UMG Pulls the Plug: TikTok Set to Lose Universal Music Group’s Song Catalog

UMG recently announced that they wouldn’t be continuing the global licensing with TikTok. The UMG-TikTok agreement is about to expire and primary issues are causing a standoff, including AI use and artist compensation. Failing to reach an agreement would result in the removal of the songs of its artists. Renowned music, featuring artists like Taylor Swift, Harry Styles, Drake, Olivia Rodrigo, Bad Bunny, J Balvin, Luis Fonsi, Billie Eilish, Kendrick Lamar, Post Malone, etc.,  and the trending track “Murder on the Dancefloor” from TikTok’s extensive library.

In an open letter, the label accuses TikTok of resorting to bullying and intimidation tactics to coerce acceptance of a deal that falls below the standards of the previous one. The proposed agreement, according to Universal Music Group, undervalues its content, offering less than fair market value and neglecting the substantial growth experienced by TikTok. 

UMG

If negotiations remain unfruitful, all UMG songs will be expunged from TikTok once the current agreement concludes on Wednesday, January 31st, as confirmed by a Universal spokesperson.

The open letter from Universal Music Letter alleges that TikTok contributes a mere 1% to its overall revenue, highlighting the platform’s inadequate compensation for artists and songwriters despite its expansive user base and escalating advertising revenue. UMG also accuses TikTok of resorting to intimidation by selectively removing the music of certain emerging artists while retaining content from more prominent stars on the platform.

TikTok counters these accusations, asserting that the label prioritizes greed over the welfare of its artists and songwriters. Contrary to Universal’s narrative, TikTok argues that UMG has chosen to distance itself from a platform with over a billion users, which serves as a vital free promotional and discovery tool for their talent. UMG’s claim that TikTok permits the platform to be overwhelmed with AI-generated recordings. TikTok contends that UMG’s tools for AI music creation contribute to the replacement of artists by AI. Amidst this dispute, TikTok’s similar agreements with music giants Sony and Warner Music remain uncertain in terms of aligning with or challenging UMG’s concerns.

-By Hilary Nwachukwu

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