Power Tussle Between Universal Music Group and TikTok

Power Tussle Between Universal Music Group and TikTok

ˆTiwa Savage’s songs muted on TikTok 

Stories by Vanessa Obioha

The ongoing battle between Universal Music Group (UMG) and TikTok has left music enthusiasts in quandary

On January 30, 2024, just a day before UMG’s licensing agreement with TikTok expired, the music powerhouse publicly announced its decision not to renew the deal. Citing issues such as inadequate compensation, AI encroachments on artists’ creative works, and concerns over online safety, UMG emphasized its commitment to nurturing artistic and commercial endeavours in an open letter. “Our core mission is simple: to help our artists and songwriters attain their greatest creative and commercial potential,” read the letter

The company, which is the biggest of the world’s three conglomerates, argued further that despite TikTok’s “massive and growing user base, rapidly rising advertising revenue and increasing reliance on music-based content, TikTok accounts for only about 1% of our total revenue.”

In response, TikTok said UMG “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.”

It stated that it has been able to reach  ‘artist-first’ agreements with every other label and publisher, and Universal’s “self-serving actions are not in the best interests of artists, songwriters and fans.”

By Thursday, songs of UMG artists such as Drake, Taylor Swift and even Tiwa Savage were removed from the TikTok audio library and in cases where they have been uploaded by users or even the artists, they were muted, although some videos containing snippets of their songs still lingered on the site.

TikTok, owned by Chinese company ByteDance, has evolved into a crucial marketing tool for musicians worldwide, catapulting songs like CKay’s ‘Nwantinti’ to global acclaim. The company had even once said that “music is at the heart of TikTok experience.”

Beyond promoting music, the social media platform has become a discovery hub for many music lovers, linking them to new sounds while evoking a feeling of nostalgia for old music. There are dedicated accounts that upload Nigerian old skool’s music such as Seyi Sodimu’s ‘Love me Jeje’ featuring actress and singer Shaffy Bello

But sometimes, artists complain that these social media and streaming platforms only pay them pittances, raising concerns about the appropriate payment for creative work. Many reluctantly stayed on the platform to retain their fan base.

The rift between UMG and TikTok has ignited a fervent debate among music enthusiasts. While some view it as an opportunity for independent artists to shine sans record labels, others advocate for fair compensation for artists whose intellectual property graces TikTok’s platform.

As of the time of filing this report, the standoff remains unresolved, leaving the music community anxiously waiting for the outcome of this clash between two industry titans.

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