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TikTok versus Universal: 2 of the biggest players in the game play chicken

The music & tech giants disagree over royalties & AI

LiFTED | Marcus Aurelius | 1 Feb 2024

When two big tech and music giants get into a game of chicken over who will pay US$.0000001 versus US$.00001 to their artists per stream, it’s hard to pick a side because they both suck. Universal Music Group [UMG] has said that TikTok has tried to bully them into taking a bad deal and they will remove all their music from the social media company starting February 1. Their previous deal lapsed on January 31.

With massive artists like The Weeknd, Drake, Taylor Swift, and Harry Styles, UMG says that TikTok is trying to build a music-based business without paying fair value. They are also worried about the flood of AI-generated content, like the Weeknd/Drake song that was a viral hit without each of the artists, and boosting online safety.

In a public letter from UMG, “TikTok proposed paying our artists and songwriters at a rate that is a fraction of the rate that similarly situated major social platforms pay.” In a blunt reply, TikTok wrote, “It is sad and disappointing that Universal Music Group has put their own greed above the interests of their artists and songwriters. 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. 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.”

While it’s getting catty out between both giants, most likely they will resolve their issues after a few days because it is in the best interest of everyone for them to work it out.