Universal to Pull Catalogue Including Drake, the Weeknd, Justin Bieber from TikTok Amid Licensing Dispute

The label accused TikTok execs of bullying and negotiating in bad faith during contract renewal talks

BY Ben OkazawaPublished Jan 31, 2024

Get your Drake and Taylor Swift lip-syncing videos in now, kids — Universal Music Group (UMG) is pulling the plug on their licensing deal with TikTok after today following unsuccessful negotiations surrounding artist compensation, AI control and user safety. 

In a statement titled "Why We Must Call Time Out on TikTok," UMG claimed that TikTok representatives negotiated in bad faith during contract renewal discussions, which ultimately led to UMG's decision to allow their contract to expire. 

The statement reads:

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. How did it try to intimidate us? By selectively removing the music of certain of our developing artists, while keeping on the platform our audience-driving global stars. 

TikTok’s tactics are obvious: use its platform power to hurt vulnerable artists and try to intimidate us into conceding to a bad deal that undervalues music and shortchanges artists and songwriters as well as their fans. 

We will never do that. 

We will always fight for our artists and songwriters and stand up for the creative and commercial value of music.

TikTok responded late last night via its communications account on X (formerly Twitter). 

"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," the post reads. "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."

Based on the overt pettiness of both statements, it certainly seems as though there's no love lost between the two companies, and, potentially, no hope of getting UMG's catalogue back on TikTok. 

Alongside megastars Drake and Swift, the label's sprawling roster of artists includes Canadian powerhouses like Justin Bieber, the Weeknd, Alanis Morissette, Bryan Adams, Avril Lavigne and many, many more. 



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