Taylor Swift record label to pull music from TikTok in dispute over payments

31 January 2024, 13:14

Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce on Saturday Night Live. Picture: PA

The two companies have failed to reach a new agreement before the current one expires.

Music by artists such as Taylor Swift, Harry Styles and Adele could be pulled from TikTok after a breakdown in talks between Universal Music Group and the social media platform over royalties.

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

TikTok has accused Universal of “greed” and of a “false narrative”.

Swift, who is a vocal champion of the rights of musicians, is one of UMG’s most powerful artists.

She signed a deal with the company in 2018 which gave her ownership of her masters, after parting ways with Big Machine Records.

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

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

Music companies earn royalty payments when their songs are played on streaming and social media platforms, but Universal said TikTok wanted to pay a “fraction” of the rate other social media sites do for access to its vast catalogue.

A 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 open letter also said TikTok allows the platform to be “flooded with AI-generated recordings”, and also develops tools to “enable, promote and encourage AI music creation on the platform itself”.

It accuses 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”.

The letter also criticises 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”.

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.”

By Press Association

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