UMG Pulls Music from TikTok: Implications for both creators and the Music Industry

Universal music group UMG vs TikTok

In a move that reverberated throughout both the creator community and the music industry, Universal Music Group (UMG) recently decided not to renew its licensing deal with TikTok, in essence pulling its entire catalog from the popular social media platform. 

The dispute between UMG and TikTok escalated rapidly, drawing attention from the creator community, music industry, and even the general public. Creators’ videos have already had music removed and there will be less choice of music on the platform going forward. Creators will no longer be able to use music from famous artists such as Taylor Swift, Harry Styles, Drake, and Ariana Grande in their videos on TikTok. This not only includes artists under Universal’s record label, but also those under its publishing arm, and could therefore affect up to 50% of global music when the publishing deal lapses at the end of February..

Universal music group UMG vs TikTok

Why has UMG refused to sign?

The decision comes amidst growing tension between UMG and TikTok, with UMG highlighting issues concerning fair compensation for artists and songwriters as well as copyright infringement issues on the platform.

In an open letter addressed to the artist and songwriter community, UMG called for a “Time Out” on TikTok and explained why it would be taking a stand against the platform. The letter emphasized the need to safeguard the rights of music creators and ensure that they receive fair compensation for their work. It highlighted instances where TikTok allegedly failed to adequately compensate artists and songwriters for the use of their music on the platform.

UMG’s decision to remove its catalog from TikTok underscores the importance of fair compensation for artists and songwriters in the digital age. As streaming platforms continue to dominate the music landscape, music creators are generally paid very little, with Spotify for example paying between $0.003 and $0.005 per stream. 

The dispute between UMG and TikTok serves as a wake-up call for the industry to address these longstanding issues and implement reforms that prioritize the rights of music creators.

TikTok’s side of the story

UMG music removed from TikTok

In a statement on their blog, TikTok said: “It is sad and disappointing that Universal Music Group has put their own greed above the interests of their artists and songwriters.”

“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.”

UMG and TikTok clearly have massively opposing views on the situation. So who’s telling the truth? Good question. It wouldn’t be the first time that music artists (or creatives of any kind!) are denied fair compensation, under the guise of “powerful and free promotion”. However, just how much UMG is asking for is something we don’t know either. We’re sure that more of this story will come to light in due course. In the meantime, in the absence of TikTok saying much more on the matter – let’s take a look at what UMG’s stance means in the long term…

The future of TikTok’s relationship with the music industry

Major record labels Lickd

The fallout from UMG’s decision has prompted speculation about the future of TikTok and its relationship with the music industry. Universal Music Group is the biggest record label in the world, followed by Sony Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group, otherwise known as the 3 majors that promote most of the world’s top music artists. Although Warner Music Group has already renewed their deal and Sony Music Entertainment is set to follow suit, who knows what the future may hold? UMG taking a stand may very well have inspired other rightsholders to take action, whether that’s now or in the future. We may likely see more of these kinds of discussions in years to come.

What’s the solution?

Our CEO, Paul Sampson, weighed in on the UMG-TikTok feud in an opinion piece for Music Week. In this, he highlighted the need for greater transparency and accountability in the music licensing process and argued that platforms like TikTok must do more to ensure that artists and songwriters are fairly compensated for their contributions.

“It is difficult for a platform like TikTok to justify paying significantly lower rates to the music industry than “similarly situated social platforms” (if that is indeed what it is proposing to do) given that it so clearly gained its market share off the back of its roots in music. The fact that it has helped many artists and labels break new music is also fantastic, but not fantastic enough to try and pay a “fraction” of what its competitors pay, if UMG’s claims are to be believed.”

“What is also true, however, is that how labels, publishers and artists make the most out of the nuances of these platforms and the opportunities at different ends of the UGC spectrum is yet to be fully understood by many in our industry, and there is a long way to go until everyone is fully up to speed.”

“The industry needs to come together as a whole to address this problem and come up with a solution, or set of solutions, that works for all – otherwise it will, at best, operate in silos and, at worst, remain broken.”

How you can help

At Lickd, we’re committed to empowering content creators with access to mainstream music licensing, while ensuring fair compensation for artists. With a growing catalog of over 1.4 million tracks, we’ve laid a strong foundation. But we can’t do it alone. We’re calling on creators to join us in revolutionizing the use of mainstream music in their content. By using Lickd, you’re not just accessing quality music, you’re also contributing to a fairer ecosystem for artists. Join us in revolutionizing music for video content and be part of the solution.

Sign up to Lickd here and get licenses to use mainstream music on platforms such as YouTube (and even TikTok) for as little as $8.


License popular music for video content Lickd

What next?

This UMG-TikTok feud has reignited debates about copyright protection and fair compensation in the music industry. It’s highlighted the need for platforms to prioritize the rights of all creators and ensure that they receive their fair share of revenue. As the dispute continues to unfold, all eyes are on TikTok and its response to UMG’s decision. The outcome of this standoff could have far-reaching implications for the future of music in all video content creation, as well as artist remuneration across the board.

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