Universal Music threaten TikTok boycott

A high-profile dispute involving TikTok could see music from the biggest recording artists pulled from the social media platform.
TikTok music dispute

Songs from the world’s most listened-to artists could be pulled from TikTok, amid an ongoing dispute with Universal Music Group (UMG).

Under a deal between the companies, music from UMG artists like Taylor Swift, The Weeknd, Billie Eilish and Drake is available on TikTok, in exchange for royalties — fees paid by TikTok to the artists.

However, that agreement will expire this week after both sides failed to reach a new deal. UMG called on TikTok to revise its renewal offer and may restrict its music from the platform.

TikTok music dispute

In an open letter this week, UMG accused TikTok of attempting to lure the label into a “bad deal” as part of renegotiations between the companies.

UMG said TikTok offered payment terms at “a fraction” of what artists receive from other big social media platforms.

It also criticised TikTok’s inaction around protecting artists from the threat of AI. It vowed to “stand up for the creative and commercial value of music”.

UMG also raised safety concerns, including a rise in hate speech and harassment on TikTok, and criticised the platform over alleged failures to respond to problematic content.

It said when it confronted TikTok, the company “responded first with indifference, and then with intimidation”.

The music label claimed TikTok “selectively” removed the music of its lesser-known artists as negotiations were stalling to pressure UMG to accept the deal on the table.

Threatened boycott

Unless a new deal is reached, TikTok risks UMG pulling its entire catalogue from the platform.

This could see artists lose out on a revenue stream, while TikTok users would lose access to music from artists like Justin Bieber, SZA, Harry Styles, Kendrick Lamar, and Adele.

UMG said it didn’t “underestimate” the consequences of the situation, including the potential impact on musicians and their fans. However, it said it had an “overriding responsibility” to ensure TikTok agreed to a fair deal.

TikTok’s response

TikTok, which is owned by Chinese company ByteDance, rejected UMG’s allegations and accused it of putting “greed above the interests of their artists and songwriters”.

It said: “Despite Universal’s false narrative… 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.”

TikTok called UMG’s actions “self-serving”. UMG has not given a timeline of when it could remove its music from TikTok.

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