Universal Music Group, the world’s largest music company, said it would revoke the licenses for its vast catalog of songs from TikTok on Wednesday if the companies could not reach a new deal targeting artist compensation, artificial intelligence and other issues.
In an open letter posted late Tuesday, Universal accused TikTok of responding to the company with “indifference, and then with intimidation,” creating a public squabble between the companies in the remaining hours of their existing contract. If the talks fail, TikTok users will be left without some of their favorite songs, including those by Taylor Swift, Bad Bunny, Alicia Keys and others.
TikTok, owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, is indisputably one of the fastest growing and most popular social media platforms, with more than a billion users. The company says that includes about 150 million Americans. For a majority of TikTok users, music is an integral part of the experience, as it plays over the short clips that fill users’ feeds.
TikTok’s current license for using music from Universal’s catalog expires on Wednesday, and in negotiating its renewal, Universal said it asked TikTok to address three specific issues, including artist compensation. Universal said TikTok had proposed paying Universal’s artists and songwriters a fraction of the rate that similar social media platforms pay. Universal accused TikTok of trying to build a music-based business “without paying fair value for the music.”