Taylor Swift, Bad Bunny, and others may vanish from TikTok as licensing dispute boils over

Category: Business


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. contractual / kənˈtræk tʃu əl / (adj.) – relating to or contained within a contract

    I signed a contractual agreement with the company to work as a consultant for six months.

  2. dilute / daɪˈlut / (v.) – to make something weaker or less valuable

    If more sellers enter the market, it may dilute prices and offer customers cheaper options.

  3. bigotry / ˈbɪg ə tri / (n.) – strong and unfair dislike or hatred toward people who are different from oneself

    It is important to speak out against bigotry and promote equality for all people.

  4. indifference / ɪnˈdɪf ər əns / (n.) – the quality of not showing any interest or concern about something

    The company’s indifference to customer complaints resulted in a loss of business.

  5. reflective / rɪˈflɛk tɪv / (adj.) – representing or showing the qualities or characteristics of something

    The positive reviews we received from customers are reflective of the high quality of our products.


Read the text below.

Universal Music Group (UMG), which represents artists including Taylor Swift, Drake, Adele, Bad Bunny, and Billie Eilish, says that it will no longer allow its music on TikTok now that a licensing deal between the two parties has expired.

UMG said that it had not agreed to the terms of a new deal with TikTok, and plans to stop licensing content from the artists it represents on the social media platform that is owned by ByteDance, as well as TikTok Music services. The licensing agreement between UMG and TikTok has expired as of January 31.

In a January 30 letter addressed to artists and songwriters, UMG said that it had been pressing TikTok on three issues: “appropriate compensation for our artists and songwriters, protecting human artists from the harmful effects of AI, and online safety for TikTok’s users.”

UMG said that TikTok proposed paying its artists and songwriters at a rate that’s a fraction of the rate that other major social platforms pay, adding that TikTok makes up only about 1% of its total revenue. “Ultimately, TikTok is trying to build a music-based business, without paying fair value for the music,” UMG said.

TikTok pushed back against claims by UMG, saying that it has reached ‘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,” TikTok said.

Yet Universal Music also called new technology a potential threat to artists and said that TikTok is developing tools to enable, promote, and encourage AI music creation. UMG accused the platform 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.”

UMG also took issue with what it described as safety issues on TikTok. UMG is unsatisfied with TikTok’s efforts to deal with what it says is hate speech, bigotry, bullying, and harassment.

UMG said it proposed that TikTok take steps similar to what some of its other social media platform partners use, but that it was met with indifference at first, and then with intimidation. “As our negotiations continued, TikTok attempted to bully us into accepting a deal worth less than the previous deal, far less than fair market value and not reflective of their exponential growth,” UMG said.

This article was provided by The Associated Press.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

  • Universal Music Group (UMG), which represents huge artists like Taylor Swift, Drake, and Adele, will not allow its music on TikTok anymore. How do you think this move would affect TikTok (ex. users might decrease, no effect at all)? Discuss.
  • How important do you think music is for online content nowadays (ex. content heavily relies on music, music attracts engagement from fans)? Are you more likely to notice social media content if they have good sound or music? Why or why not? Discuss.

Discussion B

  • UMG mentioned 3 issues it wants TikTok to address: appropriate compensation for artists, protection from AI, and user safety. Do you think that all these are valid reasons for UMG to cut its ties with the platform? Why or why not? Discuss.
  • Do you believe that platforms, like TikTok, have the responsibility to protect human artists from potential harm caused by AI-generated music? Why or why not? Discuss.