TikTok Loses a Ton of Music as Licensing Talks With Universal Music Group Fall Through






TikTok creators have lost access to a massive chunk of music after Universal Music Group pulled its songs from the platform after the companies failed to reach a new licensing deal for artist compensation and the applications for artificial intelligence.

Universal Music Group and TikTok have been in active negotiations for some time. Still, they could not agree to new terms before the existing licensing deal expired, which took effect on January 31. All music licensed by Universal Music Group will be removed in the coming days, including songs from Taylor Swift, Billie Eilish, Harry Styles, Ariana Grande, Adele, U2, Elton John, and Pearl Jam.

“The companies have not agreed to terms for a new agreement, and upon expiration of the current agreement, Universal Music Group, including Universal Music Publishing Group, will cease licensing content to TikTok and TikTok Music services,” Universal Music Group said in an open letter posted January 30.

Universal Music Group said TikTok tried to “bully” the company into a deal worth less than the now-expired agreement and has backed away from the social media platform in response.

“TikTok proposed paying our artists and songwriters at a rate that is a fraction of the rate that similarly situated major social media platforms pay,” said Universal Music Group. “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. Ultimately, TikTok is trying to build a music-based business without paying fair value for the music.”

The company cited concerns over AI-generated recordings and said TikTok allowing such content “massively dilutes” the royalty pool for artists. Universal Music Group also said TikTok makes “little effort” to control content hosted on its platform that infringes on artists’ rights as well as contributes to a “tidal wave of hate speech, bigotry, bullying, and harassment on the platform.”

TikTok, along with Meta and X, appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee on January 30 to answer questions regarding the dangers and health risks children face using social media and reaffirm their commitments to online safety.

However, TikTok’s stance is that the company doesn’t operate a music streaming platform and should not be treated as one when it comes to licensing deals. Content creators can use licensed music in their videos, but only up to sixty seconds. The company said it is fully licensed and has agreements with all other major and independent labels.

TikTok released a statement in response to the stalled negotiations.

“It is sad and disappointing that Universal Music Group has put their own greed above the interest of their artists and songwriters,” said a spokesperson for TikTok. “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.”

Universal Music Group said it would “honor our responsibilities with the utmost seriousness” and “intimidation and threats will never cause us to shirk those responsibilities.”

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

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