Universal Music Group Threatens to Remove Music From TikTok

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The company has been renegotiating its contract to license music with the social media site, which expires Wednesday.

Universal Music Group, the world’s largest music company, said it would revoke the licenses for its vast catalog of songs from TikTok on Wednesday if the companies could not reach a new deal targeting artist compensation, artificial intelligence and other issues.

In an open letter posted late Tuesday, Universal accused TikTok of responding to the company with “indifference, and then with intimidation,” creating a public squabble between the companies in the remaining hours of their existing contract. If the talks fail, TikTok users will be left without some of their favorite songs, including those by Taylor Swift, Bad Bunny, Alicia Keys and others.

TikTok, owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, is indisputably one of the fastest growing and most popular social media platforms, with more than a billion users. The company says that includes about 150 million Americans. For a majority of TikTok users, music is an integral part of the experience, as it plays over the short clips that fill users’ feeds.

TikTok’s current license for using music from Universal’s catalog expires on Wednesday, and in negotiating its renewal, Universal said it asked TikTok to address three specific issues, including artist compensation. Universal said TikTok had proposed paying Universal’s artists and songwriters a fraction of the rate that similar social media platforms pay. Universal accused TikTok of trying to build a music-based business “without paying fair value for the music.”

Universal said that as negations continued, TikTok tried to “bully” the company into accepting a deal worth less than their previous deal, claiming it was far less than fair market value.

As of Wednesday morning, it was unclear if talks between Universal and TikTok were ongoing or if they had broken down. Universal did not immediately respond to a request for further comment, and a spokeswoman for TikTok said the company had nothing to add beyond a statement shared on social media, in which it accused Universal of putting “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 said in its statement.

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