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TikTok Faces Further Song Losses Amid Its Dispute with UMG

ByHuey Yee Ong

Mar 2, 2024
TikTok Faces Further Song Losses Amid Its Dispute with UMG

TikTok Faces Further Song Losses Amid Its Dispute with UMG

TikTok and Universal Music Group (UMG) are embroiled in a contentious dispute leading to the removal of a significant portion of songs from the popular social media platform, as confirmed by the company to TechCrunch.

The disagreement, which ignited last month over royalty negotiations between UMG and TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, has escalated. TikTok is now mandated to eliminate tracks owned or distributed by UMG by January 31, and the situation has worsened with the requirement to also remove compositions controlled by Universal Music Publishing Group (UMPG).

The Impact on Music Content

The conflict requires the removal or muting of all songs authored or co-authored by songwriters affiliated with UMPG, impacting 20-30% of TikTok’s popular music content. This action affects not only UMG’s own artists and songwriters but also those associated with other labels if a UMPG-signed songwriter contributed to their songs. TikTok, striving to adhere to legal obligations, has commenced the removal of these songs to ensure compliance by the end of February.

UMG’s stance is articulated through key points:

  • Accusations Against TikTok: UMG accuses TikTok of undermining fair market value negotiations.
  • Value Underestimation: TikTok’s offer is said to significantly undervalue UMG’s contribution and their artists’ and songwriters’ work.
  • Revenue Impact: Despite TikTok constituting only 1% of UMG’s total revenue, the focus is on the principle of fair compensation for artists and songwriters.

TikTok’s rebuttal emphasizes:

  • Defense Against Greed Accusations: TikTok defends its position by lamenting UMG’s prioritization of profit over the interests of artists and songwriters.
  • Public Response: In an open letter, TikTok describes UMG’s actions as self-serving.
  • Impact on Music Discovery: The removal of UMG’s catalog from TikTok is highlighted as a negative impact on the platform’s role in music promotion and discovery.

The Future of Music on Social Media

Despite the potential financial stability of UMG, the removal of its catalog from TikTok underscores a broader conflict over the value and distribution of music royalties in the digital age, highlighting the challenges artists face in monetizing their content on emerging platforms. UMG asserts its dedication to securing a deal that fairly compensates artists for their creations, underscoring an “overriding responsibility” to ensure artists are adequately rewarded for their work amidst evolving digital landscapes.

This dispute spotlights the intricate balance between platform growth, content value, and the fair compensation of creators in the digital music industry. As platforms like TikTok become pivotal in music promotion and discovery, the outcomes of such negotiations could set precedents for future dealings between music publishers and social media platforms. The ongoing dialogue between TikTok and UMG represents a critical juncture for the music industry, reflecting the broader challenges and opportunities presented by the digital age in ensuring artists’ rights and revenues are protected while catering to the global audience’s evolving consumption habits.

The contention between TikTok and UMG not only impacts the availability of music on one of the world’s most popular social platforms but also sets the stage for further discussions on the dynamics of music rights management, platform liability, and the mechanisms of fair compensation in the increasingly digital consumption of music. As the situation unfolds, both the music industry and digital platforms will need to navigate these complexities, balancing innovation with the equitable distribution of the digital economy’s benefits.


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Featured Image courtesy of Mario Tama/Getty Images

Huey Yee Ong

Hello, from one tech geek to another. Not your beloved TechCrunch writer, but a writer with an avid interest in the fast-paced tech scenes and all the latest tech mojo. I bring with me a unique take towards tech with a honed applied psychology perspective to make tech news digestible. In other words, I deliver tech news that is easy to read.