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Universal Music Group pulls songs from TikTok

This led to the removal of music and videos of Universal recordings from the app on Thursday.

• February 1, 2024
Universal Music Group and TikTok
Universal Music Group and TikTok

The Universal Music Group, home to various major international artistes, pulled its songs from TikTok on Thursday.

This comes just two days after the music group published an open letter saying that “TikTok is trying to build a music-based business without paying fair value for the music.”

Universal disclosed that as it approached the expiration of its previous contract with TikTok, dated January 31, 2024, it had discussed a contract renewal with the social media platform, which included “appropriate compensation for our artistes and songwriters, protecting human artistes from the harmful effects of AI, and ensuring online safety for TikTok’s users.”

The music group accused TikTok of offering unsatisfactory payment for music and of allowing its platform to be “flooded with A.I.-generated recordings” as well as “developing tools to enable, promote, and encourage AI music creation on the platform itself,” which would massively dilute the royalty pool for real human artistes.

However, in a statement on Tuesday, TikTok responded to Universal, also accusing the company of putting “their own greed above the interests of their artistes and songwriters,” adding that Universal had “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.”

The clash between the music group and the social media platform led to the removal of music and videos of Universal recordings from the app on Thursday, which TikTok confirmed.

Following the removal of Universal’s music, TikTok users noticed that recordings by Universal artistes were deleted from TikTok’s library, and existing videos that used music from Universal’s artistes had their audio muted entirely and were labelled “This sound isn’t available” or “Sound removed due to copyright restrictions.” Universal songs were also unavailable for users to add to new videos.

Meanwhile, official pages of Universal artistes like Taylor Swift and Ariana Grande, whose new albums are scheduled to release next month, had their tabs on the app either entirely bare or reduced to a handful of brief snippets instead of their various tracks that are usually displayed.

As representatives of Universal and TikTok refuse to make any new statements concerning the withdrawal of music from the platform and their negotiations, the number of videos that would be affected by the change and the degree of the fallout remains unknown; however, some videos using Universal recordings appeared to be unaffected.

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