Universal Music Group and TikTok were unable to negotiate a new licensing deal.
Thousands — potentially, millions — of TikTok content creators might find their videos muted tomorrow. That’s because its contract with Universal Music Group (UMG) ends today, January 31. They were unable to agree on the terms of a new one, meaning that the recording industry giant will remove all of its music from the social media platform.
UMG hinted as much in an open letter published to its website on Wednesday, and the decision was confirmed by Music Business Worldwide. In the letter, the label claimed that TikTok had paid out substantially less royalties than other leading social media platforms despite its higher emphasis on recorded music. When negotiating the renewal of their license, TikTok purportedly tried to “bully” UMG into accepting even lower rates.
“TikTok’s tactics are obvious: use its platform power to hurt vulnerable artists and try to intimidate us into conceding to a bad deal that undervalues music and shortchanges artists and songwriters as well as their fans,” reads the letter. “We will never do that. We will always fight for our artists and songwriters and stand up for the creative and commercial value of music.”
TikTok denies UMG’s claims. “It is sad and disappointing that Universal Music Group has put their own greed above the interests of their artists and songwriters,” reads a passage. “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.”
The fallout will affect innumerable TikTok users as artists like Drake, Taylor Swift, The Weeknd, Billie Eilish, and Demi Lovato fall under the UMG umbrella. It is a true conglomerate; one of its assets is Capitol Music Group, which itself owns dance music labels like Astralwerks and mau5trap. UMG claims that only 1% of its revenue comes from TikTok despite the platform’s explosive growth over the past several years.
If your TikTok uploads get muted tomorrow, now you know why. It remains to be seen whether the social media powerhouse will be able to mend its relationship with UMG — or if other major labels will follow suit.