Allen J. Chapin | Los Angeles Times | Getty Images
Universal Music Group said Wednesday it would stop licensing its music to TikTok and accused the short-form video giant of bullying and intimidation in contract negotiations.
The music licensing agreement between UMG and TikTok, which is owned by Chinese tech giant ByteDance, expired on Wednesday, and no new terms have been agreed upon. This means that UMG can pull its music catalog from TikTok.
UMG said in an open letter published Wednesday that it is “pressuring” TikTok during contract discussions on three issues — “adequate compensation for our artists and songwriters, protecting human artists from the harmful effects of artificial intelligence, and online safety for TikTok users.” “
The music company, which represents major stars from Taylor Swift to Drake, said TikTok proposed paying artists and songwriters “at a rate that is a fraction of the rate major social media platforms pay in the same situation.” UMG said just 1% of its total revenue comes from TikTok, despite the social network's “huge and growing user base”, rapidly rising advertising revenue and increasing reliance on music-based content.
UMG also claimed that TikTok is allowing its platform to be “flooded with AI-generated recordings,” as well as developing tools to “enable, promote, and encourage AI music creation.” According to UMG, TikTok “claims a contractual right that would allow this content to significantly dilute the royalty pool for human artists, in a move nothing short of sponsoring the replacement of the artist by artificial intelligence.”
The music industry is grappling with the rise of artificial intelligence, which can generate music and even imitate the voices of major artists.
UMG also said TikTok “makes little effort to address the massive amounts of content on its platform that infringes” on artists' music.
The sticker company accused TikTok of bullying and intimidation tactics in contract negotiations.
“When we suggested that TikTok take similar steps as our other platform partners to try to address these issues, it responded first with indifference, then with intimidation,” UMG said.
“As our negotiations continued, TikTok tried to force us to accept a deal that was worth less than the previous deal, far below fair market value and not reflective of its exponential growth. How did it try to intimidate us? By selectively removing our music.” “Some of our cutting-edge artists, while maintaining the platform on our global stars who attract the audience.”
TikTok responded to UMG's allegations on Wednesday.
“It is sad and disappointing that Universal Music Group puts its greed above the interests of its artists and songwriters,” the company said in a statement.
“Despite Universal's false narrative and rhetoric, the truth is that they have chosen to walk away from the strong support of a platform with over a billion users that serves as a free promotional and discovery vehicle for their talent.”
TikTok said it was able to reach “artist-first agreements with every other label and publisher.”
Last year, the company signed a music licensing agreement with Warner Music Group.
“Wannabe web expert. Twitter fanatic. Writer. Passionate coffee enthusiast. Freelance reader.”