Record company Universal Music Group (UMG) is threatening to withdraw its music from video app TikTok. The music group has not yet reached an agreement on compensation for the use of music under videos on the app. TikTok, owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, has more than 1 billion users and they often post music under their videos, including from artists managed by UMG.
If Universal does indeed ban TikTok from using their music catalog on the app, it will impact creators on the app. For example, it is no longer possible to use songs from major artists such as Taylor Swift, Billie Eilish, The Weeknd, Ariana Grande and Lady Gaga under videos.
In an open letter to TikTok, UMG writes that the Chinese company is not prepared to pay a reasonable compensation for the music rights. “Ultimately, TikTok is trying to build a business without paying a fair price for the music,” the letter reads.
TikTok now pays a so-called royalty fee for every song used in a video. But Universal believes that fee is too low compared to what other social media platforms pay. Universal also resents the fact that TikTok allows music to be created on the platform using artificial intelligence. The voice of real artists is replaced by AI. Universal fears that it will miss out on royalty income and says that TikTok is trying to grow at their expense.
“As our negotiations continued, TikTok attempted to thwart us by accepting a deal that yielded less than the previous one,” the open letter reads. “Much less than the real market value and, moreover, their exponential growth is not reflected in it.”
TikTok says it is disappointed in Universal. “It is sad and disappointing that Universal Music Group has put their own greed above the interests of their artists and songwriters,” TikTok wrote in a response.
According to the platform, Universal profits from the use of their music. “Universal is choosing to walk away from a platform with over a billion users that serves as a free promotion and discovery channel for their talent.”
The latter is something that other record companies agree with. For some labels, TikTok has even become the main avenue for ensuring songs reach the general public.
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