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Pitchfork calls TikTok ‘the great music meme scam’


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Pitchfork spares no punches in its profile of social-video app TikTok, drawing an unflattering comparison between the value of its parent company Bytedance, and the level of royalties being paid to musicians for use of their work. That said, a tale does emerge of viral TikTok videos sparking streams of music on YouTube and other platforms where higher royalties are being paid: a clip from artist iLOVEFRiDAY’s ‘Mia Khalifa’ has been used in more than 4m TikTok videos.

“Plays on iLOVEFRiDAY’s official music video increased by a factor of 10, and, on YouTube, snippets of the song have been played over 200 million times. Based on reports about YouTube’s royalty rates, the video giant could have easily paid the group $150,000,” reported Pitchfork, while quoting the band’s manager as saying “It’s really great money, let’s just say that”.

However, the piece does question whether TikTok (and its predecessor Musical.ly) have adopted an approach to licensing similar to that which rightsholders regularly accuse YouTube of. “It’s either you can sign this contract and get paid something, or don’t sign the contract and your music’s still going to be here but you’re not going to get paid anything. You’re going to have to deal with DMCA takedowns. Goodbye,” is how he characterises Musical.ly’s approach.

Stuart Dredge

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