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Universal Music Group just pulled all of its music from TikTok

Universal Music Group (UMG), aka the world's largest music company, has removed all of its songs from TikTok. That means no more Rihanna, SZA, Olivia Rodrigo...or Taylor Swift. Yep, some of the biggest names in music will no longer be viral TikTok sensations. 

What's happening?

UMG's contract with TikTok expired on Jan. 31, and the companies could not reach an agreement for a renewal. Without a renewed contract, UMG has effectively started pulling music from its signed artists off of the platform. 

As we speak, artists and creators who use sounds featuring music under contract with UMG will be muted and removed. This also means you will no longer be able to lip sync to your fave Taylor Swift song or dance to a remix of BTS.

Why does it matter?

TikTok is a platform that has made it easy to discover new music and stay on top of new releases and trends. This is tough news for big and small artists under the group because it means they will no longer be able to harness the viral power of TikTok to promote their music. 

Think of how artists like Billie Eilish went viral with songs like "What Was I Made For?" (remember all those tearjerker girlhood TikToks?). Now, other signed artists will not get the chance to do the same. 

So why did UMG do this?

Doesn't TikTok *help* artists get discovered and earn money? That's the Q we're all asking rn.

Well, the reason is pretty straightforward, according to UMG. They claim that TikTok doesn't treat its artists fairly. 

In an open letter published by UMG, the record label cites unfair compensation plus concerns over AI and safety as their main reasons for leaving the app.

Unfair compensation: Despite TikTok's prominence, UMG claims that the app only made up 1% of its total revenue. "Ultimately, TikTok is trying to build a music-based business, without paying fair value for the music," UMG wrote in the open letter. 

Concerns about AI: Another concern was the increased use of AI-generated music that aims to replicate the voices of UMG artists. Chances are you have seen or even used these sounds. They often take the form as a popular artist "covering" a different artist's song. According to UMG, this poses a threat to the actual artist's compensation and reputation. 

Safety issues: Finally, UMG stated that fending off bigotry, hate speech and harassment on the platform is equivalent to playing "digital whack-a-mole"—an inefficient process and ultimately a losing battle. 

When these concerns were brought up to TikTok, UMG claims they were met with "indifference" and "intimidation." Allegedly, the social media company tried to force UMG to accept a deal worth less than its previous contract. When UMG refused, they began removing the sounds of smaller developing artists in an attempt to intimidate UMG. 

"We will always fight for our artists and songwriters and stand up for the creative and commercial value of music," UMG wrote in the open letter. 

With TikTok being the go-to dance and music app, what do you think will happen next? Will the app turn in a new direction, or is this the beginning of the end for the social media sensation? 


by Alex Marek and Mudia Ighile | 2/2/2024