Universal Music Group Ends Music Licensing Deal with TikTok, Alleges Bullying and Intimidation

LOS ANGELES – Universal Music Group (UMG) announced on Wednesday that it will no longer license its music to TikTok, the popular short-form video app owned by Chinese tech giant ByteDance. UMG accused TikTok of engaging in bullying and intimidation during contract negotiations, prompting the music label to terminate their licensing agreement. If new terms are not agreed upon, UMG may remove its music catalog from TikTok altogether.

In an open letter, UMG outlined its concerns regarding three key issues: fair compensation for artists and songwriters, protection from the potentially negative effects of artificial intelligence (AI), and online safety for TikTok users. The music label claimed that TikTok proposed paying its artists and songwriters at a rate significantly lower than what other major social platforms offer. UMG also criticized TikTok for allowing its platform to be saturated with AI-generated recordings and enabling AI music creation, which could undermine the royalties earned by human artists.

The decision by UMG reflects the broader concerns within the music industry about the rise of AI and its potential impact on artists and their work. AI is increasingly capable of generating music and even mimicking the voices of well-known artists, raising questions about the future of creativity and originality in the industry.

Moreover, UMG accused TikTok of failing to adequately address copyright infringement on its platform. The music label highlighted TikTok’s lack of effort in combating the unauthorized use of artists’ music, further straining their relationship.

In response to UMG’s allegations, TikTok issued a statement expressing disappointment in the music label’s decision. The company argued that UMG prioritized its own financial interests over the well-being of its artists and songwriters. TikTok emphasized its status as a platform with over a billion users, offering free promotional and discovery opportunities for talent. The company stated that it has successfully reached “artist-first agreements” with other labels and publishers, including a licensing deal with Warner Music Group last year.

The clash between UMG and TikTok reveals the ongoing tensions between music labels and streaming apps as they negotiate licensing agreements. The outcome of this dispute could have significant ramifications for the music industry and how artists are compensated in the digital age. The music industry’s ongoing battle with AI-generated content further underscores the need for clear regulations and guidelines to protect the rights and interests of human creators.