TikTok and Universal Music Group have finalised an agreement enabling songs and artists from its labels, including Olivia Rodrigo and Drake, to make their comeback on the video-sharing platform.

In February, the world’s largest music company commenced the removal of content from TikTok due to disagreements, encompassing concerns regarding artist compensation and the utilisation of artificial intelligence-generated music on the platform.


In a collaborative statement released Thursday, the companies expressed their commitment to swiftly reinstating music by UMG’s artists on TikTok. The agreement vows to address apprehensions regarding generative AI, a technology capable of generating highly realistic audio, images, and text from basic prompts. TikTok stated its intention to collaborate with Universal to eradicate unauthorised AI-generated content. 

“TikTok and UMG have affirmed their collaboration to ensure that AI advancements within the music industry safeguard human creativity and uphold the economic support directed towards artists and songwriters,” stated the companies.

The earliest examples of deepfake AI-generated music, titled “Heart on My Sleeve,” showcased two Universal artists, Drake and the Weeknd. Released in April last year, it was removed from platforms such as TikTok, Spotify, and YouTube. Universal cautioned that unlicensed AI-generated music was depriving artists of their rightful compensation. 

Apart from that, the companies announced that the agreement would bring enhanced payment terms for Universal’s songwriters and artists, offer fresh promotional avenues for songs, and implement “industry-leading protections” regarding AI.

TikTok has evolved into a crucial channel for the music industry, significantly impacting consumer behaviour. A quarter of US consumers report discovering songs through TikTok, highlighting its substantial influence. According to MIDiA Research, TikTok surpasses YouTube and music streaming platforms like Spotify as the primary discovery platform for music among 16- to 19-year-olds in the US.

Furthermore, Taylor Swift, an artist under Universal, has reinstated her music on TikTok. This action stems from her ownership of the copyright to her work, facilitated by a 2018 agreement that grants her authority over the distribution of her songs, allowing her to choose where they are made available.

TikTok reach deal with UMG
Taylor Swift signed under UMG

The Chinese-owned platform boasts over 1 billion users globally, with 170 million in the US alone. However, its future in the US is still being determined following President Joe Biden’s enactment of a bill mandating TikTok’s parent company, Beijing-based ByteDance, to divest its US operations or risk facing a ban.

Read more: Universal Music and TikTok Unable to Reach New Licensing Deal

Sir Lucian Grainge, the chair and chief executive of UMG, remarked, “This new phase in our partnership with TikTok emphasises the significance of music, the central role of human creativity, and the well-being of the artistic community.”

As reported by the Guardian, Grainge further elaborated in a memo to staff that compensation for artists and songwriters would exceed that of the previous arrangement with TikTok. Additionally, he highlighted that the agreement tackled the “primary concern” surrounding AI-generated content, which threatened to diminish the royalty pool for human artists significantly.

TikTok allocates payments to artists and songwriters from a predetermined royalty pool. Universal expressed apprehension that its lineup could face disadvantages due to the platform’s inundation of AI-generated content.

Shou Zi Chew, TikTok’s chief executive, emphasised that music played an essential role on the platform and expressed satisfaction in reaching a mutually beneficial agreement with Universal.

Niamh Burns, a senior analyst at Enders Analysis, suggested that reaching an agreement was inevitable, given that the presence of UMG content on the platform benefited both parties.

“TikTok’s content becomes significantly more captivating with a robust music catalogue,” she noted. “Conversely, the promotional advantages for UMG and its artists by being on the platform are evident. This is exemplified by Taylor Swift’s independent decision to reintroduce her presence on the platform even before the release of her new album.”

As TikTok and Universal Music Group renew their partnership, the future of music on the platform looks promising. Committing to protecting artists’ rights and fostering creativity, this collaboration sets a precedent for the evolving landscape of digital content creation and distribution. As users continue to engage with music-driven experiences on TikTok, the synergy between technology and artistry will undoubtedly continue to shape the digital realm.

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