Universal Music Group pulls songs from TikTok

It came early Thursday after intense licensing talks broke down this week between the popular social media platform and Universal Music Group, the giant company that distributes music from artists including Taylor Swift, Drake, U2 and Ariana Grande. At some point, videos on TikTok began to fall silent.

On Tuesday, a day before its licensing deal with TikTok is set to expire, Universal Music Group, the largest of the three major record labels, issued a fiery open letter accusing TikTok of offering unsatisfactory payment methods for music and allowing its platform to ” be submerged”. “Artificial intelligence-generated recordings” dilute the royalty pool for real human musicians.

TikTok confirmed earlier Thursday that it had removed music from Universal Pictures, as videos on the app began to show the impact of the partnership’s collapse. Universal artists’ recordings have been removed from the TikTok library, and audio from existing videos using Universal artists’ music has been completely muted. Users also cannot add generic songs to new videos.

Kylie Jenner, for example, used a song by Universal Records-owned Lana Del Rey in a video she posted in September, with no sound and a note: “ This sound is not available.” (A reviewer of the video commented on the music.) Other videos had similar statements, including “Sound removed due to copyright restrictions.”

When users visit the official profiles of Universal artists like Swift and Grande, who are scheduled to release new albums next month, they’re often shown tabs for dozens of tracks that users can add to their own clips or be completely nude. , or reduced to a few short snippets.

The extent of the impact was unclear Thursday, and a spokesman did not have an estimate of how many films would be affected by the change. Some films using Universal recordings appeared to be unaffected Thursday morning.

TikTok, where users can upload short video clips (often with background music), is an important promotional arena for the music industry. Music-driven viral memes on TikTok can turn a song into a hit, or reinvigorate a decades-old classic, as happened with Fleetwood Mac’s 1977 song “Dreams” in 2020. Universal’s conflict with the platform is the latest in a recurring media conflict over the past two decades, pitting technology companies’ innovation against the music industry’s demands for control and compensation.

In response to Universal, TikTok accused the music company in a statement Tuesday of “putting its own greed over the interests of artists and songwriters” and said Universal “chose to abandon a company with a strong reputation” Strong support from the platform.” Over a billion users as a free publicity and discovery tool for their talents. “

Representatives for Universal and TikTok declined to make any new statements Thursday about their negotiations or the withdrawal of music from the platform.

Universal’s exit was interpreted in the music industry as a declaration of war on one of the world’s most influential online media outlets, even though the record labels have limited control over it.

As major music companies and technology platforms negotiate the all-important content licenses that allow these platforms to host music, contentious contract negotiations and even public barbs are commonplace. But few music companies have followed through on threats to remove their content. This happened in 2008, when Warner Music pulled thousands of music videos from YouTube; the standoff lasted nine months, and Warner returned the videos after YouTube agreed to share advertising revenue with Warner.

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