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Universal Music Group’s Departure from TikTok

The clash between Universal Music Group (UMG) and TikTok disrupts content, leaving creators like Jack Antonoff and Lars Gummer expressing dismay.


The end of January saw Universal Music Group (UMG) decide to pull its whole catalog of songs from TikTok after attempts to reach an agreement for a new licensing deal broke down. This action garnered media attention. Due to this change, the original soundtracks for thousands of TikTok videos starring well-known musicians like Drake, Taylor Swift, and Bad Bunny were no longer available.

UMG attributed the dramatic decision to TikTok’s meager payment offer, which paled in comparison to that of other social media platforms. TikTok responded by accusing UMG of putting their own financial interests ahead of those of their composers and performers.

Content Creators Bear the Brunt 

Not only has the dispute between UMG and TikTok affected the app’s content, but it has also caused artists and songwriters to respond. Grammy-winning Producer of the Year Jack Antonoff voiced his displeasure, saying the abrupt deletion of UMG’s song library was unanticipated and detrimental to the music business. Artists are taken aback by the industry’s unwavering focus on digital media.

The UMG exit had a direct effect on TikTok content creators such dancer Lars Gummer and creator Jarred Jermaine. In a video, Jermaine expressed his heartfelt disappointment and claimed that videos using UMG music had been removed. Gummer expressed shock and sadness, highlighting the ripple impact on the larger creative community, reflecting the emotions of many of his fellow creators.

TikTok’s Indifference: A Closer Look

Digital activist Cory Doctorow first used the word “enshittification” in an episode of Today, Explained to characterize how sites like TikTok frequently diminish user experience after luring users in order to enrich commercial partners. According to Doctorow, it made a premeditated decision to put shareholder interests ahead of user experience, meaning that users will be the ones who suffer the most from disrupted content.

The “Calculus” of TikTok’s Decision

According to Doctorow, TikTok’s business model prioritizes shareholder interests over user delight. He implies that TikTok determined it was better to hurt its users than to comply with UMG’s demands, whatever it was that UMG was requesting. Disrupted videos are a clear result of this decision, which has frustrated content providers who have put a lot of effort and money into their TikTok content.

The spat between UMG and TikTok illuminates the intricate relationships that exist between big music companies, digital platforms, and content creators. Although companies like TikTok seek to obtain advantageous agreements for their investors, the unintended consequences for users and content providers cast doubt on the viability of these tactics. Platforms like TikTok continue to face the difficulty of navigating a delicate balance between business interests and customer delight as the digital world changes.

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