Universal Music Group has threatened to remove its music from TikTok due to a disagreement over royalty payments, affecting the ability of over a billion TikTok users to access songs from popular artists such as Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande, and Rihanna.
Universal issued a public letter on Tuesday titled “An open letter to the artist and songwriter community — why we must call time out on TikTok”, announcing that its licensing deal with TikTok is set to expire the following Wednesday.
A key concern for Universal in its negotiation talks with TikTok revolves around securing fair payment for its artists and songwriters. TikTok users can incorporate music into their creations on the platform.
TikTok, a subsidiary of the Chinese technology firm ByteDance, has offered to pay less than what Universal believes is fair, compared to the fees other large social media networks offer.
Universal, headquartered in the Netherlands, collects royalties when its music is played on various social platforms and has a roster that includes Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, Billie Eilish, J Balvin, and Amy Winehouse.
TikTok countered Universal’s claims by accusing the music company of spreading misleading information and prioritizing profit over the welfare of its artists and songwriters.
“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”, TikTok said in a statement.
In its open letter, Universal accused TikTok of “trying to build a music-based business without paying fair value for the music”.
“As an indication of how little TikTok compensates artists and songwriters, despite its massive and growing user base, rapidly rising advertising revenue, and increasing reliance on music-based content, TikTok accounts for only about 1% of our total revenue”.
Furthermore, the music giant has urged TikTok to take stronger measures to protect musicians from the negative impacts of artificial intelligence and to maintain a safe online environment for users.
Universal has expressed concerns over TikTok’s promotion of AI-generated music and its provision of tools for users to create such music.
It accused TikTok of responding to these concerns with disregard and threats, such as removing emerging artists from the platform while retaining well-known stars.
TikTok has defended itself by stating it has successfully reached agreements that prioritize artists with all other labels and publishers.