The Culture Joint

Music from Drake, Stonebwoy, Taylor Swift may be pulled off TikTok amid UMG legal tussle


Universal Music Group (UMG) has announced its decision to withdraw its entire music catalog from TikTok when their contract expires on Wednesday (January 31).

The company is alleging that TikTok is attempting to build a music-based business without fair compensation for the music.

In an open letter addressed to UMG artists and songwriters, the company expressed concerns about TikTok’s proposed compensation rates, the prevalence of infringing content, issues of hate and harassment on the platform, and TikTok’s stance on artificial intelligence (AI).

“With respect to the issue of artist and songwriter compensation, 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 UMG letter indicates.

UMG claims that TikTok proposed paying artists and songwriters a fraction of the rates offered by other major social platforms.

Additionally, UMG accused TikTok of demanding a contractual right allowing AI-generated content to dilute the royalty pool for human artists, promoting AI music creation, and attempting to bully UMG into accepting a deal worth less than the previous one.

“As our negotiations continued, TikTok attempted to bully us into accepting a deal worth less than the previous deal, far less than fair market value and not reflective of their exponential growth,” the letter added. “How did it try to intimidate us? By selectively removing the music of certain of our developing artists, while keeping on the platform our audience-driving global stars.”

TikTok responded, expressing disappointment in UMG’s decision and defending its role as a platform supporting artists.

UMG’s decision to pull its catalog would impact music distributed by its recorded-music division, including artists like Taylor Swift, BTS, Drake, and Stonebwoy.

The last licensing deal between UMG and TikTok was announced on February 8, 2021. This dispute is not the first time the music industry has encountered issues with TikTok, with previous concerns raised about potential copyright theft in 2019.


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