Here Is Exactly What's Going Down Between UMG And TikTok, And Why It’s Not As Clear-Cut As You Might Think

While UMG has argued that artists deserve more compensation for their music being on TikTok, others have called the record label “greedy” and claimed that the promotional value of the social media app is priceless.

Earlier this week, Universal Music Group, otherwise known as UMG, issued an open letter to the artist and songwriter community urging for action against TikTok.

The Universal globe logo

In fact, the label claimed that despite TikTok’s huge popularity and user base, the app only accounts for “about 1%” of UMG’s total revenue. It added, “TikTok proposed paying our artists and songwriters at a rate that is a fraction of the rate that similarly situated major social platforms pay.”

The TikTok logo

This includes things such as fans creating sounds on TikTok that remix songs by their favorite artists, or even mashups of two artists. This has recently been seen in a popular TikTok audio that combines Taylor’s song “Illicit Affairs” with Harry’s hit “Sign of the Times.”

Taylor performing onstage

Responding to the letter, TikTok issued a statement of its own claiming that UMG were putting “their own greed above the interests of their artists and songwriters.”

The TikTok logo

When the two did not reach a new deal before the old contract expired, all of the music by artists signed to UMG was pulled from the app on Thursday.

Harry Styles performing in a shiny crop jacket

Up-and-coming star Noah Kahan, who is signed to UMG, posted a TikTok video addressing the situation earlier this week where he said, “I won’t be able to promote my music on TikTok any more … I’ll probably be OK, right? I’ll probably land on my feet, right? Right?”

@noahkahanmusic / Via

In addition, it has been pointed out that all of UMG’s artists will now be excluded from the cultural phenomenon of TikTok, since their music can no longer be a part of viral trends on the app, such as dance challenges.

@laurenandlaratiktok / Via

Viral sounds on TikTok have also proved to be hugely influential in exposing users to new music from artists that they otherwise wouldn’t have discovered, with the app propelling the careers of a whole heap of current musicians — including Megan Thee Stallion, Maisie Peters, and Victoria Monét.

@tawenisdiary / Via

And it isn’t just new music, either; many older songs have also had a revival decades after their original release from being used in popular TikTok videos, giving the otherwise forgotten music a new lease on life.


POV: roadtripping through Canada with @nomadic_alfo ahead and @letsplayrideandseek behind 🚎🚌🚐 #roadtrip #fy #skoolie #van #buslife #vanlife

♬ Dreams (2004 Remaster) - Fleetwood Mac
@sincewewokeup / Via

As a result, some artists have expressed their confusion over UMG’s decision, arguing that having their music on TikTok is mutually beneficial, and the app’s promotional value is worth more than financial compensation.

Close-up of Lily Allen

And singer Lily Allen agreed, even suggesting that the affected artists should launch a lawsuit. Quote-tweeting MNEK’s post, Lily said, “Maybe a class action lawsuit for artists, I’d be wanting my rights back if my label couldn’t negotiate a deal with the biggest social media entity in the world.”

Twitter: @lilyallen

Neither UMG nor TikTok has made any further comment on the situation, but we will let you know if they do!

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