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TikTok’s Fallout with Universal Music Group: What Does This Mean for the Platform?

TikTok’s Fallout with Universal Music Group: What Does This Mean for the Platform?




There’s been plenty happening in the music industry recently. 

Women dominated the 2024 Grammy Awards, with artists like Taylor Swift, Billie Eilish, SZA, and Miley Cyrus sweeping up. Swift, in fact, won Album of the Year for a record fourth time, surpassing the likes of Frank Sinatra and Stevie Wonder, in a manner that some have hailed “a huge win for women everywhere.”

Then, on the other hand, we look to TikTok and its feud with Universal Music Group (UMG), a record company representing plenty of the artists who were so successful at the Grammy’s.

The two have parted ways since their contract ended on the 31st of January, but what’s actually happened, and what implications does this change have for the app?

What’s Gone Down?

TikTok and Universal Music Group partnered up in early February 2021 and, throughout their time together, joined forces to provide an opportunity for artists to grow and succeed on the platform.

For a while, TikTok became the go-to place for discovering new music. Sure, many of the artists who became so popular from TikTok stardom were already well-known, but the likes of Lil Nas X, Doja Cat, Jack Harlow, and Olivia Rodrigo owe a lot of their musical success to the platform.

Then, at the start of 2024, TikTok and UMG failed to reach an agreement on a renewed contract, which has led to plenty of back and forth between the two companies and millions of TikTok videos having the attached audio removed entirely. 

There were plenty of reasons why talks broke down. There’s been a growth around AI-generated music on TikTok in recent times, and UMG feels as though “TikTok is allowing the platform to be flooded with AI-generated recordings.” 

That being said, it does seem like money was the main driver of this separation. TikTok supposedly pays companies lump sums rather than sharing revenue, and the amount of money that Meta pays UMG to license its content is roughly two to three times larger than what TikTok paid UMG.

TikTok accused UMG of putting “their own greed above the interests of their artists and songwriters,” and UMG claims TikTok is trying to build a music-based business without “paying fair value for the music” they’re using.

It’s massive news and something that could have significant ramifications for both parties, but maybe TikTok more so. 

What Does This Mean?

For Universal Music Group as a business, maybe not so much. The money they receive from TikTok accounts for just 1% of UMG’s total revenue.

But for TikTok, on the other hand, this is huge. It’s incomprehensible how many videos on the platform use sounds by artists associated with UMG; millions and millions!

Now, those videos have been completely muted, and plenty of artists’ songs have been removed from their profiles entirely.                   

Music has made the platform what it is today. So many trends are music-led, and a whole heap of TikTok stars have taken their limited skills into the real world and started music careers in an attempt to brand themselves as more than just TikTok dancing stars.

It only seems like a matter of time before TikTok realises how severe this separation is and goes back to UMG with a revised contract offer. There’s already been plenty of backlash, with some users even asking whether the platform is just going to die now. It’s that big.

We’re certainly hoping the two companies get together and work something out again. TikTok just isn’t TikTok without the huge music library available on the platform; it’s likely they’ll cave and give in to UMG. The app needs music.

What are your thoughts? Let us know via our social accounts (oh, and make sure you follow us, too).