As of January 31, TikTok will no longer host music from Universal Music Group (UMG), following a breakdown in licensing discussions prompted by the end of UMG’s current agreement. The disagreement means that about 3 million recordings and 4 million compositions represented by UMG will be stripped from TikTok, making them unavailable for legal use.
The stalemate arose over three main concerns cited by UMG: ensuring artists and songwriters receive fair pay, safeguarding human artists against the adverse effects of artificial intelligence, and maintaining online safety for users of TikTok. In turn, TikTok criticised UMG for placing financial interests above the welfare of artists and songwriters, with a particular contention over TikTok’s offer of compensation, which UMG considered much lower than that provided by other major social media networks.
UMG voiced apprehensions about the influx of AI-generated content on TikTok, fearing it would dilute the earnings of human artists. TikTok countered by stating that its platform, which does not allow for the playback of full tracks, should not be subject to the same licensing conditions as agreements UMG has with other services like Spotify or Apple Music.
In a public letter, UMG warned that TikTok’s stance on compensation and its embrace of AI might lead to AI replacing human artists. TikTok retorted, emphasising its commitment to supporting artists through its partnerships with other labels and publishers and criticized UMG for abandoning a platform that reaches over a billion users, which also acts as a significant promotional vehicle for discovering new talent.