What is TikTok without Harry Styles, Taylor Swift and Ariana Grande? Well, we could soon find out because talks between the social media app and Universal Music Group (UMG) which is described by the company as “the world’s leading music company” have fallen through.
In an open letter published on the UMG website, the company stated that they have been in negotiations with TikTok over their ongoing partnership as the contract between the two expires today.
UMG said: “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 went on to say that the social media app pays UMG artists a rate that is ‘a fraction’ of the rate that similarly situated major social platforms pay. Highlighting just how poorly compensated artists are, UMG stated that TikTok accounts for around 1% of their revenue.
UMG does not as a corporation believe that this is unintentional. Towards the end of their letter, they say, “TikTok’s tactics are obvious: use its platform power to hurt vulnerable artists and try to intimidate us into conceding to a bad deal that undervalues music and shortchanges artists and songwriters as well as their fans.
“We will never do that.”
The artists that could be leaving TikTok
UMG actually controls around a third of the world’s music and the rights to some of the biggest songs on TikTok including ones by Billie Eilish, Justin Bieber, Adele, Taylor Swift, SZA, Miley Cyrus, BTS, and Harry Styles — all of whom have been hugely popular on the app over the past years.
According to BBC Newsround, if UMG does decide to pull all of its music from TikTok, this would be the first time that Universal has removed its songs from a technology company’s platform.
TikTok’s Response to Universal Music Group
In a statement on the platform itself, TikTok has responded to UMG saying, “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.”