The Student Media Site of Georgia College & State University

Bobcat Multimedia

The Student Media Site of Georgia College & State University

Bobcat Multimedia

The Student Media Site of Georgia College & State University

Bobcat Multimedia

A music custody battle

TikTok vs. Universal Music Group

Universal Music Group, or UMG, is the leading name in the music industry. They work alongside artists and songwriters to produce, distribute and promote music, with many of the biggest artists in the industry being part of their catalog.

Currently, there are three leading record labels in the music industry. The other two are Sony Music and Warner Music Group. Compared to the competition, UMG is the largest and most successful of the three, producing music for artists like Taylor Swift, Noah Kahan, Olivia Rodrigo, BTS, Kanye West and many more. 

This past week, UMG removed all of their artists’ music from the social media platform TikTokafter being unable to renegotiate their contract for the rights to their music. Three years ago, when UMG and TikTok made their first contract, which gave licensing rights to TikTok, it was agreed that there would be “equitable compensation for songwriters and recording artists” through the app.

But when their contract was up for renegotiation this January, UMG wanted to address more issues than just the compensation their artists were receiving. After meeting in negotiation with TikTok, they released an open statement letter to the public via their website.

There, UMG addressed what they wished to negotiate into the contract.

“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,” the statement said.

During their discussions on compensation, TikTok proposed to pay only a fraction of what other social media outlets pay the company to use their artists’ music, even though a majority of TikTok’s content is music-based. 

“TikTok attempted to bully us into accepting a deal worth less than the previous deal, far less than fair market value and not reflective of their exponential growth,” the statement said.

The music group then reveals TikTok attempted to “intimidate” UMG into reinstating the contract they had put forward by removing the music of some of their currently developing artists while leaving up the music of many of their globally recognized artists.

When UMG brought up the issues of artificial intelligence, or AI, when ways that other social platforms work to avoid harmful uses of AI were met with “indifference, then intimidation.”

After UMG released its statement on the disagreements with TikTok, the social media platform released a response, attempting to paint the record label in a selfish light. 

“TikTok has been able to reach ‘artist-first’ agreements with every other label and publisher,” TikTok’s statement said. “Clearly, universal self-serving actions are not in the best interest of artists, songwriters, and fans.” 

UMG was quick with a new statement in response.

“Our agreements with TikTok have expired because of TikTok’s unwillingness to appropriately compensate artists and songwriters, protect human artists from the harmful effects of AI, and address online safety issues for TikTok’s users,” UMG said.“TikTok still argues that artists should be grateful for the ‘free promotion’ and that music companies are ‘greedy’ for expecting them to simply compensate artists and songwriters appropriately, and on similar levels as other social media platforms currently do.”

GC students’ responses to the removal of UMG music from TikTok have made it clear that they are in support of UMG fighting for the compensation and protection of their artists. 

“I am sad that a lot of my favorite songs aren’t on TikTok anymore, and a lot of my videos, and a lot of my friends’ videos, have been ‘muted’ because of this,” said Jais Hightower, a junior nursing major. “I am happy that UMG is standing up for the rights of their artists. These artists work really hard to make right and produce their own music. They should receive the proper compensation, especially from a platform as big as TikTok.”

UMG has stated that they are willing to work on a new contract, but this new agreement will not come unless its responsibility to its artists is fulfilled, which means appropriate compensation for their work in an environment that is safe for all and that their artists’ content will be effectively moderated.

“I feel like, especially after what happened with Taylor Swift, and all of the AI pictures of her that were going around online, really should’ve been taken into consideration and handled more maturely during negotiations,” said Katie Cochran, a sophomore psychology major.. “With AI getting more powerful and more realistic as time goes on, having protections in place for people is more serious than it ever has been. There needs to be protections in place, and it cannot be a thing you just choose not to talk about.”

As the world waits for UMG and TikTok to agree to a new contract, artists will still continue to market and utilize other platforms. This will still allow fans to listen and support their favorite artists.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All Bobcat Multimedia Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *