Universal Music Group has pulled its entire catalogue from TikTok to the surprise of artists and fans alike.
Universal Music Group has pulled the plug on TikTok stating “TikTok is trying to build a music-based business, without paying fair value for the music.”
Universal Music Group is one of the largest names in music, owning Abbey Road Studios, Decca, EMI, Def Jam and many more well established labels and brands under its umbrella. Up until January 31, 2024 the company had a contract with TikTok that allowed users to post videos with audio clips from its wide catalogue of artists.
TikTok has its roots in Musical.ly, a social media video platform that allowed users to create short lip-sync and comedy videos that the Chinese company merged with in 2018 to establish a wider user base. TikTok’s biggest success stories and stars built their following from dancing, lip-syncing and creating trends to popular audio clips – many of which are music.
Universal Music Group has pulled the plug on its relationship, opting not to renew its contract following negotiations. In an open letter addressed to the artist and and songwriter community, UMG stated that, “in our contract renewal discussions, we have been pressing them on three critical issues—appropriate compensation for our artists and songwriters, protecting human artists from the harmful effects of AI, and online safety for TikTok’s users.”
The letter goes on to highlight that TikTok accounts for only about 1 percent of UMGs total revenue, despite the popularity and social capital viral content on the app generates.
The company also expressed concern about AI music creation on the app and how that is “nothing short of sponsoring artist replacement by AI.” Ironically, since UMG removed its audios from the app on February 1st, TikTok has been flooded with AI recreations of popular audios that were removed.
It’s third major concern was around a “tidal wave of hate speech, bigotry, bullying and harassment on the platform”, which UMG did not wish to be associated with.
Artists under UMG have expressed their anger at the label executives and the uncertainty surrounding the news. Popular TikToker and Aussie pop star Peach PRC posted a video on TikTok highlighting the fact that Universal muted every single song she has created under them on the very platform they discovered and signed her from. American folk singer Noah Kahan blew up on the app after multiple songs of his became trending audios, leading to sold out tours across the world. Kahan posted a video this week saying he found out about news as the public did, saying that he can no longer promote his music on TikTok, “luckily I’m not a TikTok artist though, right?”, he joked sarcastically as he encouraged his fans to stream and pre-save his music on streaming platforms.
Companies posting on the app were already encouraged to use music from TikTok’s Commercial Music Library, as it’s pre-cleared for commercial use. However, many brands have tacked on to viral trends accompanied by audios in the past.
“We recognize the challenges that TikTok’s actions will cause, and do not underestimate what this will mean to our artists and their fans who, unfortunately, will be among those subjected to the near-term consequences of TikTok’s unwillingness to strike anything close to a market-rate deal and meaningfully address its obligations as a social platform,” concluded Universal Music Group’s open letter. “But we have an overriding responsibility to our artists to fight for a new agreement under which they are appropriately compensated for their work, on a platform that respects human creativity, in an environment that is safe for all, and effectively moderated.”