Universal Music Group could withdraw its catalog from TikTok

his would happen if a new agreement is not reached with the social network owned by Bytedance. The measures would take effect as early as tomorrow

Universal Music Group (UMG) — a behemoth in the music industry boasting artists like Taylor Swift, Billie Eilish, Olivia Rodrigo, Drake, Kendrick Lamar, and Post Malone, among others — has declared that it may withdraw all of its music from TikTok if the two parties fail to reach a new agreement on the transfer of rights to the social platform.

The announcement comes in an open letter published online on the morning of Tuesday, January 30, on the eve of the expiration of the previous rights transfer agreement, which concludes today. In the communication, UMG stated that, during renewal negotiations, Bytedance (TikTok’s parent company) had stonewalled on three fundamental issues: “providing adequate compensation to the artists and authors of the group, protecting human artists from the harmful effects of Artificial Intelligence, and promoting the safety of all social platform users.” If a new agreement is not reached, starting tomorrow, UMG’s catalog would vanish from the Chinese platform.

But the letter continues: “TikTok would like to recognize our artists and authors with compensation infinitesimally smaller compared to the figures discussed on other major social platforms. Proof of this is that, despite TikTok’s user base and its advertising revenues continuing to grow, and simultaneously, its dependence on a more well-stocked music catalog, the ‘TikTok’ voice accounts for only 1% of our revenue.

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What we observe is that TikTok is trying to build an empire based on music without acknowledging the rightful value of music itself.” According to UMG, the platform has even proposed a deal with lower rates for this contract renewal, employing intimidating actions such as “selectively removing songs from some emerging artists, keeping only the major, globally renowned artists on its spaces.”

TikTok’s strategy is clear: using its platform power to harm vulnerable artists and persuade us to accept a lousy deal that disregards the value of music and is a scam for everyone: artists, authors, fans. We will never endorse it.”

The deadlock marks a significant development not only for artists affiliated with Universal Music Group but also for TikTok’s role within the music ecosystem. The past five years have seen TikTok emerge as the primary marketing tool in this industry: it has helped launch new artists, turned songs into viral hits, propelled old catalog names to the top of charts, and contributed to changing the very methods of music release.

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