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Universal Music Group agrees deal for music to return to TikTok

Both parties have welcomed a “new chapter” after UMG artists' music left the app after a public fallout in January.

By Will Richards

A TikTok user opens the app on the phone
TikTok. CREDIT: Cottonbro/ Pexels

Universal Music Group and TikTok have agreed a deal for music from the label’s artists to return to the app.

UMG – which releases music from the likes of Taylor SwiftBillie Eilish, Olivia RodrigoDrakeKendrick Lamar and Post Maloneremoved its music from TikTok back in January after its licensing agreement expired.

At the time, UMG accused TikTok of using “its platform power to hurt vulnerable artists,” adding: “TikTok proposed paying our artists and songwriters at a rate that is a fraction of the rate that similarly situated major social platforms pay. Today, as an indication of how little TikTok compensates artists and songwriters, despite its massive and growing user base, rapidly rising advertising revenue and increasing reliance on music-based content, TikTok accounts for only about 1% of our total revenue.”

Now, the two parties have agreed on a new deal, of which UMG boss Sir Lucian Grainge 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 monetisation.”

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.”

(Picture: Cottonbro/Pexels)

A statement about the new deal said it will see both organisations “work together to realise new monetisation opportunities utilising TikTok’s growing e-commerce capabilities and will work together on campaigns supporting UMG’s artists across genres and territories globally”.

In their statement in January, UMG shared their worries about AI’s impact, saying that TikTok “is allowing the platform to be flooded with AI-generated recordings — as well as developing tools to enable, promote and encourage AI music creation on the platform itself… a move that is nothing short of sponsoring artist replacement by AI.”

The new statement says that TikTok and UMG will now work together to “remove unauthorised AI-generated music from the platform, as well as tools to improve artist and songwriter attribution,” adding that the deal will also help them “ensure AI development across the music industry to protect human artistry and the economics that flow to those artists and songwriters”.