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Universal Music vs. TikTok: The Royalty Battle Intensifies

Remember all those awesome songs you use for your TikTok videos? Well, Universal Music Group, one of the biggest music companies out there, is having a serious beef with TikTok about how those songs get used. It's down to the nitty-gritty – money, deals, and who controls the music.


The Initial Standoff

This whole situation started back in 2024 when Universal Music yanked all their songs from TikTok. Why? Because TikTok wouldn't pay what they thought was fair to use the music, and their contract ended in January. Initially, the removal affected recordings owned or distributed by UMG. However, the conflict has now escalated to include a broader range of songs, specifically those published by the company itself.

The Impact

The fallout from this battle extends far and wide. Artists and songwriters associated with UMG find themselves caught in the crossfire. TikTok videos featuring UMG-published songs must either be removed or have their music muted. The situation is complex, as it involves a vast number of recordings not directly issued by UMG-owned labels. Additionally, collaborations between artists and songwriters under contract to Universal Music Publishing Group (UMPG) face similar challenges.

The Artists and Songwriters

Think big names in music? UMPG has them covered! From Adele and Justin Bieber to Mariah Carey, Elton John, and Metallica, they have a songwriting dream team. With such a diverse stable of creators, the impact of this dispute remains uncertain. How many hit songs will be affected? Where will the line be drawn when determining whether a song falls under UMPG's control?

Differing Perspectives

Opinions diverge sharply. Sources close to UMG assert that the company has a stake in the majority of songs on TikTok. Conversely, insiders aligned with TikTok contend that the impact is smaller, estimating UMPG's influence at 20% to 30%. Remarkably, TikTok's user base has remained steady despite the removal of UMG music earlier this month.

TikTok Moves Boldly Forward In Music Rights Acquisition

TikTok Moves Boldly Forward In Music Rights Acquisition


For a very long time there has been a bit of a standoff between musicians and their legions of fans who'd like nothing better than to use a bit of their favorite song in their own video productions. Rights have been hard to secure and prohibitively priced to the point where most content creators just don't try obtaining them or go guerrilla and hope they don't get caught for a long time. That logjam seems to finally be breaking loose and the dammed-up river of creative content is about to become a torrent.

TikTok Universal Music Group Agreement

Recently, content platform TikTok has announced an agreement with music rights management behemoth Universal Music Group that permits TikTok users to access all, repeat: all, of UMGs content. This follows on the heels of several other agreements with firms such as Sony and Warner. Unlike notoriously-restrictive YouTube, TikTok has apparently decided to partner up with its content providers rather than rigorously police them for rights violations where everybody ends up the loser.

TikTok Revenue

Musicians can now get an extra stream of revenue for their work. Content providers now have access to high-quality material to enhance the production qualities of their output, and the large corporate entities which stand on both sides of the divide now have a perfect win-win situation for their own bottom lines.

Of course the devil is always in the details, but TikTok's aggressive pursuit of access to what appears to be all music everywhere signals that it wants to be the premier place for content creators worldwide. On the face of it, it seems that creators can now access these rights virtually automatically. How the TikTok Universal full catalog arrangement provides payment with the rights holders is not clear at the moment, but it appears that they are paying for the music rights on behalf of all their users and then getting repaid out of the profits generated from viral content.

The real question now is whether other content platforms will follow TikTok's example or are already doing so. With the near-simultaneous news that UMG has pulled access from TikTok competitor Triller, there is likely to be some significant deal-making action among other industry players in the near future. The possibility of bidding wars heating up cannot be discounted either if this proves to be a highly profitable move by TikTok.