Licenses not renewed: Taylor Swift, The Weeknd or Lady Gaga's music could disappear from TikTok as of Thursday. The music company is making serious allegations against the online platform.
What happened? Music giant Universal Music and social media platform TikTok have been unable to agree on a new licensing agreement. The old contract expires on January 31 – if there is no agreement, this means that all songs from musicians under contract with Universal will be removed from TikTok as of Thursday. “This does not come out of nowhere, but it is a harsh step that has never been taken on this scale before,” says Benjamin Fischer, business editor of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
What led to Universal's decision? In one Open letter The music company made serious allegations against TikTok on Tuesday: The platform will only offer musicians a “fraction” of what other online platforms pay. TikTok also makes a large number of music available on the platform that has been created with the help of artificial intelligence. In this way, the service is driving the “replacement of artists by artificial intelligence.”
What consequences might this have for TikTok? Universal Music's exit will be a big blow to the platform, as most TikTok videos are accompanied by music. “I simply cannot imagine TikTok without world-class artists,” says SRF Virus host Mira Weingart. “The music label provides most of the songs used by TikTok users.” This will be influenced by international stars such as Taylor Swift, The Weeknd and Lady Gaga, as well as Swiss music greats such as Stress, Faber and Patent Ochsner.
What consequences might this have for musicians? TikTok has long played a major role in the success of music creators and shapes the charts: “Almost all of the previously successful songs have gone viral on TikTok,” says Mira Weingart. “If you want to be successful as a musician today, you also have to be on TikTok.” TikTok also helps lesser-known artists suddenly become famous. “For example, the song ‘Juicy’ by Zurich rapper EAZ, who was also signed to Universal, became a huge hit thanks to TikTok.”
What does Universal say about the concerns? The company admitted that their move would have consequences for their artists. However, it is our responsibility to fight for fair conditions for them. “But Universal is playing big risks because: Universal needs TikTok as much as TikTok needs Universal,” Weingart says. Looking at it this way, one company is taking away an important platform from its musicians.
What happens after deadlock? It is currently impossible to determine whether and to whom he will concede this issue. “Universal is betting that TikTok users will revolt because they are no longer allowed to use songs,” business editor Benjamin Fisher predicts. It is difficult to say whether this pressure will be enough and who will surrender in the end: “But since the two sides benefit from each other, it can be assumed that this will not be a permanent situation.”
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