Primary Wave Applauds Universal Music for Standing Up to TikTok’s ‘Blatant Disregard for Artists and Songwriters’

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Two days after Universal Music Group (UMG) announced it would likely pull its music catalog from TikTok over a licensing dispute, indie publishing giant Primary Wave Music has come out in support of the company’s decision.

In a statement released Thursday (Feb. 1), Primary Wave, led by founder/CEO Larry Mestel, said it applauds UMG “for standing up to TikTok and its blatant disregard for artists and songwriters” while blasting TikTok’s response to UMG’s decision, which UMG announced in an open letter addressed to its artists and songwriters on Tuesday (Jan. 30).


“The notion that TikTok would try to rationalize willfully underpaying artists because, the platform says, it offers artists ‘promotion’ is a decades-old canard that has no place in any modern music business,” the Primary Wave statement continues. “Artists and songwriters need to be compensated appropriately for their work and protected from unethical uses of AI. Period. We’re proud to stand alongside UMG and the artist advocates that have called upon TikTok to appropriately pay and protect the songwriters and artists who are critical to the growth and cultural relevance of the platform.”

Primary Wave represents multiple artists and estates with deals with UMG, including Olivia Newton John and Bob Marley.

In UMG’s open letter, the company — which boasts such superstars as Taylor Swift, BTS, Drake and The Weeknd on its roster — announced that all UMG music would be removed from TikTok after its current licensing deal expired Thursday (Jan. 31) while citing deep disagreements over artist compensation, artificial intelligence, TikTok’s alleged failure to combat infringing musical works and user safety. It also accused TikTok of attempting to “bully” UMG “into accepting a deal worth less than the previous deal, far less than fair market value and not reflective of their exponential growth” by threatening to selectively remove the music of some of UMG’s developing artists.

Just hours later, TikTok responded by accusing UMG of putting “greed above the interests of their artists and songwriters” while slamming what it called UMG’s “false narrative and rhetoric…the fact is they have chosen to walk away from the powerful support of a platform with well over a billion users that serves as a free promotional and discovery vehicle for their talent.”

On Thursday (Feb. 1), UMG responded to TikTok by saying the platform’s own statement “perfectly sums up its woefully outdated view: Even though TikTok (formerly Musical.ly) has built one of the world’s largest and most valuable social media platforms off the backs of artists and songwriters, TikTok still argues that artists should be grateful for the ‘free promotion’ and that music companies are ‘greedy’ for expecting them to simply compensate artists and songwriters appropriately, and on similar levels as other social media platforms currently do.”

UMG’s catalog began disappearing from TikTok on Thursday.

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