Why TikTok's Deal for Licensed Music Matters

You can safely use more music in your videos

Key Takeaways

  • TikTok’s new deal with the Universal Music Group will give users access to more songs without having to worry about copyright notices.
  • TikTok now has agreements with three major music labels.
  • Experts say this is a good move for users, giving both TikTokers and artists more options.
close-up of people holding hands
Harold M. Lambert / Getty Images

Grab your phone and get ready to jam out to more of your favorite music, thanks to a new deal between TikTok and the Universal Music Group.

TikTok is expanding the amount of music available to its users under this agreement, which the social media app says will help content creators use licensed music, and could even lead to more "ambitious experimentation, innovation, and collaboration" in the future. It’s a smart move for both TikTok and UMG, though experts say content creators are the real winners.

"This is a good thing for TikTok users," Adam Chase, president of Music Minds, told Lifewire in an email. "This deal will let users use UMG songs without restriction. Previously, there were hard caps on how long you could actually use [copyrighted music], and you could still be stuck with a copyright notice despite staying under the time limit."

Chart Toppers

The reason agreements like this are happening is because of how much of an impact the video-sharing app is having on the music industry. 

In June 2019, The Ringer spoke with Sueco the Child, a rapper who spent years trying to break out and go viral so he could turn his love for music and hip-hop into a career. Just two months prior, Sueco’s life had changed forever when he saw how quickly rapper Lil Nas X jumped to the top of the charts with his song "Old Town Road," which found an audience on the app through various challenges and dances by popular TikTokers.

According to The Ringer, this was the moment the lightbulb went off, and Sueco reached out to a friend—who at the time had hundreds of thousands of followers on TikTok—asking him to include his song "Fast" in one of his videos. The result was over 3.2 million TikTok videos featuring the song, and more than 16 million plays of the song on Spotify.

Sueco isn’t the only artist who has seen success thanks to the shareable nature of TikTok’s videos. Others like Benee also have seen their songs blow up, with "Supalonely" being featured in videos from popular TikTokers like Charli D’Amelio. From there, things continued to skyrocket, and the song ended 2020 as No. 88 on Billboard’s Hot 100.

TikTok has over 689 million monthly active users worldwide, according to DataReportal. Seeing the success of these artists pushed forward by the platform and its content creators is exactly why these kinds of deals are so important.

Smart Moves

TikTok has built a unique position, with its massive audience able to quickly popularize music. The social media app based around sharing short videos also signed an agreement with Sony Music Entertainment in November 2020, meaning this deal with UMG is just the latest indicator of how vital TikTok has become to the music industry.

TikTok’s agreement with these labels will help content creators avoid the pitfalls that have befallen others on sites like YouTube and Twitch, where users of the latter have been hit by copyright notices from years-old clips.

"This is a good thing for TikTok users. This deal will let users use UMG songs without restriction."

"I think all these sites go through a stage where they can sort of get away with more than their predecessors," Sekou Campbell, a partner in the Philadelphia offices of Culhane Meadows, a law firm, told Lifewire in an email. "But eventually, once the large rights owners take note, they often come up with very similar structures to ensure that rights holders are properly compensated and have appropriate controls over their work."

In TikTok’s case, though, the coimpany is getting ahead of the issue and working to ensure its users—and the artists whose music is being used—are given everything they need to succeed.

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