Downtown CEO and more weigh in on UMG-TikTok dispute

Downtown CEO and more weigh in on UMG-TikTok dispute

The music industry has been closely watching the dispute between UMG and TikTok that emerged in the past week.

Just ahead of the Grammy celebrations, UMG’s recordings were pulled from the platform after the failure to reach a new licensing agreement.

A war of words between the two sides ended with Universal Music Group complaining that TikTok took a “woefully outdated view” and that “artist rights advocates are speaking out in support of our action”.

“Even though TikTok (formerly has built one of the world’s largest and most valuable social media platforms off the backs of artists and songwriters, TikTok still argues that artists should be grateful for the ‘free promotion’ and that music companies are ‘greedy’ for expecting them to simply compensate artists and songwriters appropriately, and on similar levels as other social media platforms currently do,” said the UMG post-expiry statement.

As well as those organisations mentioned, including the Future of Music Coalition and Artists Rights Alliance, fellow industry players are starting to speak out on the licensing row.

Downtown Music Holdings CEO Andrew Bergman is the latest to share his perspective on UMG’s decision to withdraw its repertoire from the platform’s general music library over issues of remuneration (as well as concerns about AI and online safety).

“As one of the largest suppliers of content representing more than 5,000 business clients and more than four million individual creators, we strive at Downtown to ensure that artists, songwriters and rights-holders are equitably compensated for their creative endeavours,” said Bergman in a statement. ‘“Over the last several years, despite the meteoric success of the platform, this has not been the case with TikTok. It’s time to re-calibrate the partnership between the music industry and TikTok to re-balance the ledger.”

TikTok has got licensing agreements with other majors – Warner Music renewed just last summer – and many independents via Merlin

But Bergman is one of a number of voices coming out in support of UMG’s position not to accept TikTok’s licensing stance. 

Primary Wave issued a statement in support of UMG for “standing up to TikTok and its blatant disregard for artists and songwriters”. 

“The notion that TikTok would try to rationalise willfully underpaying artists because, the platform says, it offers artists ‘promotion’ is a decades-old canard that has no place in any modern music business,” said the statement from Primary Wave. “Artists and songwriters need to be compensated appropriately for their work and protected from unethical uses of AI. Period. We’re proud to stand alongside UMG and the artist advocates that have called upon TikTok to appropriately pay and protect the songwriters and artists who are critical to the growth and cultural relevance of the platform.”

National Music Publishers Association president and CEO David Israelite revealed at a Grammys week event that the organisation’s TikTok deal is up for renewal in April.

“Music is a driving force behind TikTok’s success and it is extremely unfortunate that TikTok does not seem to value the music creators that fuel its business," said a statement from Israelite. "We believe songwriters should be valued and compensated fairly, and we believe artificial intelligence should never be used to dilute the value of human creativity. We have seen other social media platforms make the mistake of claiming promotion should substitute for fair compensation. It’s a losing argument and it is wrong.”

The industry is now awaiting the next stage of the withdrawal when songs represented by UMPG are removed around the end of the month, unless an overall agreement is reached between UMG and TikTok.


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