HITS Daily Double


UPDATE: The takedown has begun: TikTok started removing music by Universal Music Group artists from user-generated videos today (2/1), leaving older videos silent with the note “This sound isn’t available,” The New York Times reported.

Users could not add Universal songs either. On official profiles of Universal artists, displays that would have been filled with tracks earlier this week were either bare or offering snippets of songs.

Earlier, we wrote: Even amid the pageantry of Grammy week, the biz grapevine instantly pivoted to the UMG-TikTok conflict Tuesday (1/30) as news broke that Uni would pull its music as soon as the current licensing deal lapsed, today.

The buzz continues to grow in the wake of UMG's statement about its decision, which focused on three primary grievances: compensation for artists and songwriters (despite TikTok's massive growth and gargantuan audience); unchecked AI; and "online safety."

UMG went on to note that TikTok responded to the label group's concerns by "attempting to bully [Universal] into accepting a deal worth less than the previous deal." (Said "bullying" was said to include "selectively removing the music of certain developing artists.") Furthermore, the communiqué from Sir Lucian Grainge's company noted, "TikTok accounts for only about 1% of our total revenue," despite having built what it calls "a music-based business, without paying fair value for the music." A similarly pointed note went out to UMPG's songwriters.

TikTok responded with a brief statement of its own, which reads as follows:

It is sad and disappointing that Universal Music Group has put their own greed above the interests of their artists and songwriters.

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.

Meanwhile, the biz is just beginning to absorb the implications of this contretemps. One UMG-affiliated artist, Boominati/Republic's Metro Boomin, quoted a post declaring "the TikTok era of music is over" with the reply "It's about damn time." Given TikTok's importance to the present music ecosystem, apart from its revenue contribution, how will the rest of the biz respond?