Universal Music and TikTok strike new licensing deal – including ‘improved remuneration’ for UMG artists and songwriters

Credit: Beth Garrabrant
Taylor Swift

Universal Music Group and TikTok have struck what they call “a new multi-dimensional licensing agreement”.

According to a joint press release issued today (May 2), the deal “will deliver significant industry-leading benefits for UMG’s global family of artists, songwriters and labels and will return their music to TikTok’s billion-plus global community”.

UMG and TikTok say that they “are now working expeditiously” to return music by artists represented by Universal Music Group and songwriters represented by Universal Music Publishing Group to TikTok “in due course”.

MBW understands that Universal’s catalog of ~4 million songs and ~3 million recordings will be available on TikTok within one-to-two weeks, at which stage, all videos that had previously been muted will be unmuted.

Sir Lucian Grainge, Chairman and CEO, Universal Music Group, said: “This new chapter in our relationship with TikTok focuses on the value of music, the primacy of human artistry and the welfare of the creative community.

“We look forward to collaborating with the team at TikTok to further the interests of our artists and songwriters and drive innovation in fan engagement while advancing social music monetization.”

Credit: Sthanlee B. Mirador/Sipa USA/Alamy
“This new chapter in our relationship with TikTok focuses on the value of music, the primacy of human artistry and the welfare of the creative community.”

Sir Lucian Grainge, Universal Music Group

Shou Chew, CEO of TikTok, added: “Music is an integral part of the TikTok ecosystem and we are pleased to have found a path forward with Universal Music Group.

“We are committed to working together to drive value, discovery and promotion for all of UMG’s amazing artists and songwriters, and deepen their ability to grow, connect and engage with the TikTok community.”

The announcement brings to an end a long-running licensing dispute between the two companies.

TikTok’s falling out with Universal Music Group came to light at the end of January, when UMG announced that its agreement with TikTok was set to expire on January 31, 2024.

UMG confirmed that the companies had not agreed to terms for a new deal, and upon expiration of their agreement, UMG, including Universal Music Publishing Group, would “cease licensing content” to TikTok and TikTok Music services.

Alongside the announcement, Universal published an ‘open letter to the artist and songwriter community’, in which it details the reasons why the companies’ negotiations have ended without a deal.

UMG said in the letter that during its contract renewal discussions with TikTok, it has 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”.

The new agreement appears to address these issues.

As part of the deal, the companies say they “will work together to realize new monetization opportunities” using TikTok’s e-commerce capabilities and will work together on campaigns supporting UMG’s artists across genres and territories globally.

TikTok also said that it will continue to “invest significant resources into building artist-centric tools” that will help UMG artists “realize their potential” on the platform.

Plus, TikTok said that tools including its Add to Music App feature, data and analytics, and integrated ticketing capabilities “will benefit artists, both financially and in building their global fanbases using TikTok’s scale and engaged community, while strengthening online safety protections for artists and their fans”.

“Music is an integral part of the TikTok ecosystem and we are pleased to have found a path forward with Universal Music Group.”

Shou Chew, TikTok

In addition, TikTok and UMG said that they will work together “to ensure AI development across the music industry will protect human artistry and the economics that flow to those artists and songwriters”.

TikTok also committed to working with UMG to remove unauthorized AI-generated music from the platform, as well as tools to improve artist and songwriter attribution.

The announcement added that the joint agreement “marks a new era of strategic collaboration between the two organizations, built on a shared commitment to help UMG’s artists and songwriters achieve their creative and commercial potential”.

The statement continued: “By harnessing TikTok’s best-in-class technology, marketing and promotional capabilities, UMG and TikTok will deliver improved remuneration for UMG’s songwriters and artists, new promotional and engagement opportunities for their recordings and songs and industry-leading protections with respect to generative AI”.

“We are delighted to welcome UMG and UMPG back to TikTok.”

Ole Obermann, TikTok

In a statement issued on Thursday, Ole Obermann, TikTok’s Global Head of Music Business Development, said: “We are delighted to welcome UMG and UMPG back to TikTok.

“We look forward to working together to forge a path that creates deeper connections between artists, creators, and fans. In particular, we will work together to make sure that AI tools are developed responsibly to enable a new era of musical creativity and fan engagement while protecting human creativity”.

Michael Nash Universal Music Group

“Developing transformational partnerships with important innovators is critical to UMG’s commitment to promoting an environment in which artists and songwriters prosper.”

Michael Nash, Universal Music Group

Michael Nash, Chief Digital Officer and EVP, Universal Music Group, added: “Developing transformational partnerships with important innovators is critical to UMG’s commitment to promoting an environment in which artists and songwriters prosper.

“We’re gratified to renew our relationship with TikTok predicated on significant advancements in commercial and marketing opportunities as well as protections provided to our industry-leading roster on their platform.

“With the constantly evolving ways that social interaction, fan engagement, music discovery and artistic ingenuity converge on TikTok, we see great potential in our collaboration going forward.”

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.

In the days following the bombshell news, Downtown, Hipgnosis and NMPA rallied behind Universal Music Group in its fight with TikTok.

UMG also earned another supporter in its fight: A2IM, the US trade body that represents over 600 independent recorded music companies including Beggars GroupSecretly GroupPartisanCinq MusicBetter Noise, and Yep Roc.

In March, Emmanuel de Buretel, founder of France-headquartered indie label Because Music and a former exec at Virgin and EMI, came out in support of Universal Music Group in its licensing dispute with TikTok.

On March 14, we learned that, amid the ongoing licensing dispute between Universal Music Group (UMG) and TikTok, UMG had issued over 37,000 takedown requests to TikTok, resulting in 120 million videos being muted.

By the time MBW had published that article, TikTok had already muted the audio on videos featuring UMG-licensed music, but its detection mechanism was being bypassed by ‘modified’ (sped up or otherwise changed) versions of UMG-owned tracks uploaded by users.

Around a month later, on Thursday, April 11, the music of Taylor Swift, one of Universal Music Group’s biggest stars, started reappearing on TikTok – despite the licensing dispute between the social media platform and UMG.

Swift has both recording and publishing agreements with UMG. UMG’s Republic Records is Swift’s label in the US, and she signed a deal with Universal Music Publishing Group in 2020.

As we explained the other week, Swift is notable in the music industry for the unusual amount of control she has over her own music.

As the Hollywood Reporter noted, Swift has owned the publishing rights to her songs since 2019; meanwhile, Variety speculated that TikTok likely “reached a separate deal with Swift,” as she owns many of her own master recordings.

Swift’s return to TikTok arrived around a week before the release of her latest album, The Tortured Poets Department, on Friday, April 19. That same day, TikTok revealed details of an exclusive campaign around the superstar’s album that included an in-app experience featuring multiple “first-of-its-kind features”.

Since joining TikTok in 2021, Taylor Swift has amassed a following of more than 25.3 million fans and has earned more than 223.7 million likes across her content.

TikTok reports that hashtags related to the singer “continue to garner high engagement”, with the #SwiftTok hashtag growing to over 2.4 million videos creations and #TaylorsVersion earning more than 2 million videos.Music Business Worldwide

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