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Universal Music Group has threatened to remove music from TikTok

In an open letter, Universal has accused the platform of "bullying", after talks surrounding a new music rights deal

  • Becky Buckle
  • 1 February 2024
Universal Music Group has threatened to remove music from TikTok

Universal Music Group (UMG) has released an open letter, outlining intentions to remove music from TikTok.

Universal has accused TikTok of attempting to “bully” and “intimidate” them into “accepting a deal worth less than the previous deal, far less than fair market value and not reflective of their exponential growth”.

The label's music licensing deal with the social media platform is set to expire today (January 31), with the two groups seemingly having failed to reach a new agreement.

Read this next: TikTok is trialling a new AI music-making tool

As a result of this, UMG have threatened to remove its full catalogue of music from the social media app equally the removal of millions of tracks.

Universal explains in its open letter that it had been discussing the “appropriate compensation” for its artists and songwriters who have been affected by artificial intelligence (AI) and how TikTok can improve online safety.

“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 open letter reads.

It adds: “Today, 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.”

Read this next: Universal asks streaming platforms to block AI access of music catalogue

The letter claims: “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.

“We will always fight for our artists and songwriters and stand up for the creative and commercial value of music.”

TikTok has responded to UMG with a statement sharing: “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.

“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.”

Read this next: Over a million "manipulated" versions of copyrighted tracks found on streaming platforms

UMG artists include Taylor Swift, The Weeknd, Kendrick Lamar, The Beatles and Sophie Ellis-Bextor whose track ‘Murder on the Dancefloor’ has recently become a trending hit on TikTok.

It is predicted that Universal will begin removing its music from TikTok in the following days.

Read Universal Music’s full open letter here and TikTok’s response here.

Becky Buckle is Mixmag's Multimedia Editor, follow her on Twitter

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