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TikTok vs Universal - Round 3! Taylor Swift speaks now...

Taylor Swift has just made a big statement in the ongoing dispute between TikTok and Universal.

After pulling its recording artists' music from TikTok on 31st January 2024 as described in our first blog on the subject, Universal's publishing arm's license with TikTok was allowed to expire on 29th February 2024, forcing the social media giant to remove yet more music from its platform (and prompting a second blog from us).

The plot has now thickened with the news that Taylor Swift, a Universal Music recording artist and songwriter, has had her music re-instated on TikTok.

So what's going on here? Why is Taylor's music on TikTok when other Universal artists and songwriters remain pulled from the platform?

Well, you probably won't be surprised to learn that this yet another power move by Taylor.

It was made possible by her huge popularity, influence in the music industry and her previous smart moves that resulted in her having full control over her own music copyrights, both master recordings and music publishing.

In our blog The Power of Publishing Rights - Taylor Swift gives a Masterclass we explained how she has been recording her own 'Taylor's Version's of her first six albums because of the sale of the original master rights (recordings) to those albums by Big Machine Music (her first record label) to Scooter Braun in 2019, which she disputed publicly and forcefully. This was enabled by her ownership of her publishing rights (and the enthusiastic support of her fans!).

So when Taylor chose Universal Music as the company to promote and distribute her Taylor's Version albums and the new works she subsequently released after she left Big Machine, plus be the new home of her publishing rights, she negotiated her contracts with them from a position of extreme strength.

Her contract is different to most others, in that - amongst other things - she has the final say over which channels her music is distributed on .

You may remember that Taylor has previously had public run-ins with Apple Music and Spotify where she advocated for better remuneration for artists, by withholding her music for a period.

So why, in this instance, is she seeming to 'switch sides' in the context of the ongoing dispute between Universal and TikTok, which is seeing Universal withhold their other artists and songwriters' music from the platform?

Her new album - The Tortured Poets Department - is due for release on 19th April 2024.

Taylor and her team have obviously concluded that her music being on TikTok will be of benefit to the commercial success of The Tortured Poets Department - so they used their contractual leverage to make it happen.

Taylor Swift is acknowledging the impact that music has on TikTok - which is actually Universal's point in its dispute.

But she is also neatly highlighting the control that the largest musicians - and their estates in the case of deceased artists - can exert over the music you use in your sports and performing arts routines.

The more famous and successful the artist, the more control they will have - to the extent that in ClicknClear's deals with major record labels and publishers, some high profile artists and songwriters are classed as 'restricted', meaning they have not (yet) allowed their record label and music publishers to include them in our pre-cleared catalogue of music industry tracks.

We are working on this all the time, and believe that over time we will get everyone on board, as the worldwide partnerships we have with choreographed sports and performing arts organizations quickly grow.

Until then, they remain officially restricted, and you should be very wary of sound-alike cover versions of songs by high-profile artists. You need to check before you license cover versions whether they include publishing rights - typically they don't and, as the original artists and their songs are 'restricted', you could end up paying for music you can't legally use, and be left with an impossible job to get the necessary permissions to enable the cover to become fully copyright compliant.

In contrast, ClicknClear guarantees that every one of the 1M+ tracks available for instant licensing on our platform offers all the copyrights you need, from both the recording artists and songwriters, so you can use our awesome music industry catalogue with total confidence!


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