A major story is brewing in Australia that could have far-reaching implications for the global music industry’s relationship with video giant TikTok.
As first reported by Bloomberg, and confirmed to MBW by multiple sources, a number of TikTok users in Australia no longer have the choice to use some major label-licensed music in their videos.
In other words: TikTok has removed major record company music from its service for a subset of users in Oz.
Why? Our sources suggest TikTok is aiming to use the results of the experiment in their next round of record company licensing negotiations.
TikTok’s hope, we’re told, is that the removal of major label music won’t have a profound effect on the engagement of users on the service. This then opens up a conversation about the true monetary value of music licensing from major record labels.
Senior TikTok music figures have been spotted in Los Angeles this Grammy Week entering the offices of major record companies, as negotiations between the two parties for future use of music on the platform continue.
In a statement issued to MBW, a TikTok spokesperson confirmed that “some of our community in Australia will not be able to access our full TikTok Sounds Library at the moment”.
The spokesperson added that “this will only affect certain music”, with the move arriving as TikTok, “analyse[s] how sounds are accessed and added to videos”.
TikTok also confirmed that certain ‘sounds’ whose use has now been restricted in Australia, will also be “muted” on videos that have previously been uploaded to the platform.
This news arrives three months after a previous Bloomberg report said that Warner Music Group, Sony 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 covered by MBW in July 2022, the majors have to date struck so-called ‘buy-out’ agreements with TikTok, which see the platform pay a lump sum to use licensed music across its service from a major’s catalog for two-year periods.
Some in the music industry argue that rightsholders are only licensing TikTok for sub-30-second videos that act as promotion for properly monetized music on the likes of Spotify or Apple Music.
Others in the industry argue that the popularity of music on TikTok has been a crucial reason for the platform’s growth to over 1 billion global monthly active users.
Bloomberg’s story back in November said that the majors were “trying to reach a deal before their contracts expire in the coming months”.
TikTok’s current licensing deal with Universal Music Group was signed in February 2021, with Warner Music Group in January 2021 and with Sony Music in November 2020.
“We appreciate it’s disappointing if a certain track is unavailable or if a sound is muted on a previous video.”
Here’s TikTok’s statement in full:
“Some of our community in Australia will not be able to access our full TikTok Sounds Library at the moment.
“This will only affect certain music and is scheduled work while we analyse how sounds are accessed and added to videos, as well as looking to improve and enhance the wider Sounds Library.
“We appreciate it’s disappointing if a certain track is unavailable or if a sound is muted on a previous video. This change will not be in place for long and not all music is affected. We look forward to restoring our full catalogue soon.”Music Business Worldwide