Music

UMG’s TikTok Licensing Feud: Music Industry Reactions (Updating)

Universal Music Group (UMG), the world’s largest music company, released an open letter to its artists and songwriters on Tuesday (Jan. 30) stating that the company’s music would soon leave TikTok due to disagreements over compensation, artificial intelligence, infringing works and harassment.

TikTok replied a few hours later, calling UMG’s letter a “false narrative” and stating that it was “sad and disappointing that [UMG] has put their own greed above the interests of their artists and songwriters.” The short-form video app noted that it acts as an important “free promotion” and “discovery” tool for UMG’s artists.

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By Thursday (Feb. 1), much of the recorded music released by UMG had been removed from TikTok, affecting 21 of the tracks on the TikTok Billboard Top 50 chart. That day, UMG released another statement calling TikTok’s view on music licensing “woefully outdated.”

“TikTok didn’t even attempt to address the other issues we raised regarding harmful AI and platform safety,” the statement continued.

Other music businesses and organizations have added to the conversation with their own statements. Read below for those reactions.

NMPA president/CEO David Israelite: “Music is a driving force behind TikTok’s success and it is extremely unfortunate that TikTok does not seem to value the music creators that fuel its business. We believe songwriters should be valued and compensated fairly, and we believe artificial intelligence should never be used to dilute the value of human creativity. We have seen other social media platforms make the mistake of claiming promotion should substitute for fair compensation. It’s a losing argument and it is wrong.”

Primary Wave founder/CEO Larry Mestel: “The notion that TikTok would try to rationalize willfully underpaying artists because, the platform says, it offers artists ‘promotion’ is a decades-old canard that has no place in any modern music business. Artists and songwriters need to be compensated appropriately for their work and protected from unethical uses of AI. Period. We’re proud to stand alongside UMG and the artist advocates that have called upon TikTok to appropriately pay and protect the songwriters and artists who are critical to the growth and cultural relevance of the platform.”

Artist Rights Alliance: “TikTok’s failure to pay artists fairly and use AI responsibly cannot be allowed to stand. Another example of why musicians need a voice in setting the rates and rules for the use of their work.”

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