Universal removes Taylor Swift hits from TikTok amid payment dispute

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Taylor Swift

LOS ANGELES, Jan 31: In a significant development impacting over 1 billion TikTok users, Universal Music Group (UMG) has decided to pull its extensive music catalog from the popular social media platform. This move means that songs by globally renowned artists such as Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande, Rihanna, Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, Billie Eilish, J Balvin, and Amy Winehouse will no longer be available for streaming on TikTok.

Universal Music Group released a statement stating that it opted not to renew its licensing agreement with TikTok, which was set to expire on Wednesday. The primary reason cited by UMG was the inability to secure “appropriate compensation” for its artists and songwriters. Like other music companies, UMG charges royalty fees for the use of its songs on various social media platforms.

According to UMG, TikTok proposed paying only a “fraction” of the rate comparable to what other similarly-sized social media platforms pay for music licensing. TikTok, owned by Chinese tech company ByteDance, has disputed UMG’s claims, accusing the music giant of prioritizing “their greed above the interests of their artists and songwriters.” TikTok also accused UMG of walking away from a platform that serves as a powerful promotional and discovery vehicle for its talent.

In response, UMG accused TikTok of attempting to build a music-based business without adequately compensating artists and songwriters. The music giant highlighted that despite TikTok’s substantial user base, advertising revenue, and reliance on music-based content, it only contributes about 1% to UMG’s total revenue.

Beyond the compensation dispute, UMG revealed that it had been urging TikTok to enhance measures protecting musicians from the adverse effects of artificial intelligence and to ensure online safety for TikTok’s users. UMG criticized TikTok for allowing its platform to be inundated with AI-generated music and providing users with tools to create their AI-generated recordings. The music company claimed that TikTok responded with “indifference and intimidation,” including removing some up-and-coming artists from the platform while retaining the music of global stars.

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