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UMG Publishing and TikTok send dueling messages to Songwriters [Full Text]

With thousands of songs by major and independent artists who are not signed to Universal for recording or publishing now muted in the battle between the music giant and TikTok, both sides stepped up to the bully pulpit with dueling messages to songwriters and the music industry this week.

[Hypebot has bolded select sections of each statement.]

On Wednesday, 2/28, TikTok issued this statement:

Update on Universal Music Publishing Group

We are in the process of carrying out Universal Music Group’s requirement to remove all songs that have been written (or co-written) by a songwriter signed to Universal Music Publishing Group, based on information they have provided. Their actions not only affect the songwriters and artists that they represent, but now also impact many artists and songwriters not signed to Universal.

We remain committed to reaching an equitable agreement with Universal Music Group. In the meantime, music lovers can continue to enjoy, discover and share millions of tracks from artists, songwriters and labels on TikTok, and we will continue to connect all artists – including those whose music is not currently available on our platform – with their fans.

On Thursday, 2/29, Universal Music Group Publishing issued this letter to songwriters:

TikTok is removing UMPG songs because there is no license in place. As you may have heard, to-date, they have not agreed to recognize the fair value of your songs, which so many other digital partners around the world have done.

As we previously addressed in our open letter, in addition to fair compensation for your songs, the negotiations have also focused on two other critical and equally important issues: protecting you, human artists and songwriters, from the harmful effects of AI; and online safety for TikTok’s users, including your fans which include young children.

TikTok’s intentions with respect to AI are increasingly apparent. While refusing to respond to our concerns about AI depriving songwriters from fair compensation, or provide assurances that they will not train their AI models on your songs, recent media reports reveal TikTok and ByteDance leaders have long wanted to move the app beyond music.” Reflecting on our open letter, other commentators have noted where this distancing from the music industry could lead, fueled by AI: TikTok has an incentive to push the use of these AI recordings rather than the copyrighted and licensed recordings.”

Every indication is that they simply do not value your music.  

We understand the disruption is difficult for some of you and your careers, and we are sensitive to how this may affect you around the world. We recognize that this might be uncomfortable at the moment. But it is critical for the sustained future value, safety and health of the entire music ecosystem, including all music fans.

As always, UMPG will only support partners that value songwriters, artists and your songs.  We have a long history of successfully fighting for our songwriters and will continue to do so. You should expect nothing less from us.

Bruce Houghton is the Founder and Editor of Hypebot, a Senior Advisor at Bandsintown, President of the Skyline Artists Agency, and a Berklee College Of Music professor.


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