Universal Music Group (UMG) has removed the music catalogues of prominent artists, including Taylor Swift, Drake, and Olivia Rodrigo, from TikTok. This move follows unsuccessful negotiations to renew licensing agreements, with the previous agreement expiring on January 31st.
UMG accused TikTok of coercing it into accepting an unfavourable deal that did not address concerns about fair compensation for artists and songwriters, protection against AI-generated music, and online safety on the platform. In an open letter titled “Why we must call Time Out on TikTok,” UMG accused TikTok of attempting to bully and intimidate them into accepting a deal that undervalued music and fell short of fair market value.
TikTok responded by expressing disappointment that UMG had chosen to walk away from a platform with over a billion users. It also accused the label of prioritising its own greed over the interests of artists and songwriters.
As a result of the breakdown in negotiations, UMG-owned music featured in TikTok videos will be muted, requiring users to choose alternative options from different music labels.
UMG, representing a vast array of music stars, including Taylor Swift, Drake, and many others, holds quite a dominant position in the music industry. UMG alleged that TikTok, despite its massive user base and rising advertising revenue, accounted for only about 1% of its total revenue. The music company claimed that TikTok proposed paying artists and songwriters at a fraction of the rate offered by similar-sized social platforms.
TikTok, owned by ByteDance, defended its position, stating that Universal had chosen to abandon a platform that serves as a free promotional and discovery vehicle for talent.