Musicians get a lot of exposure from TikTok. But if Taylor Swift wanted exposure, she’d just go to her boyfriend’s football games. The artists want money and Universal Music Group — working in their interest — wants to negotiate good pay for play. UMG and TikTok have been playing hardball with each other over contract terms and UMG is poised to call the dance app’s bluff and remove their entire catalog. From NPR:
Early Wednesday morning, UMG released what it called “An Open Letter to the Artist And Songwriter Community – Why We Must Call Time Out On TikTok.” The letter, one suspects, is actually for music fans and tech watchdogs as well.
“TikTok proposed paying our artists and songwriters at a rate that is a fraction of the rate that similarly situated major social platforms pay. 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% of our total revenue. Ultimately TikTok is trying to build a music-based business, without paying fair value for the music.”
Generations Z and Alpha will probably be resilient enough to shake off not having UMG’s catalog. This could be a chance for smaller labels and individual artists to innovate and occupy a share of attention they would have been blocked out of. Either way, it’s a good reminder that when you’re negotiating with someone, factor in what you’ll do if one of you decides to go nuclear. UMG will probably be fine after nixing a 1% revenue stream. How TikTok will fare is much less clear.
Chris Williams became a social media manager and assistant editor for Above the Law in June 2021. Prior to joining the staff, he moonlighted as a minor Memelord™ in the Facebook group Law School Memes for Edgy T14s. He endured Missouri long enough to graduate from Washington University in St. Louis School of Law. He is a former boatbuilder who cannot swim, a published author on critical race theory, philosophy, and humor, and has a love for cycling that occasionally annoys his peers. You can reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and by tweet at @WritesForRent.