Award-winning student news since 1978

The Brookhaven Courier

Award-winning student news since 1978

The Brookhaven Courier

Award-winning student news since 1978

The Brookhaven Courier

Corporate greed gets favorite artists pulled from TikTok

Negotiations between TikTok and Universal Music Group have fallen through.
Ivy Nguyen

The contract between TikTok and Universal Music Group expired on Jan. 31. Music from UMG will no longer feature on the app. All videos previously made with UMG music have now been muted. 

This leaves artists under UMG and social media users on TikTok in the crossfire. Artists will not be able to promote their music on TikTok, which may cause a drastic plunge in the number of listeners and sales. In addition, users’ videos will be muted and they may no longer have access to their favorite music.

On Feb. 1, UMG removed their music from the platform. When people try to access a song from their favorite artist, they are met with a message that says the music is currently unavailable.

A majority of the music I fell in love with I’ve found through TikTok edits, and whenever an artist releases a new song, I find out on TikTok. I feel sad I will no longer be able to experience this. Music is what made TikTok fun. Opening the app and seeing all my favorite videos and posts had been muted, I felt a rush of disappointment. I also feel incredible sorrow for the artists under UMG who can no longer grow through the app. 

On Jan. 30, UMG published a statement reflecting their concerns and the status of getting TikTok to agree to their terms. They go over their three main concerns: better compensation for their artists, protection for artists against the harmful effects of AI and online safety for TikTok users.

Their issue with the growing AI problem, which is not just a problem on TikTok, is that users have begun to create and spread AI recordings of some of their artists, even making music with their voices. 

AI is a growing problem everywhere, and what must be done to stop this is to implement more laws restricting its use. As far as TikTok goes, just like any other social media platform, it is difficult to keep track of all of these quickly spreading AI recordings.

UMG threatened to no longer license its music to the platform due not being able to reach a consensus regarding their contract agreements. UMG expressed how TikTok had been difficult in the process of coming to a common agreement on the terms of their relationship. The following was said in a statement on Feb. 1: “Today, as an indication of how little TikTok compensates artists and songwriters, despite its 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.” 

The recurring topic was higher compensation. UMG also states its worries regarding TikTok’s unsuccessful methods of dealing with hate and harassment on their platform. They state the following: “As our negotiations continued, TikTok attempted to bully us into accepting a deal worth less than the previous deal, far less than fair market value and not reflective of their exponential growth.”

UMG is the dominating music corporation in the U.S., owning  15 record labels, including some of the biggest names in the music industry, such as Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga and The Weeknd. 

TikTok has been one of the leading social media platforms for a few years, and it has proven to be essential in the music industry. We see this in the form of songs  a new wave of popularity, and newer artists attracting a great amount of success. 

TikTok has not stayed silent on these current events and replied via social media site X and their own website the same day UMG released their Feb. 1 statement, where they said, “It is sad and disappointing that Universal Music Group has put their own greed above the interests of their artists and songwriters.” They said they have been able to reach “artist-first” agreements with all other labels and publishers, highlighting the fact that everyone has reached a common understanding except for UMG.

These are two giant multi-billionare companies fighting over money – pretty ironic. 

These are insatiable companies. TikTok is not willing to pay just a bit more, even though they are perfectly capable of doing so, and UMG just wants more money for itself.

The repercussions will begin to show when artists’ sales are down and newly signed UMG artists stop growing. TikTok users will grow bored of having to use noncopyrighted music and parodies on their posts. I have grown very fond of the Mozart editing audios on TikTok.

Numbers will begin to drop, and either TikTok or UMG will come running back to figure out some sort of agreement when they see they have so much more to lose from this separation.

I do see a shimmer of hope for independent artists and their gaining exposure, as TikTok will no longer be overrun by mainstream music. 

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