Gone are the days of using songs by Chris Stapleton, Reba McEntire, and yes, even Taylor Swift, on TikTok. Universal Music Group, which encompasses labels like Republic, Capitol, EMI and all of UMG Nashville, has officially removed music by its artists from TikTok since the record company's licensing agreement with the social media platform expired on Wednesday.
Universal Music Group shared an open letter regarding the issue titled "Why We Must Call Time Out on TikTok." In the letter, the company calls TikTok an "increasingly influential platform with powerful technology" that has been built "on a large part" by music from UMG artists and songwriters. The letter explains that during talks regarding contract renewal, UMG pushed for "appropriate compensation for our artists and songwriters, protecting human artists from the harmful effects of AI, and online safety for TikTok's users."
During discussions, the record company took issue with TikTok's offer for artist and songwriter compensation, stating that the proposed rate is a "fraction" of the rate paid by similar social media platforms. The company also states that TikTok contributes about 1 percent to UMG's total revenue.
"Ultimately TikTok is trying to build a music-based business, without paying fair value for the music," states the letter.
The company also takes issue with the widespread use of AI on the platform, including AI-generated recordings and "deepfakes" of artists. UMG also noted the "hate speech, bigotry, bullying and harassment" on the platform. The letter also accuses TikTok of trying to "bully" the label into a new deal by removing music from up-and-coming artists.
"We will always fight for our artists and songwriters and stand up for the creative and commercial value of music," the letter states.
TikTok responded to the claims in a statement to USA Today.
"It is sad and disappointing that Universal Music Group has put their own greed above the interests of their artists and songwriters," reads the statement. "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."
The platform adds, "TikTok has been able to reach 'artist-first' agreements with every other label and publisher. Clearly, Universal's self-serving actions are not in the best interests of artists, songwriters and fans."
In addition to owning multiple mainstream labels like Republic (to which Swift is signed), UMG Nashville's roster includes Carrie Underwood, Eric Church, Keith Urban, Luke Bryan, Shania Twain and many more.
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