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Tiktok loses UMG music

By Gilliana Taylor, Staff Writer

On Thursday, Feb. 1, TikTok removed all music by artists licensed to Universal Music Group (UMG). This includes Taylor Swift, Drake and Olivia Rodrigo. The removal came after UMG decided not to renew their contract with TikTok.

UMG has since shared an open letter with the public stating Tiktok’s unwillingness to come to a compromise. 

“In our contract renewal discussions, we have been pressing them on three critical issues—appropriate compensation for our artists and songwriters, protecting human artists from the harmful effects of AI, and online safety for TikTok’s users,” UMG stated.

In their letter, UMG explains how little profit is made for artists when their songs become popular on TikTok. 

“Today, as an indication of how little TikTok compensates artists and songwriters, despite its massive and growing user base, rapidly rising advertising revenue and increasing reliance on music-based content, TikTok accounts for only about 1 percent of our total revenue. Ultimately, TikTok is trying to build a music-based business, without paying fair value for the music,” UMG stated. 

Courtesy of Arise News

Junior education major Dale Console shared her thoughts on how the removals will affect smaller artists who rely on TikTok to help them grow. 

“It’s complicated because, on the one hand, Tiktok should be paying UMG’s artists a fair amount when their songs blow up on the app,” Console said. “But at the same time, it sucks for the smaller UMG artists because I feel like Tiktok helps a lot with so many people’s music careers.”

Another issue highlighted in the letter was the excessive use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) on Tiktok. Several of UMG’s artists’ voices were replicated by AI and uploaded to TikTok. These AI videos ranged from artists singing covers of songs to saying harmful things. 

“On AI, 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,” UMG stated. 

AI has spread like wildfire across the popular social media platform. Sophomore fashion merchandising major Faith Fucci shared her experience with the influx of AI on TikTok.

“I didn’t notice the AI too much at first, but then the videos were one after the other on my for you page,” Fucci explained. “I saw an AI video the other day of Taylor Swift singing a breakup song about Travis Kelce. It feels almost disrespectful to those artists. Not only that, when I go to make my own videos on TikTok, the app pushes for me to use the AI filters. It’s kinda crazy how much the app encourages AI usage.”

Users of the app report the loss of UMG’s music has drastically affected their algorithm. 

 “The videos on my for you page used to be so catered to me,” Console stated. “But since so many of the videos that would come up on my feed had music that’s now been removed, my entire feed has changed. I used to see a lot of dance trends, and now almost every video is people talking about things with no music behind it. And they’re typically talking about things I’m not interested in.  It’s frustrating, I miss my old feed.”

When asked if they supported UMG’s decision, students shared their understanding with the company but emphasized how frustrating the change has been. 

“I get why UMG pulled their music from the app. And I’m glad they care about their artists’ rights and don’t support the spread of AI. Selfishly, it has made the app boring. A lot of the videos I enjoyed involving popular artists aren’t even showing up on my feed, and most of my own videos have been muted, it’s really annoying,” Fucci stated. 

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