Shocking End to TikTok’s Major Deal with Universal Music Group

Universal Music Group ends major deal with TikTok

Universal Music Group (UMG) has threatened to remove all of the music it owns from TikTok.

UMG’s agreement with TikTok has expired earlier this week due to agreement issues on artist compensation and AI.

Universal Music Group Agreement

Some of the world’s most popular music – including hits on TikTok like newly viral ‘Murder on the Dancefloor’ – will be removed from TikTok’s library. Artists among the likes of the Beatles, SZA, Coldplay, and the Weeknd are signed under the UMG company.

An Open Letter to TikTok from Universal Music Group

After meetings between the two companies – ByteDance (the Chinese tech company who owns TikTok) and Universal Music Group – the latter has come out with an open letter. Titled ‘‘Why We Must Call Time Out on TikTok,” the letter raises concerns on artificial intelligence tools, copyright infringement, hate speech and harassment.

The letter continues with Universal stating that TikTok has proposed to pay a fraction of the rate that similar social platforms pay for rights to the music catalogue.

What did TikTok have to say?

TikTok, owned by ByteDance

Following the letter, TikTok responded accusing UMG of conducting a false narrative, pointing out that they’ve been able to sign deals with other major music labels.

They continued by stating that UMG are putting their ‘‘own greed above the interests of their artists’’ as they choose to walk away from their company that ultimately serves as a free and powerful promotional, support and discovery tool for their talent.

What happens now?

UMG and other labels have used TikTok to their advantage to strategize around getting songs to go viral with the algorithm. TikTok has let a younger generation discover their next favorite song from many artists and labels from UMG.

But what happens now to the videos posted with over 50 million views with a message displayed, ‘‘This sound isn’t available.”


However, not all hope is lost. As remixes with sped-up or reverbed voices are catching up on TikTok, this could lead an ACR system – one built to detect musical compositions – to not identify the original songs.

If UMG were to sue the creators behind these compositions, it could lead to an attempt to fair use claim in court, which leads down a rabbit hole. A further complication to recognizing songs is that there thousands of songs whose songwriting credits are split between songwriters who are affiliated to UMG but also aren’t.

What does TikTok’s future look like without Universal Music Group?

Songs by Taylor Swift, Drake, and more are set to disappear from the app unless a pact is reached.

UMG said TikTok only makes part of 1% of its advertising revenue, however, the removal of UMG’s catalogue would see a significant impact on the user experience for TikTok, considering the platform’s reliance on accessing trending songs which are mostly part of this catalogue.

Written by Juliana Zammit

Juliana is a Bachelor student studying Journalism, and photography. Allowing her to narrate stories through text and images.

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