Universal Music Goes to War With TikTok

Exit sign above person talking phone with tiktok away from phone with universal music group logo
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TikToks are about to get a lot quieter, as record label Universal Music Group (UMG) has sensationally revealed that they plan on removing their songs from the platform on Jan. 31. At the time of writing on Jan. 31, music from UMG still appears to be on TikTok — but if a deal isn’t reached, it’s expected to be removed today.

The record label represents some of the biggest artists in the world, including Taylor Swift, Drake, Ariana Grande, SZA, Billie Eilish, The Weeknd, and Coldplay, to name a few.

In an open letter to its artists, the record label, which the BBC reports owns a third of the world’s music, accused TikTok of trying to “bully” them into accepting a lower deal. Among other things, the label also alleged in this letter that the platform is “selectively” removing certain artists’ music as an intimidation tactic and expressed concern about the impact AI on the platform could have on musicians’ intellectual property. 

“Ultimately, TikTok is trying to build a music-based business without paying fair value for the music,” UMG said. 

TikTok didn’t specifically respond to the allegations levied against it, but it did accuse UMG of perpetuating “a false narrative and rhetoric” in a bitter statement of its own.

“It is sad and disappointing that Universal Music Group has put their own greed above the interests of their artists and songwriters,” the platform said. “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.”

In the statement, TikTok also pointed out that it was able to reach “artist-first” agreements with all other record labels and publishers.

Update, Feb. 1, 2024, 9 am ET: Universal Music Group removed its songs from TikTok’s music library.

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