TikTok welcomes back music stars

Adele, Drake, and other world-famous music stars will return to TikTok following a resolution of a bitter dispute that had existed between their music companies and the social media application.

TikTok was forced to remove all songs by Universal Music Group artists after bitter talks broke down between the two companies in February. UMG claimed that the social media platform was trying to force it into accepting lower royalty rates from music, and that they were promoting AI-generated songs.

TikTok responded by accusing UMG of “putting its own greed” before the interests of the artists and songwriters. Peace appears to be restored after the two sides reached a deal which appears to address UMG’s concerns.

Taylor Swift is a Universal Music artist who recently decided to reinstate the music she had previously released on TikTok. She was able do this because she owned her master recordings as part of the agreement she signed in 2018. Others did not enjoy the same luxury. Many thought her actions undermined UMG negotiations.

Sir Lucian Grainge (chairman and chief executive officer of Universal Music) told his staff via email that this new licensing agreement had been a “decidedly successful outcome”: They have agreed on key changes to several areas, including artificial intelligence, platform security, remuneration.

TikTok has promised to remove fake artist AI content from its platform, which “misappropriates our artists’ identities”. UMG has recently removed a song by Drake and The Weeknd that was created using artificial intelligence from social media.

The chief executive said that TikTok has agreed to take measures to address the “negative impact of social media” on its users. The platform will include “safeguards, such as policies and tool to prevent and remedy hate speech and bullying”. Grainge promised that “artists and songwriters compensation will be higher than our previous TikTok agreement”.

The companies have said that TikTok would continue to develop “artist-centric” tools like “Add to Music App”, enhanced data and analytics and integrated ticketing.

The dispute centered on differing views of who was the biggest beneficiary of music posted on TikTok. Social media platform TikTok, which has more than one billion users, thought it was giving artists a powerful promotional tool for free.

Grainge slammed that idea, saying: “the revenue streams generated by this social music engagement generates tens and tens billions in advertising revenue for the digital platforms.” Music generates huge amounts of revenue for these platforms. Any claim that ‘free promotional’ services would be enough and fair compensation for using that music is absurd.

UMG is the home of some of the most famous artists in the world. These include Swift, Bad Bunny (Sting), The Weeknd (Alicia Keys), Steve Lacy and Steve Lacy.

Stuart Dredge is the head of insights for Music Ally, a research group in the industry. He said that UMG will see this dispute as a benchmark for future negotiations – not only with TikTok, but also with other short video platforms like YouTube and Meta – about raising the royalties they pay.

In pursuit of this goal, “and as it has proven for the past three months, it is willing to pull its songs, which will have a significant impact on its business and artist’s marketing plans.”

Shou Chew said, “Music is a vital part of TikTok’s ecosystem, and we are happy to have found an avenue forward with Universal Music Group.” We are committed in working together to drive discovery, promotion and value for UMG’s incredible artists and songwriters and to deepen their abilities to grow, connect, and engage with TikTok.