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Monday May 20th

Universal Music Group Initiates Removal of Artists’ Content from TikTok

<p><em>By the end of the month, all UMG owned music will be erased from the platform. (Photo courtesy of </em><a href="" target=""><em>Flickr</em></a><em> / “TikTok” by Solen Feyissa / August 2, 2020)</em></p>

By the end of the month, all UMG owned music will be erased from the platform. (Photo courtesy of Flickr / “TikTok” by Solen Feyissa / August 2, 2020)

By Ally Uhlendorf
Arts & Entertainment Editor

After a prolonged and public battle between Universal Music Group and TikTok, multiple artists’ sounds have been muted on the app. Songs by top artists such as Ariana Grande, Bad Bunny, Taylor Swift and many more have been removed from the platform. 

UMG, the world’s largest music company, is home to some of the most well-known record labels and brands. The global giant owns labels such as Capitol Music Group, Republic Records and Virgin Music Group, which host some of the most iconic singers and songwriters. 

At the end of January, UMG published an open letter to TikTok addressing the end of its contract with the app, which ended on Jan. 31. The group claimed that the social media platform did not address concerns regarding AI-generated music that was spread on the app, and that it violated UMG’s agreement with the platform. 

“In our contract renewal discussions, we have been pressing them on three critical issues — appropriate compensation for our artists and songwriters, protecting human artists from the harmful effects of AI, and online safety for TikTok’s users,” UMG said in the letter. 

On Jan. 30, UMG began removing sounds on TikTok that included its recorded music. The company stated that it will now require the app to take down any song that UMG has rights over. 

Any material that features samples from UMG artists will now be completely removed from the platform. According to Billboard, that may end up accounting for around half of the music provided on TikTok. 

For years, many artists, especially new and upcoming artists, have relied on TikTok to promote their material and get recognized. The app transformed the industry, and created a myriad of opportunities for music marketing. According to TikTok, “globally, TikTok users are significantly more likely to discover AND share new music content on social or short-form video (SFV) platforms than the average user of social or SFV platforms.” 

Multiple mainstream artists, such as Tate Mcrae and Olivia Rodrigo, create TikToks to tease snippets and promote their new music. This allows users to get a first listen to the artists’ new sound, and inevitably makes them more likely to listen once the music is released. “67% of TikTok users are more likely to search for a song on music streaming services like Spotify or Apple Music after hearing it on TikTok,” according to Demand Sage.

Without the ability to get their music recognized through TikTok, the artists as well as the record labels may suffer. Until UMG and TikTok reach a new conclusive deal, they will not be earning any revenue on music to which UMG has any rights. On the other hand, if the two companies were able to reach a deal that pushes TikTok to pay more for the rights to UMG’s music, it can advance the industry as a whole. 

This situation is a lengthy and intricate one, but could potentially be groundbreaking for the industry. For years, negotiations between media and technology companies typically featured a few dominant rights holders controlling substantial content and a platform with a larger market share. 

Smaller indie artists who are not working with UMG may gain an advantage from this, and it may be their time to shine. For now, it is hard to guess what will happen from this point on. Even though mainstream artists can live without the income they make through TikTok, they are losing a source of promotion and the reach to a greater audience. 


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