Box gloves with tiktok logo and universal music group umg logo artists

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Creators say TikTok is the ‘music industry’s Roman empire’ in the wake of UMG’s war

Musicians we spoke with don’t care about this feud between Universal Music Group and TikTok. They just want to play their music.


Steven Asarch


Posted on Feb 7, 2024


On Jan. 30, music label Universal Music Group announced that it failed to reach a new deal with video app TikTok. For the past three years, the pair worked under an amicable but vague deal. The announcement claimed the deal delivered “equitable compensation for recording artists” but expired at the end of January. 

In an open letter to the artist and songwriter community, Universal Music Group wrote that it had tried to get “appropriate compensation” for its artists and songwriters while “protecting human artists from the harmful effects of AI, and online safety for TikTok’s users.” However, it failed to come to agreeable terms with TikTok. 

As the largest music record label with 31.9 percent of the market, according to Statista, most users felt the impact. Over the next week, TikTok muted hundreds of thousands of videos that used songs from Universal Music Group’s roster of talent, silencing the work of both creators and musicians.

Though some users tried to get creative, creating dances to copyright-free beats or singing karaoke to random sounds, TikTok has felt like a different place. 

Superstars under the Universal Music Group umbrella — like Taylor Swift, Eminem, and U2 — are already household names. But smaller artists at Universal Music Group just trying to promote their content are now dealing with a much quieter reality. 

“The fact that all these companies have this much power over artists and songwriters is scary,” Danyell Souza and Tony Fagenson of the band Dead Posey told Passionfruit. “The endless hours we work on our music just for something like this to happen is very disheartening, and we believe the entire business model needs to change across the board.” …

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*First Published: Feb 7, 2024, 3:31 pm CST