The era of using tunes by Chris Stapleton, Reba McEntire, and even Taylor Swift on TikTok has officially come to a close. Universal Music Group (UMG), the powerhouse behind labels like Republic, Capitol, EMI, and UMG Nashville, has pulled the plug on its music from TikTok as the record company’s licensing agreement with the social media giant expired on Wednesday.
In an open letter titled “Why We Must Call Time Out on TikTok,” UMG sheds light on the issue, deeming TikTok an “increasingly influential platform with powerful technology” that has thrived, in part, on the music of UMG artists and songwriters. The letter details that, during negotiations for contract renewal, UMG advocated for “appropriate compensation for our artists and songwriters, protecting human artists from the harmful effects of AI, and online safety for TikTok’s users.”
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In the discussions, UMG raised concerns about TikTok’s proposed rate for artist and songwriter compensation, denouncing it as a mere “fraction” of what comparable social media platforms pay. The letter also reveals that TikTok contributes roughly 1 percent to UMG’s overall revenue.
“Ultimately TikTok is trying to build a music-based business, without paying fair value for the music,” asserts the letter.
UMG further expresses disapproval of the widespread use of AI on TikTok, encompassing AI-generated recordings and “deepfakes” of artists. The letter cites concerns about “hate speech, bigotry, bullying and harassment” on the platform. Additionally, UMG accuses TikTok of attempting to strong-arm the label into a new deal by removing music from emerging artists.
“We will always fight for our artists and songwriters and stand up for the creative and commercial value of music,” declares the letter.
TikTok responded to these claims in a statement to USA Today.
“It is sad and disappointing that Universal Music Group has put their own greed above the interests of their artists and songwriters,” reads the statement.
“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.”