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Universal Music Group Pulling Music Catalogue From TikTok

31 January 2024 | 12:30 pm | Mary Varvaris

“TikTok is trying to build a music-based business without paying fair value for the music.”

Universal Music Group logo

Universal Music Group logo (Source: Supplied)

Universal Music Group (UMG) – the label with the highest tier of artists like Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande, Billie Eilish, the Eagles and many more on its expansive roster – is pulling its artists’ music from TikTok.

In an open letter, UMG addressed the global community of artists and songwriters. The label explained that their decision to pull music from the massively popular social media meets video sharing platform is due to an inability to reach an agreement with TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, over royalty payments.

From midnight on 31 January, UMG will cease licensing the label’s music to TikTok and its new streaming service, TikTok Music.

In the open letter, UMG accused TikTok of offering a payment “a fraction of the rate that similarly situated major social platforms pay.”

According to UMG, “TikTok is trying to build a music-based business without paying fair value for the music.” The label continued, “Today, as an indication of how little TikTok compensates artists and songwriters, despite its massive and growing user base, rapidly rising advertising revenue and increasing reliance on music-based content, TikTok accounts for only about 1% of our total revenue.”

UMG also detailed disagreements with TikTok over payments for AI-generated recordings using the label’s properties. UMG then claimed that TikTok wouldn’t take the necessary steps to remove posts using music that violates the company’s copyright.

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UMG alleged that TikTok first replied to the label’s requests with indifference, then “intimidation”.

“TikTok attempted to bully us into accepting a deal worth less than the previous deal, far less than fair market value and not reflective of their exponential growth,” the label wrote. “How did it try to intimidate us? By selectively removing the music of certain of our developing artists, while keeping on the platform our audience-driving global stars.”

UMG then called out TikTok’s “tactics”: “use its platform power to hurt vulnerable artists and try to intimidate us into conceding to a bad deal that undervalues music and shortchanges artists and songwriters as well as their fans.

“We will never do that,” UMG continued.

“We will always fight for our artists and songwriters and stand up for the creative and commercial value of music.”

In recent UMG news, the company’s Chairman & CEO Lucian Grainge recently revealed the label’s focus on giving his artists the power to “create experiential, commerce and content offerings for their fans”.

This superfan focus, he explained in a The Music report, was the second part of the company’s strategy to earn more money for its artists in streaming. The first was the “artistic-centric royalties” scheme in partnership with Deezer, which included eradicating fraud fluff, which lessened the money available for them.

“The next focus of our strategy will be to grow the pie for all artists by strengthening the artist-fan relationship through superfan experiences and products,” Grainge wrote.