Taylor Swift label UMG agrees licensing deal with TikTok, ending spat

Taylor Swift attends the 66th GRAMMY Awards at Crypto.com Arena on February 04, 2024 in Los Angeles, California. 

Neilson Barnard | Getty Images

Universal Music Group, the record label for top music artists including Taylor Swift, struck a new licensing agreement with TikTok, putting an end to a spat between the two companies.

In a statement Thursday, UMG said the licensing deal would lead to the return of its artists’ music to TikTok.

As of Thursday morning, several songs from Taylor Swift, including tracks from the pop star’s new album The Tortured Poets Department, were reinstated to the platform, CNBC verified.

Earlier this year, TikTok pulled songs from artists signed to UMG after the two sides failed to agree on a new deal over content licensing, sparking a public spat. Music by artists including Swift and Drake became unavailable on TikTok, which is owned by Chinese internet giant ByteDance.

UMG accused TikTok of bullying and intimidation in its contract negotiations and alleged that TikTok proposed paying its artists and songwriters “at a rate that is a fraction of the rate that similarly situated major social platforms pay.” 

At the heart of the spat was the contention that TikTok allowed its platform to undermine artists’ intellectual property with unauthorized AI-generated songs. UMG claimed the social media platform was “flooded with AI-generated recordings.”

UMG and TikTok’s new deal aims to improve remuneration for songwriters and artists, provide promotional opportunities for their recordings, and introduce “industry-leading protections” when it comes to generative AI.

The fresh agreement, “focuses on the value of music, the primacy of human artistry and the welfare of the creative community,” said Lucian Grainge, chairman and CEO of UMG.

“We look forward to collaborating with the team at TikTok to further the interests of our artists and songwriters and drive innovation in fan engagement while advancing social music monetization.”

Shou Zi Chew, TikTok’s CEO, said the platform is “committed to working together to drive value, discovery and promotion for all of UMG’s amazing artists and songwriters.”

TikTok and UMG said they would work to ensure AI development in the music industry protects artists and that they’re sufficiently paid for their material.

TikTok will also work with UMG to remove unauthorized AI-generated music from its platform, as well implement tools to improve artist and songwriter attribution.