Christian Music is Going Silent on TikTok Amid Licensing Dispute

Photo from Rachel Coyne via Unsplash

Christian Music is Going Silent on TikTok Amid Licensing Dispute

By Movieguide® Contributor 

Universal Music Group (UMG) has stopped licensing music to TikTok, and the app has already muted some videos from Christian artists such as Chris Tomlin and Hillsong United. 

The largest global music label owns Capitol Christian Music Group and has an impressive roster that includes Amy Grant, Kari Jobe, Anne Wilson and Toby Mac, just to name a few. 

“CCMG has claimed to have a 60 percent market share of the top 10 worship songs used in churches,” per Christianity Today, while UMG has a catalog of over 4 million songs. 

In an open letter to artists and songwriters under their label, the group explained that its contract was set to expire in January and that it could not reach an agreement with TikTok. 

“In our contract renewal discussions, we have been pressing them on three critical issues—appropriate compensation for our artists and songwriters, protecting human artists from the harmful effects of AI, and online safety for TikTok’s users,” the letter stated. 

Drew Small, a music marketer who formerly worked for CCMG and Bethel, summarized the UMG vs. TikTok dispute by saying, “UMG’s answer to artists is, We’re trying to get you paid more money.” 

“We will always fight for our artists and songwriters and stand up for the creative and commercial value of music,” UMG assured its clients. 

In the letter, the group accused the platform of trying to “bully” them into accepting a deal that the label claims is “far less than fair market value” by taking down music from up-and-coming artists while keeping videos of more established artists. 

TikTok responded to UMG, saying that their claims were “false” and that “greed” was behind the music company’s decision to pull music from the platform. The platform added that the move would only hurt artists and songwriters. 

“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,” TikTok wrote. 

The licensing debacle will also affect covers, live performances and tutorials. Small said that with UMG’s smart recognition software, even smaller accounts might not be immune to being pulled from the app. 

“No one is getting sued over it, but a lot of people who are just posting for fun are going to see their videos muted or taken down,” Small said.    

Despite the concern over how the dispute will limit artist exposure, Small believes the impact will be minor for Christian artists. 

“I don’t see a lot of Christian artists doing successful marketing on TikTok,” he said. 

Christianity Today reports that few artists can find a substantial fanbase on TikTok “built on virality,” with Christian artists like Maverick City, Hulvey and Elevation Worship being “notable exceptions.” 

Small believes that CCMG has become a “monopoly,” and this will give artists with other labels a chance to be noticed in a less saturated market. 

“Having them withdraw from TikTok is an advantage to every artist on any other label,” he said.   

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