June 20, 2024

Universal Music Group silences TikTok: What now? 

The sound of silence can be heard across TikTok. 

The contract between Universal Music Group (UMG), the world’s largest music group, and TikTok expired on Jan. 31, 2024, resulting in a large number of songs being pulled from the app and even more videos being muted that used musical content from artists represented by UMG. 

The two could not agree on the content of their contract and chose not to move forward with renewal.

As said in a statement from UMG released on Jan. 30, while discussing renewing the contract, UMG pressed TikTok on three major issues and concerns. This included fair compensation for artists and songwriters, protecting the artists from AI content and overall online safety for the users of the popular social media platform. 

According to UMG, TikTok was unwilling to meet these demands in any capacity. The statement said “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.” 

TikTok responded with a rather short statement of their own the same day. The statement read: “It is sad and disappointing that Universal Music Group has put their own greed above the interests of their artists and songwriters,” claiming UMG has painted a false narrative and rhetoric. 

The list of artists whose music was pulled off of the popular social media app include Taylor Swift, Olivia Rodrigo, Billie Eilish, Ariana Grande, Harry Styles, Adele, Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, The Weeknd, Lana Del Rey and thousands more. 

Not only does this severely limit the number of songs that a person can select for their video, but it could potentially lead to a major issue of copyright infringement if a person is found using the music of a musician who is represented by UMG. Copyright laws are a little blurry as is, so this is something that could get complicated fast. 

Another major issue is smaller artists represented by UMG rely on TikTok to promote their music. Noah Kahan, for example, owes a lot to TikTok for his quick rise to fame and relied heavily on using the app to promote his new music. He posted a question on TikTok saying, “I’ll probably be okay, right? I’ll land on my feet, right?” 

Even artists who are not directly affiliated with UMG are at risk of having their music removed from the social media platform because UMG has many distributors. 

It is a difficult situation. UMG has valid concerns they would like for TikTok to address in at least some capacity in order to keep their relationship going forward, but the consequences of this disagreement have shown to be drastic as well. 

Users and artists have hope the two will be able to come to an agreement that will appease the three major concerns UMG brings to the table. 


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