TikTok, the Chinese short-form video platform that is hugely popular among teenagers, has taken a significant step into the music industry after signing a licensing deal with Merlin, the biggest digital rights agency for indie record labels.

The two companies announced in a statement last week that the multi-territory partnership “means the world’s leading independent music repertoire will be licensed for use on TikTok, wherever the platform is available around the world.”

UK-based Merlin represents tens of thousands of record labels, distributors and artist management companies around the world and it makes up more than 15% of the entire global recorded music market.

By teaming up with TikTok, “the breadth and diversity of the catalogue presents our users with an even larger canvas from which to create, while giving independent artists the opportunity to connect with TikTok’s diverse community,” said Ole Obermann, global head of music at TikTok.

As for what Merlin stands to gain, the Financial Times noted that music industry executives regard free-to-use TikTok as a welcome arrival alongside the pay music streamers and they recognise the marketing possibilities that come with that.

“This partnership with TikTok is very significant for us. We are seeing a new generation of music services and a new era of music-related consumption, much of it driven by the global demand for independent music,” said Jeremy Sirota, Merlin CEO.

“Merlin members are increasingly using TikTok for their marketing campaigns, and today’s partnership ensures that they and their artists can also build new and incremental revenue streams,” he added.

It was reported at the end of last year that ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok, had been preparing to launch a competitor to Spotify and Apple Music by testing a rival subscription service called Resso.

Since then, this is the first major music licensing deal announced by TikTok as part of its wider plans in the music industry – a development which TechCrunch described as “significant”.

Interestingly, a “source close to TikTok” also confirmed to TechCrunch that the licensing deal with Merlin covers the Resso music subscription service.

“Music is a fundamental part of the TikTok experience, and this deal covers everything that’s there today – videos created by TikTok users, sponsored videos created for marketing – as well as whatever else is coming up around the corner,” TechCrunch reported.

Sourced from TikTok, Merlin, Financial Times, TechCrunch; additional content by WARC staff