Here’s Why Music From Alan Jackson, Carrie Underwood, Luke Bryan, & More Was Removed From TikTok

Universal Music Group is taking a stand against the popular app.

By

Madeleine O’Connell

| Posted on

February 1, 2024

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Alan Jackson; Photo by Acacia Evans, CMA, Carrie Underwood; Photo by Jeff Johnson , Luke Bryan; Photo by Hunter Berry, Courtesy CMA

Universal Music Group has made the careful decision to forego the use of its music on TikTok. With this move, the label’s extensive list of hitmaking clientele including Alan Jackson, Carrie Underwood, Luke Bryan, Chris Stapleton, George Strait, and many more have been removed from the platform as of Wednesday (Jan. 31).

All Videos With Music From UMG Artists Have Been Muted

All videos containing music from the label’s artists have been muted with a message stating, “Sound was removed due to copyright restrictions.”

UMG addressed this update in an open letter to artists and songwriters that was shared on its website. In this statement, the label explained that its core mission “to help our artists and songwriters attain their greatest creative and commercial potential” no longer aligns with the terms of its now-expired contract with the social media platform that is owned by ByteDance.

An Open Letter From UMG

The letter went on to say that there are three specific issues the label has been pressing their platform partner on during their contract renewal discussions: “appropriate compensation for our artists and songwriters, protecting human artists from the harmful effects of AI, and online safety for TikTok’s users.”

As an example, the company stated that TikTok proposed compensating its artists and songwriters at a significantly lower rate compared to other major social platforms, adding that the social media platform makes up only about 1% of its total revenue.

“Ultimately TikTok is trying to build a music-based business, without paying fair value for the music,” UMG stated.

TikTok Responds

TikTok then countered UMG’s allegations, claiming that it has reached “artist-first” agreements with every other label and publisher.

“Clearly, Universal’s self-serving actions are not in the best interests of artists, songwriters and fans,” TikTok said. 

UMG Open Letter To TikTok
UMG Open Letter To TikTok

As for the use of AI, UMG expressed great concern over TikTok permitting an increase in AI-generated recordings, as well as their development of tools to enable, promote and encourage the new technology on the platform. In turn, the label believes this could pose a potential threat to artists on the app.

The company went on to accuse the platform of “demanding a contractual right which would allow this content to massively dilute the royalty pool for human artists, in a move that is nothing short of sponsoring artist replacement by AI.””

The Safety Of TikTok

The next issue that to be addressed further is the safety of TikTok. UMG stood firm in their belief that the platform shows minimal efforts to stop the extensive amount of content that violates UMG artists’ music as well as finding solutions against “the tidal wave of hate speech, bigotry, bullying and harassment on the platform.”

The letter went on to say that TikTok’s method for requesting the removal of such content is “monumentally cumbersome and inefficient process which equates to the digital equivalent of “Whack-a-Mole.”

When UMG suggested TikTok explore methods similar to their other platform partners to combat these issues, the platform first responded with lack of concern and then “intimidation.” The letter indicated that the social media platform attempted to “bully” UMG into accepting a deal.

“As our negotiations continued, TikTok attempted to bully us into accepting a deal worth less than the previous deal, far less than fair market value and not reflective of their exponential growth,” UMG continued. “How did it try to intimidate us? By selectively removing the music of certain of our developing artists, while keeping on the platform our audience-driving global stars.”

Following this accusation, TikTok responded with an open letter to USA TODAY, calling UMG’s claims a “false narrative” fueled by “greed.”

“It is sad and disappointing that Universal Music Group has put their own greed above the interests of their artists and songwriters,” read the statement. “Despite Universal’s false narrative and rhetoric, the fact is they have chosen to walk away from the powerful support of a platform with well over a billion users that serves as a free promotional and discovery vehicle for their talent.”

The platform continued, “TikTok has been able to reach ‘artist-first’ agreements with every other label and publisher. Clearly, Universal’s self-serving actions are not in the best interests of artists, songwriters and fans.”

UMG concluded their letter by reiterating the fact that they will continue to honor their responsibilities to the safety of their artists and songwriters with “the utmost seriousness” and will not back down when faced with intimidation and threats.

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Madeleine O’Connell graduated from North Central College with a bachelors degree in Journalism and Broadcast Communications before deciding to pursue her studies further at DePaul University. There, she earned her masters degree in Digital Communication & Media Arts. O’Connell served as a freelance writer for over two years while also interning with the Academy of Country Music, SiriusXM and Circle Media and assisting with Amazon Music’s Country Heat Weekly podcast. In addition to Country Now, she has been published in American Songwriter, Music Mayhem, and Holler.Country. Madeleine O’Connell is a member of the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music.