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TikTok End Feud with Universal Music. Reaching Licensing Deal

TikTok End Feud with Universal.

TikTok End Feud with Universal Music. Reaching Licensing Deal
The Universal-TikTok deal ends closely watched negotations that saw a breakdown earlier this year as two of the most powerful players in the music and tech industries publicly criticized each other as they jockeyed for leverage. Photo: Antonin UTZ / AFP Source: AFP

TikTok End Feud with Universal Music. Reaching Licensing Deal on Thursday, unveiling a new licensing pact that restores the media giant’s hit songs to the wildly popular video-sharing app after a contentious spat spanning months. The deal ends a high-stakes standoff that had resulted in a catalogue of chart-topping tracks being scrubbed from TikTok, depriving millions of creators of an essential tool for scoring short videos that power viral trends.

The new agreement also aims to assuage concerns over the growth of artificial intelligence-generated content on TikTok, according to a joint statement from the two firms. As AI capabilities advance, the music industry has grown increasingly wary about the prospect of AI systems being trained on copyrighted songs without proper compensation to rights holders.

Heralding the deal as a landmark for both companies, Universal Music Group Chairman Sir Lucian Grainge framed it as “a new chapter in our relationship” that would “drive innovation in fan engagement while advancing social music monetization.” The agreement, he said in a statement, “focuses on the value of music, the primacy of human artistry and the welfare of the creative community” that Universal represents.

Echoing those sentiments, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew pledged the companies were “committed to working together to drive value, discovery and promotion for all of UMG’s amazing artists and songwriters, and deepen their ability to grow, connect and engage with the TikTok community.” The collaborative tone underscored the shared interests of the tech and music giants in tapping into TikTok’s promotional power and user base.

The agreement caps a high-stakes negotiation that had devolved into a public spat earlier this year, as the two corporate titans – among the most formidable players in the music and technology sectors – traded barbs while wrestling for leverage. The contentious back-and-forth played out on a very public stage, with each side levelling criticism at the other as the talks appeared to reach an impasse before the disputes were ultimately resolved through the newly announced deal.

In a dramatic escalation of the dispute, Universal Music Group – whose star-studded roster features A-listers like Taylor Swift, Drake, and Billie Eilish – had pulled the plug on its entire publishing catalogue from the video-sharing platform. The move left millions of TikTok videos featuring Universal’s artists abruptly muted, stoking fears among musicians and creators alike that they could lose a vital marketing channel.

But even as the deal paves the way for that music to return, it arrives at a precarious moment for TikTok. Just last week, a new U.S. law raised the stakes by demanding the app’s Chinese parent company ByteDance fully divest itself of TikTok’s American operations, threatening to banish the app from the lucrative U.S. market over national security concerns.

With a staggering 170 million users in the United States alone, TikTok’s footprint underscores the stakes of the new accord, though neither party disclosed financial terms. The deal’s significance was foreshadowed weeks ago when pop juggernaut Taylor Swift, who owns her master recordings and songwriting rights despite Universal administering her publishing, preemptively returned some of her music to the platform ahead of her latest album release, through means that remain unclear.

In their joint statement, the companies signalled the full Universal catalogue would be “working expeditiously” to make its way back to TikTok, stating they were labouring to “return music by artists represented by Universal Music Group and songwriters represented by Universal Music Publishing Group to TikTok in due course.”

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