As Universal Music hits begin to vanish from TikTok, UMG accuses platform of ‘unwillingness to appropriately compensate artists and songwriters, protect human artists from the harmful effects of AI, and address online safety issues’

It’s official: recordings by Universal Music Group artists are disappearing from TikTok.

The gradual removal of UMG’s catalog follows the collapse of the two parties’ licensing talks and subsequent expiration of UMG’s deal with the platform on Wednesday (January 31).

As we reported yesterday, MBW hears that Universal’s recordings are now fully unlicensed on TikTok; our sources indicate that UMG’s publishing catalog has a 30-day cooling-off period, which means the final D-Day for the removal of UMG’s publishing catalog may not arrive until the close of February.

As we noted yesterday, this potentially buys TikTok a few more weeks to try and get UMG back to the table – and a mutually agreeable deal signed – before the most devastating impact of the two companies’ dispute comes to pass.

In an open letter issued to the company’s artists and songwriters on Tuesday (January 30), UMG said that its attempts to negotiate a new deal with TikTok fell apart after it pressed the ByteDance-owned service on “three critical issues”, including “appropriate compensation for our artists and songwriters, protecting human artists from the harmful effects of AI, and online safety for TikTok’s users”.

Aptly referred to as “the day the TikTok music died” in Bloomberg’s Soundbite by Ashley Carman, on Thursday (February 1) TikTok videos featuring tracks by some of the world’s biggest superstars like Olivia Rodrigo, Ariana Grande and Taylor Swift started to get muted (see below).

Chartdata reports that nearly half of the Top 50 songs at TikTok this week ‘are unusable’ following the removal of UMG’s catalog.

In a statement issued on Thursday (February 1), a UMG spokesperson said that the company’s “agreements with TikTok have expired because of TikTok’s unwillingness to appropriately compensate artists and songwriters, protect human artists from the harmful effects of AI, and address online safety issues for TikTok’s users”.

UMG’s latest comments follow the official statement issued by TikTok earlier this week claiming that “Universal Music Group has put their own greed above the interests of their artists and songwriters”.

TikTok added: “Despite Universal’s false narrative and rhetoric, the fact is they have chosen to walk away from the powerful support of a platform with well over a billion users that serves as a free promotional and discovery vehicle for their talent.

“TikTok has been able to reach ‘artist-first’ agreements with every other label and publisher. Clearly, Universal’s self-serving actions are not in the best interests of artists, songwriters and fans.”

In response to those comments, on Thursday (February 1), UMG said: “TikTok’s own statement perfectly sums up its woefully outdated view: Even though TikTok (formerly has built one of the world’s largest and most valuable social media platforms off the backs of artists and songwriters, TikTok still argues that artists should be grateful for the “free promotion” and that music companies are “greedy” for expecting them to simply compensate artists and songwriters appropriately, and on similar levels as other social media platforms currently do.

“TikTok didn’t even attempt to address the other issues we raised regarding harmful AI and platform safety. It’s no surprise that artist rights advocates are speaking out in support of our action.”

Amongst the organizations voicing their support for UMG’s action this week are the Future of Music Coalition, the Artists Rights Alliance and others:

 Music Business Worldwide

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