TikTok and UMG Strike a New Agreement


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Why Social Media is Integral to the Music Industry

As of February 2024, TikTok boasts over 1.5 billion active monthly users, ranking as the fifth most popular social media platform worldwide. Its influence on the music industry is profound; artists like JVKE and PinkPantheress have experienced significant growth through viral trends on the app. With its global reach, TikTok allows artists from all over the world to connect with a diverse audience.

However, the recent removal of Universal Music Group's (UMG) catalog from TikTok has left many artists at a disadvantage. In this article, Hollywood Branded pulls back the curtain into the implications of UMG's decision on artists worldwide, exploring the evolving landscape of music distribution and artist exposure on TikTok.

TikTok UMG Agreement

Untapped Audiences

TikTok, as a music-based social media platform, is a prime marketing tool for many established and upcoming artists to engage new listeners. The short-form videos allow for viewers to preview snippets of songs and quickly discover new music. TikTok reports that “Globally, TikTok’s audience exhibits a unique preference for international music, far exceeding that of the average listener across all markets analyzed.”

With the rising popularity and development of streaming services and social media platforms, listeners can easily reach new and globally diverse artists. Genres such as reggaeton and K-pop have been around for decades, but in recent years have exponentially gained popularity among US listeners. There has been a dramatic expansion in the past several years, including the recent creation of the Global 200 and Global Excl. U.S. 200 charts have included songs from upwards of 800 artists from 50+ countries (source: Luminate).

Not only discovery, but collaborations have been an important tool for songs to gain global traction. TikTok has allowed artists around the world to discover one another and has taken part in inspiring new blends of language and genre. TikTok also facilitates paid partnerships between brands and artists.

The Downsides

TikTok’s negative effects on artists have not gone unnoticed. Many artists feel their self-expression is limited due to Tik Tok’s algorithm. Artists are pressured to create short-form, viral and lifestyle content by their labels, due to the short attention span of users. Artists claim TikTok only rewards a certain type of music. This places artists with longer, more complex, and lyrically intricate music at a disadvantage, and in this respect, discourages the art form. TikTok’s music is also largely oversaturated due to the massive amount of user-uploaded content and volume of artists on the platform.

But the biggest complaint from artists and labels is the lack of revenue and recognition. Artists such as Halsey and Charli XCX complained about pressure to post more on TikTok. Due to TikTok’s algorithm, it can take songs millions of uses before they break even. Because of this, tensions have arisen between TikTok and record labels as they strive to reach better deals.

Tik Tok and UMG

Photo Credit: Vox

The Removal of UMG Music from TikTok

Universal Music Group, the biggest music company in the world, has failed to reach a new licensing agreement with TikTok, resulting in the removal of Universal Music Group’s content from the platform. As of February 2024, all UMG music used in TikTok videos has been muted and the songs removed from the video app.

Without the help of TikTok, smaller UMG artists are taking a hit. It makes it harder to discover new artists and discourages collaboration between artists as well as listening expansion.

Songwriter Bonnie McKee, in an interview, said “TikTok is how you get the word out about a new song – and now you’re muting someone’s entire catalog? The labels… push their artists to [be active on TikTok], and now they can’t?” 

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Negative Effects

But this hasn’t only affected the artists—TikTok lost its biggest source of audio in this deal and have quickly been trying to pivot. Since the removal of UMG music, TikTok has shifted away from their original focus on short-form music-based videos, and they are now pushing longer-form content and their newest feature: the TikTok Shop. TikTok is making it clear that they don't need UMG's music to keep their app alive.

TikTok released a statement when their deal with UMG ended, claiming that “Universal Music Group has put their own greed above the interest of their artists and songwriters.” TikTok’s attitudes toward UMG are not pretty, and TikTok doesn’t seem like they are willing to budge on their end of the deal. “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 interest of artists, songwriters and fans.” 

The New Agreement

As of May 1, 2024, TikTok and UMG announced a new multi-dimensional licensing agreement. They have now made amends to their relationship. 

TikTok has since changed its viewpoint on UMG, and contrary to the prior statement they put out, Shou Chew, CEO of TikTok, said "We are pleased to have found a path forward with Universal Music Group."

Sir Lucian Grainge, Chairman and CEO of Universal Music Group said they "look forward to collaborating the team at TikTok to further the interests of our artists and songwriters and drive innovation in fan engagement while advancing social music monetization."

The agreement entails more devotion to artist-centric tools within the app, as to promote artist growth. This includes financial benefits for artists, connections with mobile music apps, and integrated ticketing. Another important term the two agreed on is that TikTok and UMG will work to remove and prevent unauthorized AI-generated content on the app. 

TikTokPhoto Credit: Passionfruit

Eager to Learn More?

To learn more about how TikTok is transforming the music industry and beyond, check out these 5 related articles from the Hollywood Branded team.

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