TikTok removes Universal Music Group songs in licensing dispute

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Songs from several artists signed to Universal Music Group (UMG) have disappeared from TikTok following a failure to reach a new licensing deal, triggering a public dispute between the two entities.

As of Thursday morning, music by notable UMG artists such as Taylor Swift, Olivia Rodrigo, Lana Del Rey, and Drake was no longer accessible on TikTok, after the expiration of the licensing agreement between UMG and the popular short video app, which is owned by Chinese tech giant ByteDance.

UMG has accused TikTok of engaging in bullying and intimidation tactics during the contract negotiations. Specifically, UMG alleged that TikTok proposed compensation rates for its artists and songwriters that were significantly lower than those offered by other major social platforms.

In addition to the financial dispute, UMG also voiced concerns about TikTok’s handling of user-generated content, alleging that the platform has allowed it to be “flooded with AI-generated recordings.”

In response, TikTok accused UMG of prioritizing its own financial interests over those of its artists and songwriters, labeling the music label’s stance as driven by “greed.”

A spokesperson for UMG confirmed that TikTok has begun removing UMG’s audio content from its platform since the licensing agreement expired.

TikTok has emerged as a powerful platform for music discovery, with the potential to propel both new and older songs to viral status through user-generated videos. However, the compensation issue has been a point of contention for music labels, including UMG, which stated that despite TikTok’s significant user base and growing advertising revenue, only 1% of its total revenue comes from the platform.

The dispute between UMG and TikTok underscores the complexities of digital music licensing and the ongoing debate within the music industry over fair compensation for artists and songwriters in the digital era.

(Source: Rolling Stone | USA Today | CNN | NBC)

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