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Thousands of popular audio tracks will be removed from TikTok

Published on 01.02.2024 by Tracey Chizoba Fletcher

In a dramatic showdown over royalties, Universal Music Group has made the bold decision to withdraw its music from the TikTok platform, causing a major disruption for over 1 billion users. As a result, the extensive library of tracks from iconic artists like Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande, Rihanna, and others has vanished from the TikTok streaming experience.


1000+ popular audio tracks will be removed from TikTok

The impact of this move was swift, as countless TikTok videos featuring Universal's music suddenly fell silent, accompanied by copyright violation notices. For those hoping to create new content, Universal's music offerings were conspicuously absent from TikTok's catalog.

This sudden takedown unfolded following Universal's release of an intriguing statement titled "An open letter to the artist and songwriter community — why we must call time out on TikTok" just a few days earlier. In this statement, Universal Music Group revealed that its licensing agreement with TikTok was set to expire on Wednesday, leaving the music giant with no choice but to take action. Remarkably, Universal chose not to provide further insight or comment.


There will be no more contract renewal with TikTok

Universal Music Group's contract renewal discussions with TikTok have honed in on the critical issue of ensuring fair compensation for its artists and songwriters. The company has been staunchly advocating for what it deems as "appropriate compensation" in this evolving digital landscape, where TikTok users have the ability to infuse their videos with music.

This clash of titans intensified when TikTok, under the ownership of Chinese tech juggernaut ByteDance, proposed a compensation rate that Universal deemed to be a mere fraction of what other social media platforms of similar magnitude pay. Universal, headquartered in the Netherlands, stands firm in its practice of charging royalty fees whenever its musical gems grace the virtual soundscapes of social media. This formidable musical conglomerate is home to the creations of iconic artists like Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, Billie Eilish, J Balvin, and the legendary Amy Winehouse.


Beef between TikTok & Universal Music Group

TikTok countered Universal's stance with fiery words, alleging that Universal was perpetuating a "false narrative and rhetoric." In a bold statement, TikTok accused the music giant of prioritizing its own financial interests over those of its artists and songwriters. TikTok lamented Universal's decision to sever ties with a platform boasting an astonishingly vast user base, emphasizing that it serves as an invaluable free promotional and discovery tool for the talents it represents. The tension between these industry giants has ignited a fervent debate over the future of music streaming and fair compensation.


TikTok will use AI to replace popular audio tracks

In a scathing open letter, Universal didn't mince words as it accused TikTok of attempting to construct a music-centric empire while offering paltry compensation for the melodic gems it houses. Universal asserted that TikTok's meager contribution to the coffers of artists and songwriters stands as a stark testament to this disparity. Despite TikTok's explosive user growth, surging advertising revenue, and an ever-increasing reliance on music-driven content, it accounts for a mere 1% of Universal's total revenue.

Concerns on AI audio from Universal Music Group

Beyond the financial aspect, Universal also raised concerns about the detrimental impact of artificial intelligence on musicians and the overall online safety of TikTok's user base. The music giant has been persistent in urging TikTok to shield musicians from the potential adverse effects of AI and to uphold a secure online environment. TikTok, however, is seen as complicit in inundating its platform with AI-generated music and even furnishing users with tools to create their own AI-generated musical creations, a stance that Universal finds disconcerting.

Universal further alleged that when confronted on these matters, TikTok responded with a troubling mix of indifference and intimidation. This included the removal of certain emerging artists from the platform while keeping the music of global superstars intact, a move that raised eyebrows within the industry.