A2IM offers indie sector support to UMG in TikTok licensing dispute

A2IM offers indie sector support to UMG in TikTok licensing dispute

A2IM is the latest music industry organisation to support UMG’s stance on TikTok.

It follows interventions in the debate from Downtown, Primary Wave and the National Music Publishers Association.

Universal Music Group recordings catalogue was pulled from TikTok from January 31, following a breakdown in talks for the licensing renewal. It prompted a war of words between the major and the video platform. 

Richard James Burgess MBE, president and CEO, A2IM (American Association of Independent Music), has now issued a statement from the US indie sector in support of the major.

“A2IM supports UMG’s strategic decision to withdraw its catalogue from TikTok, which underscores a pressing issue within the music industry: the delicate balance between leveraging digital platforms for marketing and promotional purposes and the crucial need for fair compensation,” he said. “This move brings to the fore a longstanding conundrum in the music business – the need for exposure and discoverability versus prioritising essential revenue streams from recorded music that sustain artists' careers and the viability of the labels that fund those careers.

“Music has been foundational in building and popularising platforms like TikTok (formerly known as Musical.ly), contributing significantly to their growth and user engagement. Yet, this investment by the music industry has not been rewarded with equitable financial returns. 

“The tech industry has systemically underpaid artists and labels but TikTok’s payment methodology is uniquely disadvantageous. The folly here for the music industry lies in sacrificing essential revenue from recorded music for the sake of promotion, exposure, or discoverability. While marketing and promotional tools are undeniably necessary for artists to reach wider audiences, the current model has undermined the financial sustainability of artists’ careers and labels by under-monetizing the music that, in significant part, fuels the growth of these platforms.”

Robust revenue is critical for the sustenance of artists and labels

Richard James Burgess

Burgess called for a “more balanced approach that does not compromise the revenue from recorded music”. 

“Robust revenue is critical for the sustenance of artists and labels,” he said. “We can only hope that UMG’s move serves as a catalyst for change, advocating for fairer compensation models that acknowledge the substantial contribution of music to the success of platforms while still leveraging these spaces for effective marketing and promotional activities.

“It is high time for a reevaluation of how the music industry engages with tech platforms. Let’s strive for a sustainable equilibrium where marketing and promotional tools do not detract from the vital revenue derived from recorded music. We have allowed radio to profit from more than 100 years of free recorded music [in the US] and we repeated that mistake 42 years ago with MTV. We must stop sowing our seeds in barren soil. The returns artists and labels receive from TikTok are meagre and insufficient to sustain their livelihoods. We must advocate for systems where music's intrinsic value is recognised, ensuring that platforms pay fair rates that reflect music's role in driving their success and in building these colossal corporations.”

Echoing our recent opinion piece from Lickd’s Paul Sampson, Burgess asked if this could be a turning point in terms of remuneration for artists. 

“It certainly highlights the need for sustainable economic models that do not force music creators to choose between fame and money,” concluded Burgess. “Revenue from recorded music sufficient to support a middle class of creators is vital for the development and longevity of artists’ careers and the health of the labels that support them. Such a recalibration would lead to a more sustainable and prosperous music ecosystem, where creators are fairly compensated for the value they create for digital platforms.”


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