Following the breakdown of contract negotiations between Universal Music Group (UMG) and TikTok, beloved Jamaican songs from reggae legends such as Bob Marley to rising international dancehall stars like Shenseea have been removed from the platform.
TikTok rose in popularity amid a rise in social media platforms and a shift in how individuals consume music. No longer bound to physical media, such as CDs and DVDs, music lovers have evolved from long lines at record stores or what was permitted to play on the radio to the bountiful free-for-all offered by streaming services.
For the most part, streaming has been a profitable business for all parties involved. Platforms such as YouTube, Spotify, Apple, and Meta have reaped the rewards of high viewership, which is usually synonymous with ad revenue.
Fans have obtained easy access to their favourite personalities, while entertainers of all forms utilise streaming as a means of advertising and reaching new audiences. Like its fellow music companies, UMG has acquired significant revenue through royalty payments from streaming services and social media platforms.
However, following the breakdown in their payment negotiations with TikTok, UMG disclosed that the company offered a remarkably lower payment rate than other major social media platforms. As UMG could not come to an agreement with TikTok regarding the use of songs by their extensive list of artistes, a trove of music from several genres was pulled from the platform on February 1.
Reggae and dancehall fans alike will no longer be able to use the beloved tracks from veteran and legendary artistes, such as Three Little Birds by Bob Marley. Also affected by the failed contract talks are some of dancehall’s rising crop of artistes whose old and latest releases have been muted on TikTok.
One such casualty is Shenseea and Masicka’s rising hit, Hit & Run, which quickly racked up views after its release and was growing in popularity on TikTok. Like Bob Marley, tracks from Shenseea and Masicka’s catalogue are managed by UMG under its subsidiary labels. Other Jamaican artistes affected by the failed deal include Shaggy, Skip Marley, Sean Paul, Beenie Man, and Buju Banton.
Following Hit & Run‘s removal, Shenseea’s co-manager, Romeich Major, addressed the current situation. Seemingly disappointed with the outcome, Romeich noted that the song had been removed just as Shenseea and Masicka had released it.
Despite the unfortunate circumstances, Romeich offered a few words of encouragement, highlighting that the setback was nothing close to the impact of the coronavirus. Sharing the popular inspirational quote, ‘When one door closes, another door opens,’ Romeich advised artistes and producers to continue making great music.
The Major Marketing founder added that he and his team will find other ways to promote music. He also noted that this may be an opportunity for undiscovered artistes to build an audience.
In regards to TikTok’s response to the failed negotiations, the platform, which is owned by ByteDance, called out UMG for being greedy.
“It is sad and disappointing that Universal Music Group has put their own greed above the interests of their artists and songwriters,” TikTok said in their official statement.
TikTok also suggested that the music company was trying to create a false narrative around their failed contract negotiations. The platform further stated that UMG chose to distance itself from a service with a user base that has exceeded 1 billion.