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Universal Music Group threatens music withdrawal from TikTok over ‘unfair compensation,’ ‘AI use’

Universal Music Group (UMG) has issued a stern warning, revealing its intention to withdraw its catalog from TikTok following the expiration of its licensing agreement on Wednesday. This decision comes amidst failed negotiations between the two entities concerning crucial aspects such as artist compensation and the utilization of artificial intelligence (AI) within the platform.

In a strongly-worded open letter titled “Why we must call Time Out on TikTok,” UMG, a powerhouse in the music industry representing globally renowned artists including Taylor Swift, Drake, Olivia Rodrigo, and Bad Bunny, accused TikTok of employing coercive tactics aimed at pressuring them into accepting an agreement significantly undervaluing their music. The company alleged that TikTok proposed compensation rates far below industry standards, reflecting a fraction of what other major social platforms remunerate artists and songwriters.

TikTok, the viral short-form video-sharing platform owned by Bytedance, has become a robust promotional instrument for music, with a substantial portion of its content featuring licensed songs. Despite its notable influence in music, UMG asserted that TikTok’s proposed terms failed to compensate artists and songwriters, disregarding their creative contributions adequately.

UMG’s dissatisfaction extends beyond financial concerns, as the company expressed concern regarding TikTok’s utilization of AI-generated recordings and its potential implications for artist integrity and creativity. UMG accused TikTok of promoting an environment conducive to the proliferation of AI-generated content, which they consider equivalent to sponsoring replacing human artists with AI counterparts.

The standoff between UMG and TikTok highlights wider industry discussions surrounding fair compensation for artists in the digital age and the evolving relationship between music and technology. With UMG poised to withdraw its vast catalog from TikTok, the platform encounters the imminent loss of content critical to its user experience and promotional strategies.

As the deadline looms for the expiration of their licensing agreement, the music industry eyes closely, anticipating the ramifications of this controversial dispute on the landscape of digital music consumption and artist compensation.


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