UMG lashes out at Tik Tok; threatens to pull catalog; levels accusations of bullying

In a flaming accusatory open letter, label giant Universal Music Group verbally eviscerates TikTok for failing to meet UMG’s royalty terms. The statement is posted on the final day of an existing royalty contract between the two giants.  (RAIN takes no position in this battle.)

Why We Must Call Time Out on TikTok” is an open letter to the artist and songwriter community, not a direct appeal to TikTok. Additionally, the statement does not signal an exit from further negotiations. But UMG does describe the damage to musician income if UMB were to withdraw — a broad hint that it is willing to do so:


“We recognize the challenges that TikTok’s actions will cause, and do not underestimate what this will mean to our artists and their fans who, unfortunately, will be among those subjected to the near-term consequences of TikTok’s unwillingness to strike anything close to a market-rate deal” — Universal Music Group open letter


Dollar amounts are not mentioned, of course, but UMG does reveal that (from UMG’s perspective) TikTok has offered a royalty deal worth less than the previous, soon-to-expire deal.

UMG also accuses the social platform of allowing “vast amounts” of infringing content, and “has offered no meaningful solutions to the rising tide of content adjacent issues.” The label also complains of non-royalty issues: hate speech, bullying, and harassment on the TikTok platform. Also “pornographic deepfakes.”UMG calls TikTok’s processes “the digital equivalent of ‘Whack-a-Mole’.” UMG calls TikTok a bully.

Not a love letter, fair to say, but an effective piece of propaganda on the expiration day of negotiations.

Brad Hill