Over the weekend, TikTok started banning verified businesses from using commercial music in their videos. This means the app's main draw has become mostly inaccessible to some of its biggest users.
In short, when a verified business adds a copyrighted sound from TikTok to their video, they are unable to publish the video. There doesn't seem to be any way around it. Baking copyrighted audio into your video will get it taken down/"shadow banned" in any circumstance, with more serious implications for established companies.
Jorgenson rightly describes "feeling moderately betrayed." This has big implications for brands that have invested in growing a TikTok audience (on an already brand-averse app). For many creators, trends are a key source of inspiration, and sometimes the entire reason that they're able to post consistently. Knowing about this change in advance would at least allow businesses to adjust how they source content ideas.
TikTok pitches this change as a way to actually save your company time and money on licensing – but they don't offer any workaround or suggest alternatives. Companies are basically left to the ancient practice of negotiating with labels over each song. On this fast-moving platform, that can mean the difference between leading a trend and being embarrassingly late. Plus, there's the added step of proving that you have the rights when TikTok is a notoriously unreachable company.
Why should the average creator care? It's harder to make a hobby vs. profession distinction on TikTok than on other platforms (like YouTube). Anyone, regardless of their existing following, can get millions of TikTok views in days and turn that audience into a revenue source. And we're one of a growing number of businesses that posts casually but can still attract paying users. The lines of monetization are quite blurred, and TikTok can't "de-monetize" a video in the same sense that YouTube can.
If you're not a blue-checkmark verified account, you shouldn't worry yet, although it's still unclear where the influencer team/restricted business line is drawn. But in the long term we should expect more creators to be affected as it's clear that content is being monetized in more discreet ways.
There are potential winners in this situation: independent artists can use this opportunity to push their music to large brands in hopes of being featured, and the playing field is slightly more even between average creators and these huge companies. But only time will tell how this impacts the culture on the app in general.
If you're looking for a great way to organize and edit your TikTok videos, check out our Studio! It's a free online video editor that doesn't watermark or require any downloads. Be sure to tag #madewithkapwing when you post – and good luck out there. Happy creating.