ASCAP CEO thanks Universal, Jody Gerson for ‘hard fight’ to improve songwriters’ pay from TikTok licensing deal

Photo by Lester Cohen/Getty Images for ASCAP
L-R: CEO of ASCAP, Elizabeth Matthews and ASCAP Publisher of the Year of Universal Music Publishing Group, CEO Jody Gerson, and Executive VP and Co Head of U.S. A&R Jennifer Knoepfle

ASCAP CEO Elizabeth Matthews has applauded and thanked Universal Music Group for the company’s efforts to renegotiate its deal with TikTok – and to “get better payments for songwriters” from the ByteDance service.

Matthews’ comments came during her address at the ASCAP Pop Music Awards in Los Angeles on Wednesday last week (May 8).

Universal’s publishing company, Universal Music Publishing Group, was awarded Publisher of the Year at the event, for songs including Calm Down, Cuff It (Beyonce), Dance the Night (Dua Lipa), Barbie World (​​Nicki Minaj & Ice Spice with Aqua), Lavender Haze (Taylor Swift), Paint the Town Red (Doja Cat), Star Walkin (League of Legends Worlds Anthem) (Lil Nas X) and Sure Thing by Miguel.

At the event on Wednesday, while presenting UMPG with the Publisher of the Year award, ASCAP’s Matthews referred to Universal’s three-month-long licensing dispute with the ByteDance-owned app as, “The fight of the year against TikTok – for all of us.”

The ASCAP Publisher of the Year award was accepted at the invitation-only event in person by the UMPG team, including Universal Music Publishing Group CEO Jody Gerson, as well as Jennifer Knoepfle, UMPG’s Executive VP and Co-Head of US A&R.

Universal revealed at the end of January that its agreement with TikTok was set to expire on January 31, 2024. On March 1, Universal Music Publishing’s catalog of ~4 million songs became unlicensed for use on TikTok, joining UMG’s portfolio of ~3 million recordings, whose license on TikTok expired without renewal on February 1.

On Thursday, May 2, Universal and TikTok announced that their dispute had come to an end, striking what they called “a new multi-dimensional licensing agreement”.

That same day (May 2), UMG’s chairman and CEO Sir Lucian Grainge issued a memo to the company’s employees confirming that “Under the new agreement, artist and songwriter compensation will be greater than under our prior TikTok deal”.

Commenting on the licensing dispute at the ASCAP Pop Music Awards last week, ASCAP CEO Elizabeth Matthews told the audience: “For those of you came to the ASCAP annual meeting in February, we asked all ASCAP members to stand shoulder to shoulder with Universal because it was a really hard fight.”

“We want to thank [Universal] because, without them, we couldn’t get better payments for songwriters on TikTok. So thank you, Universal, thank you, Jody.”

Elizabeth Matthews, ASCAP

Matthews also acknowledged that “it’s really hard [for songwriters] obviously when your music gets taken down”.

But, referencing UMG’s new deal with TikTok, she added: “We want to thank [Universal] because, without them, we couldn’t get better payments for songwriters on TikTok. So thank you, Universal, thank you, Jody [Gerson].”

In a statement published to UMPG’s Instagram account, the music publisher said: “It’s an honor to be acknowledged by ASCAP as Publisher of the Year for our commitment to our songwriters and their songs making an impact in Pop Music at this year’s ASCAP Awards. Big ups to our incredible artists, writers, and producers nominated at this year’s ASCAP Pop Awards.”

The ASCAP Pop Music Awards honor the songwriters and publishers of the most-performed ASCAP pop songs of 2023.

The winning songs are determined by data on terrestrial and satellite radio and for programmed and on-demand audio streams, all provided by Luminate Data LLC in accordance with ASCAP’s publicly available rules.

Other winners on the night included Olivia Rodrigo and co-writer Daniel Nigro, named as this year’s ASCAP Pop Music Songwriters of the Year for the singles, vampire and bad idea right? It is the second win for Rodrigo, who first scored the honor in 2022.

British artist Charli XCX received the ASCAP Global Impact Award.

Meanwhile, Calm Down, performed by Rema and featuring Selena Gomez, won the ASCAP Pop Song of the Year.

Co-written by Rema, Gomez, Michael “LONDON” Hunter, Amanda “Kiddo AI” Ibanez and Andre Vibez, the song topped the Billboard Pop, Adult Pop and Rhythmic Airplay charts, and hit No.3 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Calm Down is published by Hook Like Behavior, Kobalt Music Publishing, Livelihood Music Company, SMG Tunes, Sony Music Publishing, Universal Music Publishing Group and Warner Chappell Music.

Other 2024 ASCAP Pop Music Award-winning songwriters include Mariah Carey and Walter Afanasieff (All I Want for Christmas Is You), Dua Lipa (Dance the Night), Noah Kahan (Dial Drunk), St. Vincent (Cruel Summer), Meghan Trainor (Made You Look) and Leon Thomas (Snooze).

Music Business Worldwide

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