Universal Music Group (UMG), one of the world’s largest music companies, announced its failure to renew its licensing agreement with TikTok, citing disagreements over artist compensation and the use of artificial intelligence (AI). The current deal is set to expire today (Jan. 31), after which the corporation will cease licensing content to the social media platform and its services.
UMG’s roster includes prominent names like Drake, The Weeknd, Alicia Keys, SZA, Steve Lacy, Drake, Nicki Minaj, Kendrick Lamar, Lil Baby, Quavo, and City Girls, to mention a few.
In an open letter, UMG said, “In our contract renewal discussions, we have been pressing them on three critical issues — appropriate compensation for our artists and songwriters, protecting human artists from the harmful effects of AI, and online safety for TikTok’s users.”
Our core mission is simple: to help our artists & songwriters attain their greatest creative and commercial potential, which is why we must call time out on TikTok.
— Universal Music Group (@UMG) January 31, 2024
It continued, “[TikTok] has offered no meaningful solutions to the rising tide of content adjacency issues, let alone the tidal wave of hate speech, bigotry, bullying and harassment on the platform. The only means available to seek the removal of infringing or problematic content [such as pornographic deepfakes of artists] is through the monumentally cumbersome and inefficient process, which equates to the digital equivalent of ‘Whack-a-Mole.’”
The company highlighted TikTok’s proposal to pay musicians and songwriters at a rate significantly lower than that of competitors such as Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook. They also raised concerns about AI-generated content flooding the social media networking website and potentially diluting the royalty pool for human artists.
TikTok, in response, accused UMG of prioritizing greed and walking away from the support of a platform with over a billion users that serves as a free promotional and discovery vehicle for talent. They claimed to have reached “artist-first” agreements with other labels and publishers, asserting that the corporation’s actions are not in the best interests of musicians, songwriters, and fans. The outcome could potentially impact the availability of music from top artists on the app.