Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Universal Music Group disputes content rights with TikTok

UMG cites issues with compensation, use of AI and user safety

TikTok removed all music licensed under Universal Music Group last month following the social media platform’s failure to renew their contract with UMG. Songs by popular artists such as Taylor Swift, Olivia Rodrigo and Noah Kahan can no longer be found on the TikTok app.

In an open letter posted on January 30th, UMG cited “appropriate compensation,” “harmful effects of AI” and “online safety for TikTok users” as its reason for pulling music. They also declared their mission “to help our artists and songwriters attain their greatest creative and commercial potential.”

Videos on the platform using songs by UMG artists have had the audio removed. These videos now contained disclaimers such as “This sound isn’t available” and “Sound removed due to copyright restrictions.”

TikTok fired back at UMG in a statement, saying the music company “put their own greed above the interests of their artists and songwriters.” TikTok noted other labels reached an agreement with them that promotes the best interest of the artist, songwriters and fans.

UMG claims that TikTok only pays a fraction of what other social media sites pay to feature their artist on their platforms. With the rising popularity of AI-generated content, TikTok has done nothing to protect artists from being targeted.

The use of AI-generated recordings is diluting the music industry and slowly pushing human artists out. TikTok has limited parameters regarding AI-generated photos such as deep fakes which target not only artists but every user on the platform.

The removal of music from the platform has upset many creators and artists, as TikTok has been used as a primary source of promotion. Grammy-nominated artist Noah Kahan posted a TikTok following the removal of his music stating, “I won’t be able to promote my music on TikTok anymore. But luckily I’m not a TikTok artist, right?”

Kahan attributes much of his recent success to his content which was posted on TikTok. During the pandemic, he began sharing clips of songs including “Stick Season” which peaked at number 10 on the Billboard Hot 100.

UMG removing their artists from TikTok creates a huge gap in marketing, especially for smaller artists. While stars such as Taylor Swift and Ariana Grande, who both have upcoming releases, can manage promoting their work without TikTok, smaller artists may struggle.

Vice president of digital at Artist Partner Group, Alec Henderson, explained the importance of TikTok and its power as a marketing tool. “We have weekly meetings dedicated to sharing things that we’re seeing there. We view the TikTok viral chart with a competitive mindset. And we put a high emphasis on working with artists that are native to the platform.”

While artists can promote their music on other platforms, they can’t compare to the power TikTok has. Competitors such as Instagram Reels are not nearly as influential as TikTok.

Artists have found ways to promote their upcoming releases on TikTok by posting acoustic versions of their songs. Creators have been using remixed versions or covers of songs to replace the original versions.

While the last few weeks on TikTok have seen a significant change, UMG and TikTok have finally come to an agreement keeping the artists’ best interests in mind.

On February 8th, UMG released a second statement announcing their new decision. This agreement “delivers equitable compensation for recording artists and songwriters… promoting the development of new innovative experiences and the ability to forge deeper bonds between fans and the artists and music they love.”

TikTok has acknowledged the power it holds over the music industry stating, “Our platform has been a driver in creating chart hits…we are proud to partner with UMG and UMPG to be a source to help new talent emerge and to re-introduce legacy acts to a new audience.”

Katherine Varrell can be reached at [email protected].

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