Say “Bye Bye Bye” to TikTok Music

On Feb. 1, Universal Music Group (UMG) decided to pull the plug on their contract with TikTok due to a disagreement related to fair compensation, AI usage and overall user protection. This left the app seemingly silent, losing some of music’s biggest names from their sound library. Songs from artists such as Taylor Swift, Olivia Rodrigo, Drake and more have all been removed from the platform.

UMG’s demands seem to be similar to those of Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG- AFTRA), who went on strike last year. In an open letter to the artist and songwriter community, UMG discussed, “Why we must call time out on TikTok.” This letter explained their reasoning for removing all of their artists’ work from the musically saturated app.

“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 letter said. “Ultimately TikTok is trying to build a music-based business, without paying fair value for the music.”

The letter also explained the looming threat that AI has on the music industry. “TikTok is allowing the platform to be flooded with AI-generated recordings—as well as developing tools to enable, promote and encourage AI music creation on the platform itself – and then demanding a contractual right which would allow this content to massively dilute the royalty pool for human artists, in a move that is nothing short of sponsoring artist replacement by AI.”

According to UMG, TikTok tried to intimidate them into accepting a deal, “worth less than the previous deal, far less than fair market value and not reflective of their exponential growth.”

Thus, leaving UMG feeling like there is no other choice than to remove their content from the platform and seek a new home to promote their artists’ projects.

While there is no doubt that this has left the music and social media industry in a tough spot, this has also changed a lot for fans and platform users.

“I was shocked to see UMG had deleted all of their music. TikTok is a music-based app, so when almost every artist is removed it is tough,” said sophomore Isabella Defrancesco. “I used to love discovering new sounds or songs on my For You Page. Oftentimes they were added onto a playlist and became part of my daily song rotation.”
“I have added so many songs to my Spotify that I have found through TikTok. If anything that’s where I’ve gotten most of my new favorite songs the past few years. There’s so many singers I honestly didn’t know existed prior to their songs going viral on TikTok,” said freshman Sabrina Matzer.

The lack of music on the platform has definitely proven to be an issue for many music-based content creators. It has left them to use covers of popular songs or even royalty-free music.

“I’ve definitely seen some content changes. Creators are using smaller bands’ music or even covers as a loophole to this whole situation. I think this will also lead to a rise of ‘GRWMs’ and ‘Day In the Life’ videos,’’ said junior Tori Miller.

While it has definitely shifted the app, many users say they will still continue to use the platform.

“While it’s definitely different, I think that the content and trends are able to mold to the next new thing, so I definitely won’t stop using the app,” said Defrancesco.

It is unclear whether other major music conglomerates will join the movement, but it will be interesting to see how the industry and platform are impacted in the long run.

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