Music tiff with TikTok could benefit smaller artists, producer says

Universal Music’s decision to pull its artists from TikTok could provide revenue opportunity

4 min read
TikTok useres look for Taylor Swift music
caption TikTok users cannot play the music of their favourite artists who are or were signed with Universal Music Group.
Warren D'Silva

A move by Universal Music to remove its song catalogue from TikTok is giving artists who cover songs by Universal artists a chance to cash in, according to a local producer.

“People can’t listen to Taylor Swift on TikTok, but if someone makes a remake of it and posts it on TikTok, this is going to be a great way for a new artist to not only go viral but also find an audience,” says producer and label owner Silas Bonnell, who owns Dartmouth-based record label SGB Records.

 “The new thing to fill the gap of the Taylor Swift and Drake and The Weeknd and all those massive artists that were dominated by the platform is going to come for a new cover artist,” said Bonnell.

Producaer in recording studeio
caption Silas Bonnell believes that this is the time for new local artists to pop off on TikTok.
Warren D’Silva

Universal Music Group has over 300 current artists plus over 1,000 past artists featured on their catalogue with a compilation of all their releases. All these artists’ tracks have been taken down from TikTok because UMG declined to renew a licensing agreement with TikTok on Jan. 31.

In a statement published Jan. 30, Universal said, “In our contract renewal discussions, we have been pressing them on three critical issues — appropriate compensation for our artists and songwriters, protecting human artists from the harmful effects of AI, and online safety for TikTok’s users.”

Halifax-based singer, songwriter and composer Avery Dakin, who is signed with Wharf Records, says, “TikTok is a great tool for gaining streams and expanding your audience.’’

She said that none of her videos have gone viral, but covers do have a higher chance of going viral on the platform.

“A cover I released in November became one of my highest streamed songs in about a week,” she said.

Dakin covered the song Day Dreaming, which was written by former Universal artist Aretha Franklin. Now that the entire Universal catalogue has been pulled down, it has taken down tracks from all the past as well as present artists.

Musician Avery Dakin;s Youtube account
caption Avery Dakin says that the cover version of a song can become super popular on TikTok and YouTube.
Warren D’Silva

A report by Hypebot, an organization that analyzes and documents changes in the music industry, “TikTok pays artists $0.03 for each new TikTok video that uses your song. So, if 1,000 videos use your song, you will earn $30 … Depending on the artist’s royalty payment plans with their agency, they get paid the final amount.”

Bonnell said that the works of Aretha Franklin are owned by Universal Music Group which is why her songs section on the platform is empty, “but a cover of her song like the one Avery had posted can go viral on TikTok.”

Toronto-based broadcaster and music writer Alan Cross said Universal’s move will reduce revenue for its artists.

“Universal artists not being heard on TikTok anymore could hurt them. They have been getting nice chunks of cash in the mail as a result of their songs being used on TikTok videos,” he said.

“TikTok has become a uniform. It is a monster. It is a site that has allowed people to get into music, discover music and promote music in ways that were impossible before it came along.”

Alan cross flashes a rock sign
caption Cross believes that Universal Music Group’s decision to pull their artists from TikTok will test the waters and other labels will follow if it is favourable.
Warren D’Silva

A report about TikTok by Hootsuite, a social media management platform, said “the app hit a staggering 1.92 billion users in 2023, a 16 per cent increase from the previous year.”

This app is used as a launch pad for many upcoming artists to get noticed and build a following. Their aim is to get scouted by record labels or independent producers.

“You can bet that Sony and Warner Music Group are both watching to see what happens.  I think Sony and Warner and all the other labels are quite happy to let Universal fight this particular battle,” said Cross.

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About the author

Warren D'Silva

Warren D'Silva, a fashion and lifestyle content creator turned journalist. He believes that all you need to do is find your inner confidence...

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