Taylor Swift songs back to TikTok after Universal Music deal

Universal Music Group and TikTok struck a new licensing deal Thursday that will allow users of the popular video-sharing app to regain access to songs from Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande and Adele.

The music giant pulled its stable of singers from the Chinese-owned app after its licensing deal expired in January when the two sides failed to come to terms on issues such as royalties, AI and online safety for TikTok users.

Financial terms were not disclosed.

Songs by Universal Music Group artists such as Taylor Swift will soon be returning to TikTok, the two companies announced on Thursday. AFP via Getty Images

The two sides pledged to collaborate on new monetization opportunities from TikTok’s burgeoning e-commerce business.

They will “work together on campaigns supporting UMG’s artists across genres and territories globally,” the two firms said in a joint statement.

TikTok,which has more than 170 million users in the US and 1.5 billion worldwide, has been a valuable marketing and promotional tool for the music industry.

Its base of young users most commonly discover music through the site — ahead of YouTube and music streaming services such as Spotify, according to Midia Research.

“Roughly a quarter of US consumers say they listen to songs they have heard on TikTok,” said Tatiana Cirisano, Midia’s senior music industry analyst.

However, Universal Music claimed its artists and songwriters are paid just a fraction of what it receives from other major social media platforms.

Post Malone is another recording star in Universal Music Group’s stable of artists. Getty Images for Stagecoach

The music label said TikTok accounts for 1% of its annual revenue or about $110 million in 2023.

YouTube, by contrast, paid the music industry $1.8 billion from user-generated content in the 12 months ending in June 2022, according to Midia.

In a move that may well have eroded its bargaining power, Swift, one of Universal Music’s biggest acts, allowed a selection of her songs to return to TikTok as she promoted her latest album, “The Tortured Poets Department.”

Swift owns the copyrights to her recordings through her 2018 deal with Universal and can control where her songs are available.

TikTok and Universal renewed their licensing deal after the previous one expired in January. REUTERS

As licensing negotiations resumed in recent weeks, AI remained a major point of contention.

Universal has claimed TikTok is “flooded” with AI-generated recordings, including songs that users create with the help of TikTok’s AI songwriting tools.

In Thursday’s deal, TikTok and Universal said that they would work together to ensure AI development across the music industry will protect human artistry and the economics that flow to those artists and songwriters.

“TikTok is also committed to working with UMG to remove unauthorized AI-generated music from the platform, as well as (developing) tools to improve artist and songwriter attribution,” the statement said.

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