Taylor Swift, Adele and Drake among artists to have music pulled from TikTok as Universal talks break down

31 January 2024, 15:25 | Updated: 31 January 2024, 15:27

Music by artists such as Taylor Swift, Adele and Drake could be pulled from TikTok
Music by artists such as Taylor Swift, Adele and Drake could be pulled from TikTok. Picture: Getty/Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

Taylor Swift, Adele and Drake are among the artists set to have their music pulled from TikTok after talks broke down between Universal Music and the social media platform over royalties.

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The record label has said it will withdraw its millions of songs from TikTok after failing to come to an agreement over payments to artists, AI and online safety.

It criticised the platform for making "little effort to deal with the vast amounts of content on its platform that infringe our artists' music and it has offered no meaningful solutions to the rising tide of content adjacency issues, let alone the tidal wave of hate speech, bigotry, bullying and harassment on the platform".

TikTok has accused Universal of "greed" and of a "false narrative".

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Taylor Swift on her Eras tour
Taylor Swift on her Eras tour. Picture: Getty

Swift is one of UMG's most powerful artists, having signed a deal with the company in 2018 which gave her ownership of her masters after parting ways with Big Machine Records.

She has been a vocal champion of the rights of musicians.

Other artists signed to Universal include Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber and Bad Bunny.

The contract between UMG and TikTok expires on Wednesday, when the music group will cease licensing content.

Drake. Picture: Getty

A Universal statement written as "an open letter to the artist and songwriter community" said: "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.

"Ultimately TikTok is trying to build a music-based business, without paying fair value for the music."

The scathing letter also accused TikTok of "demanding a contractual right which would allow this content to massively dilute the royalty pool for human artists, in a move that is nothing short of sponsoring artist replacement by AI".

A statement from TikTok said: "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."