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Could the UMG and TikTok Debacle be positively reshaping TikTok’s landscape? (OP-ED)

When Universal Music Group pulled their content off TikTok, the change was felt immediately. In its open letter to TikTok, UMG accused the popular social media app of not giving out appropriate compensation to its artists in comparison to TikTok’s competitors and poor protection of its clients against AI-generated songs.

“TikTok is allowing the platform to be flooded with AI-generated recordings — as well as developing tools to enable, promote, and encourage AI music creation on the platform itself – and then 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,” wrote UMG, “Further, TikTok makes 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.”

Despite TikTok denying UMG’s claims in its separate statement, with no resolution reached, the contract fell through. Popular fan edits, fan cams, dances, and memes were suddenly muted or overlaid with royalty-free music. Entire TikTok trends were effectively erased, and for creators whose jobs revolved around the music industry, their careers were suddenly thrown off balance, all because of a dispute between two companies.

Not only that but because of TikTok’s massive presence within the music industry — its ability to offer new artists a surefire way of introducing their music to a wide array of people — the absence of UMG’s music has created a sizable void. While the conflict between TikTok and UMG is negatively affecting users, the absence of UMG’s music has incited an interesting change.

Creators who had previously relied on music from UMG sought out other avenues. Some have fallen fully towards using royalty-free music from Kevin McCloud or even classical music. Other users are even returning to past internet trends and popular music like Nightcore, where a licensed song is pitched and sped up, as well as dubstep. Additionally, independent artists who aren’t involved with music labels have jumped in on their golden opportunity, using the void left by UMG to promote their own music.

While this moment is certainly a great opportunity for artists not affiliated with UMG, it is having a notable negative effect on users. The fan bases of massive artists like Drake and Taylor Swift are forced to go to other platforms, thus depleting a portion of TikTok’s massive user base. For smaller artists within UMG, they’re suddenly missing a decent revenue stream and pool of potential new fans.

Music blogger The New Nine, echoed similar sentiments in a TikTok post of her own. Adding that because many of the newer artists signed to UMG were discovered because of their fame on the app, pulling them off TikTok is “robbing them” of their promotion. 

We are only a month into the change; it’s still too early to anticipate the long-term effects this will have on both UMG and TikTok.


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