Believe praises TikTok, says platform offers ‘valuable monetization for our artists and labels’

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Denis Ladegaillerie says that TikTok continues to be an 'important partner' for Believe, amid the ByteDance service's issues with UMG

Sometimes in the music biz, it’s not exactly what someone says that matters – it’s when they say it.

Over the past few weeks, MBW has closely covered the news of Universal Music Group‘s quarrel with TikTok – primarily over the licensing sums paid by the digital service for music – as well as the reaction from various corners of the industry.

Since UMG refused to re-license its catalog with TikTok in January, the likes of Downtown, Primary Wave, the NMPA, Hipgnosis, and various pro-artist groups have come out in support of Universal’s position.

Earlier this month, A2IM – a trade body representing a coalition of premium independent labels, which has in the past rallied against action by major music companies – also stepped forward to back UMG.

In an op/ed published on MBW, A2IM chief, Dr. Richard James Burgess, argued: “In an industry that systemically underpays artists and labels, TikTok’s payment methodology is uniquely disadvantageous.”

Following the publication of that op/ed on February 7, MBW contacted Denis Ladegaillerie, founder and CEO of Believe, for his reaction to the UMG/TikTok fracas.

Quite a bit had happened since we received Ladegaillerie’s reply, including the small matter of Ladegaillerie himself joining with EQT and TCV in a USD $1.6 billion-valued takeover bid for Believe.

But today (February 20), we’re finally publishing his reply, which… kinda tells its own story.

Said Ladegaillerie in an emailed statement (remember, in direct reaction to the question of UMG vs. TikTok): “Believe’s mission is to support artists’ development at all stages of their careers. TikTok is an important partner in our goals. Their commitment to work with Believe has accelerated the discovery and development of countless artists, and together we have built long-term services and valuable monetization for our artists and labels.

“We look forward to continuing our partnership with TikTok to lead many more creators to success.”

“Together with TikTok, we have built long-term services and valuable monetization for our artists and labels… We look forward to continuing our partnership.”

Denis Ladegaillerie, Believe

MBW understands that Believe has an active licensing deal with TikTok in play that was signed in the past 12 months.

That puts it on a similar footing, TikTok-deal-timing-wise, as Warner Music Group, which announced a new agreement with the ByteDance platform in July 2023.

Warner Music Group CEO, Robert Kyncl, told analysts earlier this month that he continues to view WMG’s current agreement with TikTok as “fair”.

Kyncl said of WMG’s TikTok agreement: “[We] don’t follow other companies. We don’t do carbon copies of other deals. We do our own… It wasn’t easy with TikTok. I think it was very difficult [negotiation]. But we got there.”

Universal Music Group’s recordings are no longer available to add to videos from the music library of TikTok, following the cessation of the two companies’ licensing agreement at the end of January.

It’s understood that Universal Music Group’s represented publishing catalog – which stretches to around 4 million songs – will continue to be legally licensed on TikTok until the end of this month (February) due to a 30-day ‘grace period’.

UMG published an open letter on January 30, announcing that its current deal with TikTok was coming to a close without a successful renewal.

The letter said that, during its contract renewal discussions with TikTok, UMG had been “pressing” the platform 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”.

TikTok snapped back at UMG in a statement later that day, claiming that it was “sad and disappointing that Universal Music Group has put their own greed above the interests of their artists and songwriters”.

Believe, which is not an A2IM member, is a substantial global player in recorded music, working outside of the ‘big three’ major music companies.

In addition to housing labels such as Nuclear Blast, Naïve, Groove Attack, and AllPoints, Believe is the owner of DIY distribution/services platform, TuneCore, and operates its own global services division for what some call ‘middle class’ artists.

The Paris-headquartered company posted FY revenues of EUR €760.8 million (USD $800m) in the 12 calendar months of 2022.

Earlier this month, Believe reiterated guidance via which it expects FY 2023 organic revenue growth of 14% YoY, or an adjusted organic growth of 19% YoY (whereby ‘adjusted’ represents neutralized impact from foreign exchange rates).

Believe is scheduled to announce its Q4/FY 2023 results on March 13.Music Business Worldwide