Universal Music to pull songs from TikTok

Source: BBC

Universal Music is set to pull its millions of songs from TikTok after a breakdown in talks over payments.

The move would mean the social media platform would no longer have access to songs by artists including Taylor Swift, The Weeknd and Drake.

Universal accused TikTok of “bullying” and said it wanted to pay a “fraction” of the rate other social media sites do for access to its vast catalogue.

TikTok said Universal was presenting a “false narrative and rhetoric”.

Music companies earn royalty payments when their songs are played on streaming and social media platforms. 

Although TikTok – which is owned by Chinese company ByteDance – has more than one billion users, it accounts for just 1% of Universal’s total revenue, the label said.

In an “open letter to the artist and songwriter community” Universal – which controls about a third of the world’s music – claimed that “ultimately TikTok is trying to build a music-based business, without paying fair value for the music”.

Universal also said that along with pushing for “appropriate compensation for our artists and songwriters”, it was also concerned about “protecting human artists from the harmful effects of AI, and online safety for TikTok’s users”.

The company said it would stop licensing its content to TikTok when its contract expires on 31 January.

In response, TikTok said: “It is sad and disappointing that Universal Music Group has put their own greed above the interests of their artists and songwriters.

“Despite Universal’s false narrative and rhetoric, the fact is 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,” it added.

This is the first time that Universal has taken the major step of removing its songs from a technology firm’s platform.

Universal holds a dominant position in the global recorded music industry. It holds the rights to a huge array of artists from the Beatles and the Rolling Stones to Elton John and Ariana Grande.

It also owns Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s Murder on the Dancefloor, which has been a recent hit on TikTok.

In July last year, Warner Music, which is the world’s third-biggest recorded music company, and TikTok struck a new licensing deal.

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