests’

We told you last month that TikTok’s bust-up with the major music companies is starting to simmer.

In February, TikTok started restricting access to some music in Australia – effectively ‘muting’ some major record company-signed tracks on existing videos –in what TikTok claims to be a “test” by ByteDance to see how it affects user behavior.

Last month, the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) – Oz’s equivalent to the USA’s RIAA – slammed TikTok parent ByteDance for its decision to limit access to major-released music for select Australian creators and users on the TikTok app.

ARIA represents the interests of the recorded music industry in Australia, including the interests of the three major record companies: Sony Music Entertainment, Warner Music Group and Universal Music Group.

In the same week that ARIA issued its statement TikTok struck a deal with Snoop Dogg for a major streaming exclusive, bringing the Death Row catalog to TikTok first, via a windowed first-week exclusive.

Now, following TikTok’s antics in Australia, a British politician has accused the app of “silencing creators in favour of its own self-interests”.

In an op-ed written for The Telegraph newspaper, conservative MP Damian Collins, a former Minister For Tech and the Digital Economy, suggested that TikTok’s ‘muting’ of music in the Australian market is impacting artists globally.

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

Damian Collins MP 

Said Collins: “Concerningly, as many as half of Australian TikTok users are reportedly no longer able to access some or all music on the platform as the company sets out to ‘prove’ that music from world-renowned artists is no longer necessary for the platform to be a success.

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

He added: “For artists who spend months planning track releases, their plans to unveil new music and reach international audiences have been totally disrupted. This, coupled with a complete lack of warning, has left them without a voice.”

Elsewhere in the op-ed, Collins argues that “we all know TikTok’s growth and appeal is predominantly down to the music available on the platform and that it would not be the global phenomenon it is today without music”.

Added Collins: “While TikTok benefits from music and has found success on the back of the creative community, the question remains: what are artists and songwriters getting in return for all they have contributed to the platform?”

As previously reported by MBW, some in the music industry argue that viral, music-centered videos have driven TikTok’s growth. The majors therefore want more money from the platform for the use of their content.

In November, Bloomberg reported that Warner Music GroupSony Music Entertainment and Universal Music Group had been negotiating with TikTok “all year” in 2022 for a share of its advertising revenues.

Such deals could secure the majors a guaranteed proportion of revenue generated on music-led TikTok videos, as opposed to the so-called blanked ‘buy-out’ agreements struck by the majors with TikTok for their rights to date.

MBW’s sources tell us that TikTok is aiming to use the results of its test in Australia in its licensing negotiations with the record companies.

We understand that TikTok’s hope is that the removal of major label music in Australia for certain users won’t significantly impact the engagement of those users on the service.

TikTok hopes to then use this as a case study during its major record company negotiations in an attempt to ‘prove’ it can live without major-released catalog.

Collins closes his op-ed by writing that “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” and that “this suffocation of creative and commercial freedom must not be allowed to go any further – it must not be allowed to happen here in the UK.”

The Telegraph cites a TikTok spokesperson as saying that “Speculation that the test is expanding to other markets is baseless.”

Meanwhile, TikTok also continues to face political hurdles in the US, Canada, Europe, and Australia, where the app has been banned from government employee devices.

Additionally, on Wednesday (March 1), the US House Foreign Affairs Committee voted to advance a bill that would effectively give President Joe Biden powers to ban TikTok in the US.

As reported here by CNN, the bill, known as the ‘Deterring America’s Technological Adversaries Act’, would also allow for the control of other China-related economic activity, if signed into law.

The bill would still need to be passed by the Republican-led House and the Democrat-led Senate before it can become law.Music Business Worldwide

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