6th February 2024

Navigating the UMG Pullout: Insights for TikTok Creators and Brands

By Harri Brown

Chief Operations Officer

Universal Music Group (UMG), the powerhouse behind chart-topping artists like Taylor Swift and Drake, has made headlines with its decision to pull its music catalogue from TikTok following an open letter about the expiration of their agreement. But what does this mean for the TikTok community?

The Agreement Breakdown

UMG and TikTok failed to come to a licensing agreement by the 31st January deadline, with UMG focusing their argument around artist and songwriter pay, protecting artists from AI on the app, and TikTok user safety. Meanwhile, TikTok responded in an interview with USA TODAY, stating:

“It is sad and disappointing that Universal Music Group has put their own greed above the interests of their artists and songwriters [...] Despite Universal’s false narrative and rhetoric, the fact is they have chosen to walk away from the powerful support of a platform with well over a billion users that serves as a free promotional and discovery vehicle for their talent.”

As a result of the breakdown of licence agreement renewal talks, the withdrawal of UMG music from TikTok has meant that users can no longer access their extensive catalogue of music for their content - including songs from artists such as Nicki Minaj, SZA, Rihanna and more!

What Does This Mean to Creators and Brands?

Both creators and brands on the platform will now have to take a closer look at music usage policies, ensuring that they adhere to copyright regulations to avoid potential violations and safeguard their accounts from copyright strikes. The good news is that TikTok has a huge library of licensed and royalty free music that can be utilised for content!

You may have noticed that TikTok has already muted audio on existing videos featuring UMG music, as an example of the platform’s commitment to copyright compliance and user protection. However, there is likely to be a potential shift in TikTok’s policies, so both creators and brands need to proactively adapt content strategies to ensure they are mitigating risks and upholding ethical standards.

Despite the withdrawal of UMG's music catalogue, TikTok is still a hub for creativity and expression. We’ve seen multiple artists and creators rise in popularity at a monumental scale thanks to the discoverability of the platform, and so there’s a great opportunity for brands to leverage this momentum to foster authentic connections with audiences and amplify their presence on the platform.

What Does This Mean For Artists On TikTok?

TikTok has been a huge powerhouse for musicians and upcoming artists to establish themselves, with Official Music Charts being directly impacted by what’s trending on the platform. We’ve seen the likes of Nicki Minaj, Jason Derulo and Jack Harlowe utilise TikTok as their preferred channel for launching new music to the masses, drumming up hype for track releases through bitesize snippets that leave the audience wanting more - leading to increased streams.

For UMG Artists, this is likely to impact their marketing strategies as they are now limited to other channels to promote their music. However, this could be a great opportunity for new, unsigned artists to take on the spotlight!

Artists such as CHINCHILLA, Caity Baiser, Casey Lowry and even Stephen Sanchez - who was Elton John’s special guest at Glastonbury last year - have made a name for themselves on TikTok, and even been signed to record labels as a result. So, even though UMG Artists will need to find an alternative route to chart success, TikTok will remain an open platform for creators to express themselves!

That being said, the situation is eerily familiar to WMG’s temporary withdrawal from YouTube in 2008, where they ended their licensing agreement only to renew it 9 months later. Perhaps we can expect to see a reversal once again?