Feb 8, 2024 - Business

Nashville songwriters side with Universal in TikTok dispute

An image showing the Universal and TikTok logos

Photo illustration: Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The influential Nashville Songwriters Association International is siding with Universal Music Group in its dispute with social media giant TikTok.

Why it matters: Universal pulled its music from TikTok last week after failing to reach an agreement on a contract extension.

  • TikTok has become a leading vehicle for music discovery, and the disagreement with Universal seems to foreshadow the new frontier in music licensing.
  • NSAI's support of Universal underscores the stance of songwriters in the disagreement.

Context: Universal runs both record labels and publishing groups and has a significant presence in Nashville. Taylor Swift is one of Universal's artists.

Catch up quick: Universal explained its position last week in an open letter to its artists and songwriters. The company says it has three areas of disagreement with TikTok: fair compensation for its artists and songwriters, protecting music creators from the negative impacts of artificial intelligence and the online safety of TikTok users.

  • On the issue of fair compensation, Universal disclosed that TikTok accounts for just 1% of its total revenue despite the tremendous popularity of the platform.
  • AI copyright protections for music creators is also a popular issue in the music industry. Tennessee's legislature is pondering a bill introduced by Gov. Bill Lee to protect artists from the misuse of their copyright through unlicensed AI-generated content.

What they're saying: NSAI is a national leader in copyright issues. The group, which advocates for songwriters to be paid fairly, played a key role in the passage of the landmark Music Modernization Act in 2018.

  • In a Facebook post, NSAI said its board unanimously voted to back Universal for "taking a stand to no longer license copyrights under their administrative control to the digital music platform TikTok until they agree to pay higher fair market rates to the creators of the music from which they generously profit."

The other side: After Universal pulled its music from the platform, TikTok issued a statement bashing the decision as "sad and disappointing." TikTok, which has over 1 billion users, pointed out it has contracts with "every other label and publisher."

  • "Clearly, Universal's self-serving actions are not in the best interests of artists, songwriters and fans."
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