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Universal Music Group Warns To Remove Songs From TikTok Once Deal Ends

ByHuey Yee Ong

Jan 31, 2024

Universal Music Group Warns To Remove Songs From TikTok Once Deal Ends

Universal Music Group (UMG), one of the world’s leading music companies, has issued a warning that it may remove its extensive song catalog from TikTok once their existing deal concludes. This bold decision stems from a breakdown in negotiations between the two entities, shedding light on a host of contentious issues and casting uncertainty over the future of music content on the popular short-form video platform. As the contract’s expiration date looms, UMG accuses TikTok of attempting to pressure them into accepting a new agreement that falls short of equitable market value.

This development raises critical questions, given TikTok’s explosive growth and its reliance on music-driven content for user engagement and advertising revenue. The current arrangement, which enabled TikTok users to feature UMG’s vast music library in their videos, is scheduled to expire on January 31.

TikTok, owned by Chinese conglomerate ByteDance, has transformed into a pivotal platform for music discovery and promotion, with its ability to propel songs to viral status. However, UMG’s decision to pull its music could drastically alter the landscape, potentially removing tracks from a wide array of celebrated artists, thereby affecting TikTok’s content ecosystem and its users’ experience.

UMG-TikTok Dispute

Artist Compensation at the Core

At the heart of the disagreement lies the issue of artist compensation. UMG alleges that TikTok attempted to strike a deal that significantly underpaid artists and songwriters compared to what other major social media platforms offer. Despite TikTok’s meteoric rise in popularity, its proposal to UMG offered artists and songwriters a rate far below industry standards. The platform’s contribution to UMG’s total revenue, a mere 1%, was deemed disproportionate, considering its massive user base and rapidly increasing advertising revenue.

This compensation disparity highlights a critical concern within the music industry. While TikTok has garnered immense success and boasts a massive global user base, artists and songwriters are left questioning whether they are being adequately compensated for their creative contributions to the platform’s content.

AI-Generated Content and Its Impact

The proliferation of artificial intelligence (AI) on TikTok has also fueled concerns within the music industry. UMG has voiced apprehensions about TikTok’s willingness to allow the platform to be flooded with AI-generated recordings. What’s more, TikTok is actively developing tools that facilitate and promote AI music creation directly on its platform. UMG argues that these actions could threaten human artists’ income streams and potentially lead to the replacement of artists by AI-generated content. This development raises profound questions about the future of music creation and consumption.

Content Safety and Infringement Issues

UMG has expressed dissatisfaction with TikTok’s approach to content safety and copyright infringement. The music company contends that TikTok has not done enough to combat the significant volume of content on its platform that infringes upon artists’ music. Additionally, TikTok’s response to content adjacency problems and its handling of hate speech, bigotry, bullying, and harassment have fallen short of expectations. UMG has argued that the process for removing infringing or problematic content on TikTok is overly cumbersome and inefficient.

TikTok Fires Back

In response to UMG’s decision to remove its catalog from TikTok, the social media platform issued a sharp and strongly worded statement. TikTok expressed disappointment with UMG’s position, accusing the music company of prioritizing its own financial interests over those of artists and songwriters. TikTok also highlighted its role as a valuable promotional and discovery platform for talent, underscoring its impressive user base of over a billion people. The platform argued that its support for artists and songwriters remains unwavering.

TikTok did not miss the opportunity to highlight that it has successfully negotiated “artist-first” agreements with other music labels and publishers. The platform emphasized that UMG’s grievances appear unique and not indicative of its relationships with other industry players.

This war of words underscores the tension between tech giants and the music industry. While platforms like TikTok offer unprecedented reach and exposure to artists, they also face scrutiny over their financial models and their treatment of creators. As the dispute continues, it raises fundamental questions about the relationship between content creators, platforms, and the music industry.

The Ramifications and What Lies Ahead

UMG’s decision to withdraw its catalog from TikTok is poised to have far-reaching implications. Users may soon find themselves unable to access a vast array of songs from UMG’s iconic artists, including the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Elton John, Drake, Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift, The Weeknd, Post Malone, and many more.

This dispute between UMG and TikTok serves as a stark reminder of the ongoing challenges within the music industry, particularly regarding fair artist compensation and the evolving role of AI in music creation. The outcome of this high-stakes disagreement may also exert influence on how other music companies approach their agreements with TikTok in the future.

As the expiration date of the current agreement approaches, the music industry and TikTok users alike will remain vigilant, closely monitoring the developments surrounding this significant and potentially transformative dispute. The resolution or continuation of this dispute could reshape the landscape of music on social media and define the boundaries of fair compensation for artists in the digital age.

Featured Image courtesy of:
Universal Music Group Logo: Used from Universal Music Group
TikTok Photo: Plann via

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.