🔵 The full extent of Universal's TikTok exit has been sorely underestimated
Pulling the label's music is one thing, but it's the publishing clients where this gets ugly.
I suspect if you are a music industry professional you’d have to have been in a coma to have missed the news that Universal is about to pull all of its music from TikTok.
What I am finding interesting though is the wider angle on this that it feels like a lot of people have missed - specifically that it is all Universal Music Publishing music getting pulled too.
Most headlines talk about the likes of Taylor Swift and Drake’s music - both of which belong on the recorded music side of Universal, as part of its label structure - but what they appear to miss is that by including Publishing clients, this will have far, far greater impact that most might think.
A quick glance at Universal Music Publishing’s UK website shows that Harry Styles (Sony Music), Bicep (Ninja Tune), Rina Sawayama (Dirty Hit) and Fred Again… (Atlantic) are all signed clients - and therefore, all hits covered under those deals will now vanish from TikTok.
I could not find a complete list, but I would imagine it is very, very long, and given only one songwriter on a hit has to be signed with UMP to get that song pulled under this ban, I’d think the consequences of this might be getting drastically underestimated.
Bicep might be a solid case in point. Yesterday the band dropped their new single CHROMA 001 HELIUM amid much hype and fanfare (and rightly so - it’s a great song). Unless this issue is resolved quickly, not just the new single but all works covered under the band’s deal with Universal Music Publishing will no longer be on TikTok - and I’d argue Bicep are precisely the kind of band for whom TikTok has the power to massively accelerate exposure to a hot new track.
As you can see then, the ripple effect of Universal’s actions will be far greater than just its own label clients. What I will be interested to see now is how the patience of all other affected labels and stakeholders might be tested if this turns into more than a short spat.
Given Universal has also accused TikTok of underhand tactics, I also would not be shocked if this point becomes one that the social giant focuses on in a bid to play a divide and conquer strategy.
Of course, this is also a two way street. With such a gigantic volume of work being affected, it will be telling to see how TikTok’s own usage fares when so much music is no longer available. Equally, Universal are no spring chickens here: it will also know precisely which narratives to amplify in order to provide more leverage.
For the sake of all involved - and right now I suspect that the “all involved” here covers a very sizeable percentage of recorded music - this is a dispute that needs to come to a resolution sooner rather than later, as the long-term effects might well be damaging to all involved.
Have a great evening,
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🎶 listening to “Savory” by Jawbox. In the 90s I was fully immersed in the US punk/indie scene, and these guys were one of my favourites. Born of Dischord Records, this track is from a brief stint on a major (as all 90s US guitar bands did) but the track - and indeed the album as a whole - are fantastic.
📺 watching “How I Made AI Assistants Do My Work For Me: CrewAI” on YouTube. I can’t lie: this broke my brain. However it demonstrates how a smart developer type can leverage not just one AI, but a bunch of them, coralling them into roles, to create a team that then works on something. Mind-boggling and quite brilliant.
Stories from the Music Industry:
Universal announced a few hours ago that its current licensing agreement with TikTok expires tomorrow (January 31). As a result, its full catalog – including around 3 million recorded music tracks, and around 4 million songs whose publishing is represented by UMG – will no longer be legally cleared for use on TikTok.
👆🏻Hot take: see editorial above. This could get quite messy when all the UMG Publishing artists also disappear - and that in turn might create further conflicts within the industry.
“Certain major record companies refuse to engage with music-makers about their secret deals to change the streaming model and their moral obligations around AI,” claimed the CMM. “The big music and streaming companies need to stop using ‘artist-centric’ as a hollow buzzword and actually put artists and other music-makers at the centre of their businesses.”
👆🏻Hot take: this is a welcome development, though I’m always cynical around voluntary codes of practice as they can be too easy to ignore. The UK Council of Music Makers certainly isn’t mincing its words re: labels though.
The study also found a great deal of concern among composers and other music rights holders about what AI will mean for artists’ incomes – and nearly unanimous support for payments to rights holders when their music is used to train AI.
👆🏻Hot take: what I’d love to see is which areas of the music space it is felt generative AI might replace. I would imagine spaces like library music are likely targets here.
Over the coming year, each month will see one TuneCore artist from the chosen dozen granted two full days in Metropolis Studios’ Studio X, which is equipped with audio equipment, an array of plug-ins and virtual instruments, and is split into a control room and overdub booth.
👆🏻Hot take: noteworthy to see Amazon aligning itself more with the DIY artist market, making it quite a telling change in tone to the likes of Spotify.
Stories from the Broader World of Tech:
If Rogan goes, it would really be the final death knell for Spotify’s exclusivity experiment. It did work for Spotify in some ways. By snatching up the top podcasts and studios at the time, it lured podcast listeners away from Apple and forged new ones. And even now that it has fallen behind YouTube, it is still a go-to destination for podcasting.
👆🏻Hot take: I’m really curious to see what Spotify’s podcasting landscape might look like if it has no exclusives on there.
Amazon Prime Video Starts Charging Extra To Avoid Ads, As The Enshittification Of Streaming Video Truly Begins
Streaming is only at the beginning of the enshittification cycle, so I’d expect the value proposition to remain semi-respectable for another few years. But as the sector consolidates into a dwindling number of companies — all prioritizing Wall Street’s wishes over consumer satisfaction or product quality — I’d expect streaming to steadily become more and more like the shitty old cable industry it once disrupted. At which point new entertainment business modes, free services (Twitch, YouTube, Tiktok) and piracy re-enter the frame as revitalized disruption agents, and the cycle repeats all over again.
👆🏻Hot take: I think it’s a really solid point about this ultimately leading to another wave of piracy. That feels inevitable if things continue as they are.
In the Magic Media Editor, merchants can select a type from seven styles — Minimal, Vibrant, Natural, Urban, Regged, Refined and Surreal — or type a prompt to generate a new background. Apart from this, merchants can match an image’s background style with an existing image to maintain brand consistency. The tool can also remove unwanted backgrounds from the images.
👆🏻Hot take: what’s fascinating to me is how quickly all large tech companies are moving to integrate AI. This is a great case in point; I’d argue the features are nice but not incredible (not in real terms for someone running a store), but it’s the degree to which they’re hyped and AI is front-and-centred that’s interesting.
Need something else to read? Here you go:
Silicon Valley has its own ascendant political ideology. It’s past time we call it what it is.
👆🏻Hot take: this very much picks up the baton from Ryan Broderick’s views, namely that Silicon Valley is more like a religion and its core aim is essentially to make everyone reliant on its products. Sounds extreme, but I’d argue it’s actually quite true.
The great billionaire wealth transfer means people born very, very rich are going to stay very, very rich.
👆🏻Hot take: a slightly depressing look at how wealth is remaining at the top, and how inheritance won’t change that.
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