"In February, Australian TikTok users noticed a strange glitch: the app was
limiting the number of songs some users could post.
TikTok, it turned out, was using Australia as a test market to find out whether
popular music was driving time spent on the app.
The experiment finished in March, and TikTok Australia told the Guardian
only half of its users were impacted. But it left the local music industry
rattled – providing a discomforting demonstration of the power wielded by the
tech industry over artists.
Australian musician Kota Banks, for instance, had been on the eve of releasing
a new single. As she explained to fans in a post on her Instagram account, she
wasn’t even able to post her own songs; she labelled the test “lazy and
“It’s already so hard for Australian independent artists, and now we’re the
test,” she said in her post. “It just feels wack to be a guinea pig.”
The move by TikTok highlighted an increasingly urgent issue for new Australian
music: it’s becoming harder and harder to reach audiences. Traditional channels
such as radio and gigging still matter, but the explosive growth of TikTok in
particular has given it a disproportionate power over the industry. As Los
Angeles music industry maven Ari Herstand pointed out last year, “TikTok is
currently the most powerful free promotional tool that musicians have at their
In January, the federal government announced its long-awaited cultural policy,
which included a new body to support the sector, Music Australia. At the policy
launch, the federal arts minister, Tony Burke, drew attention to the fact that
only two Australian artists featured on that week’s charts, with none in the
top 20. One of Music Australia’s priorities, he said, would be to address the
issue of discoverability – the ability for Australian listeners to find new
Australian music – and to ensure that Australian music was “visible,
discoverable and easily accessible across platforms to all Australians”."
*** Xanni ***
Chief Scientist, Xanadu
Partner, Glass Wings
Manager, Serious Cybernetics