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UMG pulling music off TikTok is a major win for artists. (Op-Ed)

Many TikTok users are upset that their favorite artists no longer have music on the platform, but this is a wonderful move to ensure fair pay for human artists. In “An Open Letter to the Artist and Songwriter Community” published on Universal Music Group’s website, UMG details how their contract with TikTok expired on January 31st, 2024, and will not be renewed. Negotiations for a new contract fell through when TikTok failed to offer appropriate compensation for music artists and songwriters, as well as denied human artists protection from the harmful effects of AI song production.

With over one billion monthly active users, TikTok is a massive powerhouse, a rapidly growing social media platform since its launch in 2016. “TikTok proposed paying our artists and songwriters at a rate that is a fraction of the rate that similarly situated major social platforms pay,” said UMG. “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 is dedicated to protecting their artists and advocating for fair pay, which is a major win for artists.

It is disturbing that a company as large as TikTok would feel it unnecessary to properly pay the artists that have led to their platform’s success. Popular artists such as Taylor Swift, BTS, Nicki Minaj, Luke Bryan, and many, many more no longer have songs available to be used in trendy dance videos. Users quickly realized that many of their videos were muted, and they were instructed to choose a new song as a replacement. While TikTok users may be disappointed, artists are gaining more autonomy over their rights for fair pay.

TikTok profits off music artists, as the trends that users create increase the userbase and keep users active. TikTok states that “music is at the heart of the TikTok experience,” yet fail to compensate the very people who make that experience possible. Artists deserve revenue from their music being used on such a massive scale; if TikTok continues to underpay them, the app may become completely void of music as other record labels navigate the same hurdles as UMG.

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