Universal Music Group pulls entire song catalogue from TikTok after fiery open letter

“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,” says UMG.

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The entirety of Universal Music Group’s song catalogue will be removed from TikTok after its current licensing agreement expires on 31 January 2024, Music Business News has confirmed.

In an open letter issued yesterday (30 January), titled ‘Why we must call time out on TikTok’, UMG accused TikTok of attempting to “bully” them into “accepting a deal worth less than the previous deal, far less than fair market value and not reflective of their exponential growth”.

UMG said that during its contract renewal discussions with TikTok, it has been “pressing” the tech giant on “three critical issues”, including “appropriate compensation for our artists and songwriters, protecting human artists from the harmful effects of AI, and online safety for TikTok’s users.”

“TikTok proposed paying our artists and songwriters at a rate that is a fraction of the rate that similarly situated major social platforms pay,” the music company added. “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.”

On AI, UMG claimed that TikTok is “allowing the platform to be flooded with AI-generated recordings” and “developing tools to enable, promote and encourage AI music creation on the platform itself”. It then slammed the move as “nothing short of sponsoring artist replacement by AI.”

Crucially, UMG also alleged that when negotiations had stalled, TikTok tried to “intimidate” them by “selectively removing the music of certain of our developing artists, while keeping on the platform our audience-driving global stars.”

“TikTok’s tactics are obvious: 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.”

Responding to UMG’s announcement, TikTok says that “It is sad and disappointing that Universal Music Group has put their own greed above the interests of their artists and songwriters.”

“Despite Universal’s false narrative and rhetoric, the fact is they have chosen to walk away from the powerful support of a platform with well over a billion users that serves as a free promotional and discovery vehicle for their talent,” said the company.

“TikTok has been able to reach ‘artist-first’ agreements with every other label and publisher. Clearly, Universal’s self-serving actions are not in the best interests of artists, songwriters and fans.”

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