Rejoice! Universal Music Group Artists Return to TikTok as New Licensing Agreement Emerges

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Photo Credit: BoliviaInteligente

In a sudden turn of events, Universal Music Group and TikTok have announced a new licensing agreement, signifying a hopeful step forward in the fraught relationship between the music industry giant and the global social media platform. The development closely follows the passage of the ‘TikTok ban bill’ in the United States.

The agreement, announced early this morning from Los Angeles, marks the end of a contentious period while potentially setting the stage for a deal benefiting artists, songwriters, labels, and the billion-plus user community of TikTok. Terms of the updated agreement were not disclosed, though UMG executives had cited problems with overall compensation and AI licensing.

The UMG-TikTok deal comes after a months-long standoff, which also included threats of legal action from UMG against TikTok for alleged DMCA violations, as Digital Music News first reported last month. UMG first began removing its entire catalog from the platform at the end of February, causing howls of protests from TikTokers and artists alike.

Also worth noting: TikTok’s agreement comes just days after President Biden signed into a law that would effectively ban the platform in the United States. TikTok and its parent, ByteDance, have vowed to challenge the law in court, though the serious development may have prompted TikTok to play nicer with the music industry.

Separately, sources to DMN pointed to tens of thousands of DMCA takedown notices being issued by UMG, part of a larger, systemic issue of unauthorized content proliferating on the platform. Those concerns may have been alleviated by the terms of the freshly-inked deal, though more details are undoubtedly forthcoming.

For now, there’s a new era of cooperation between the companies, with UMG artists back on the platform.

Sir Lucian Grainge, Chairman and CEO of Universal Music Group, expressed enthusiasm about the renewed partnership, emphasizing the value of music, the importance of human artistry, and the welfare of the creative community. Grainge highlighted the potential for collaborative innovation in fan engagement and the advancement of social music monetization, promising a brighter future for UMG’s artists and songwriters.

“This new chapter in our relationship with TikTok focuses on the value of music, the primacy of human artistry and the welfare of the creative community,” Grainge stated. “We look forward to collaborating with the team at TikTok to further the interests of our artists and songwriters and drive innovation in fan engagement while advancing social music monetization.”

Shou Chew, CEO of TikTok, echoed these sentiments, reaffirming the platform’s commitment to driving value, discovery, and promotion for UMG’s roster of artists and songwriters. Chew emphasized the integral role of music in the TikTok ecosystem and the company’s dedication to deepening the ability of artists to grow, connect, and engage with the community.

“Music is an integral part of the TikTok ecosystem and we are pleased to have found a path forward with Universal Music Group,” Chew said. “We are committed to working together to drive value, discovery and promotion for all of UMG’s amazing artists and songwriters, and deepen their ability to grow, connect and engage with the TikTok community.”

The agreement promises including improved remuneration for UMG’s songwriters and artists, new promotional and engagement opportunities, and protections regarding the use of generative AI in music creation.

That includes artist-centric tools like “Add to Music App,” which TikTok expanded during the standoff. That helps to shuttle fans towards DSPs like Spotify when songs or artists are trending. But more importantly for TikTok, the UMG deal reopens a critical license for TikTok Music, a new-fangled Spotify competitor that is still in its infancy.

Additionally, DMN understands that UMG will be given enhanced data and analytics on artist activity. Separately, TikTok has also been busy integrating ticketing capabilities, part of a continued expansion into music that could further benefit UMG-inked artists.

Both organizations have also pledged to work together on ensuring AI development in the music industry respects human artistry and contributes positively to the economics that flow to artists and songwriters. Efforts will be made to remove unauthorized AI-generated music from TikTok, alongside introducing measures to improve artist and songwriter attribution.

Ole Obermann, TikTok’s Global Head of Music Business Development, and Michael Nash, Chief Digital Officer and EVP of Universal Music Group, both expressed optimism about the potential of this partnership to foster deeper connections between artists, creators, and fans, and to promote an environment in which artists and songwriters prosper.

“We are delighted to welcome UMG and UMPG back to TikTok,” Obermann said. “We look forward to working together to forge a path that creates deeper connections between artists, creators, and fans. In particular, we will work together to make sure that AI tools are developed responsibly to enable a new era of musical creativity and fan engagement while protecting human creativity.”

“Developing transformational partnerships with important innovators is critical to UMG’s commitment to promoting an environment in which artists and songwriters prosper,” Nash relayed.

“We’re gratified to renew our relationship with TikTok predicated on significant advancements in commercial and marketing opportunities as well as protections provided to our industry-leading roster on their platform. With the constantly evolving ways that social interaction, fan engagement, music discovery and artistic ingenuity converge on TikTok, we see great potential in our collaboration going forward.”

More as this develops.