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Universal Threatens To Pull Taylor Swift, Other Artists Songs Off TikTok

In a high-stakes showdown between entertainment titans, Universal threatens to pull Taylor Swift songs off TikTok unless the popular streaming platform concedes to more favorable terms.

James K.
Feb 01, 2024600 Shares12009 Views
In a high-stakes showdown between entertainment titans, Universal threatens to pull Taylor Swift songs off TikTok unless the popular streaming platform concedes to more favorable terms.
As the clock ticks down to the expiration of their existing contract on January 31, 2024, negotiations between the world's largest music company and the social media giant have reached a critical juncture. Industry experts, including Tatiana Cirisano, a music industry analyst at Midia Research, reveal that tensions are escalating as both parties engage in intense discussions to chart the course for their future collaboration.

Universal Threatens To Pull Taylor Swift Songs Off TikTok

TikTok logo on a phone
TikTok logo on a phone
In a dramatic turn of events, Universal Music Group (UMG), the music industry giant, has issued an ultimatum to TikTok, threatening to remove its entire music catalog unless the social media platform agrees to more favorable terms. Negotiations between the two behemoths have reached a fever pitch as they strive to reach a new contract before the current one expires on January 31, 2024.
Music industry analyst Tatiana Cirisano from Midia Research sheds light on the severity of UMG's stance, describing it as a "nuclear option" to demonstrate TikTok's dependency on their extensive catalog. Cirisano comments:
UMG is kind of taking the nuclear option of removing all their music and trying to prove... that TikTok couldn't exist if it didn't have their catalog.- Tatiana Cirisano
In response, UMG released an "Open Letter to the Artist and Songwriter Community" early Wednesday morning, outlining three critical issues in their contract renewal discussions with TikTok. The issues include protection against AI-generated recordings, online safety concerns for users, and higher compensation for artists and songwriters. The letter states:
Today, 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.- Universal Music Group (UMG)
Compensation emerges as a central point of contention, with TikTok proposing payment rates far below those of other major social platforms. Cirisano emphasizes that the dispute is likely to benefit UMG as a company more than individual artists and songwriters.
TikTok respondedon social media, accusing UMG of promoting "false narratives and rhetoric" and prioritizing "greed above the interests of their artist and songwriter." The platform contends that it has successfully negotiated "artist-first" agreements with every other label and publisher.
Cirisano acknowledges the evolving role of TikTok as a music consumption platform, especially among young audiences. She notes:
It's becoming a form of music consumption in its own right... a completely different experience than, say, adding a song to your Instagram story.- Tatiana Cirisano
While the dispute may not significantly impact the well-established artists on UMG's roster, including Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga, and Elton John, it poses larger implications for independent artists and the broader music landscape on TikTok.
"There's a lot of other music that TikTok users have access to beyond the major label catalog than they would have five or 10 years ago," Cirisano remarks. Despite UMG's dominance, the dynamics in the industry have shifted, highlighting the influence and choices available to a diverse range of musicians in this digital age.


As the clock ticks down, Universal Music Group and TikTok find themselves at an impasse, unable to reach a consensus on critical issues such as artist compensation and AI protection. With their agreement set to expire in the next 24 hours, the looming consequence is the removal of some of the world's most beloved music, including chart-toppers like Taylor Swift, Harry Styles, and the newly viral hit "Murder on the Dancefloor," from TikTok's extensive library.
This development marks a significant moment in the ongoing negotiation between the music industry powerhouse and the social media giant, owned by Chinese company ByteDance.
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