TikTok Gets Rights to Universal Music Group's Catalog

Sam Blake

Sam primarily covers entertainment and media for dot.LA. Previously he was Marjorie Deane Fellow at The Economist, where he wrote for the business and finance sections of the print edition. He has also worked at the XPRIZE Foundation, U.S. Government Accountability Office, KCRW, and MLB Advanced Media (now Disney Streaming Services). He holds an MBA from UCLA Anderson, an MPP from UCLA Luskin and a BA in History from University of Michigan. Email him at samblake@dot.LA and find him on Twitter @hisamblake

TikTok Gets Rights to Universal Music Group's Catalog
Photo by Franck on Unsplash

Universal Music Group has provided TikTok rights to its extensive music catalog in an agreement announced Monday that gives more muscle to the short-form video app that's been selling itself as a tool of music discovery.

One of the world's most popular social media apps, TikTok has catapulted artists like Lil Nas X Olivia Rodrigo into the mainstream. Under the agreement, the company has pledged to work with the UMG to build new features including "A&R insights and models" that will presumably help to identify songs and artists poised to break out.

The news comes days after the music group pulled its entire catalog from Triller, a TikTok competitor, citing Triller's withholding of payments and refusal to negotiate a renewed deal. That means that, at least for now, while TikTok users will be able to make videos with songs by UMG's entire roster of artists – which includes superstars Drake, Eminem and Arianna Grande among numerous others – Triller users will not.

The agreement also has the potential to offer UMG valuable insights into the role social media is playing in promoting its artists. The deal covers songs associated with performing artists from UMG as well as songwriters from Universal Music Publishing Group (UMPG).

"This alliance sets an industrywide example of social media companies acknowledging, respecting and compensating the music creators whose songs are instrumental to their platforms," said UMPG chief operating officer Marc Cimino in a statement.

David Israelite, head of the National Music Publishers Association (NMPA, of which Universal is a member), an advocacy group for music publishers and songwriters, said, "We've been pleased that with TikTok, they've made broad licensing deals with the music community, including an NMPA-brokered deal that involved a settlement looking backward. With Triller, it remains a company that is largely unlicensed as of today."

Triller claimed last week that it didn't need a deal with UMG, but Israelite disagreed.

"Social media companies like TikTok and Triller absolutely need the permission and licenses of the copyright owners of the music that they use to build their businesses," he said. "What's been disappointing among many social media companies is that they will focus on building their business first and worry about licensing their music later, which is not a good way to do it."


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