Because Music Founder Emmanuel de Buretel Backs Universal in TikTok Rights Dispute

Published March 11, 2024

Emmanuel de Buretel, the founder of indie label Because Music and former executive at Virgin and EMI, has recently shown his support for the Universal Music Group in their ongoing licensing spat with the popular social media app, TikTok. De Buretel has been vocal about his stance in a recent article, expressing his concern over TikTok's handling of music rights.

TikTok's Disregard for Music Industry Norms

In a piece published by France's Le Monde, de Buretel accuses TikTok of manipulating music and exploiting addictive algorithms at the expense of artistic integrity. He states, "We cannot accept the consumption and disfigurement of works built around an algorithm at the cost of thousands of creative individuals globally." He emphasizes that independent labels like Because Music lack the power to confront digital giants like TikTok but believes in upholding the rules set by earlier industry agreements, referencing Google/YouTube's settlement with the music industry after similar conflicts.

Universal and TikTok's Licensing Wrangle

The tension between TikTok and Universal escalated when a significant portion of Universal's catalog started to vanish from TikTok due to unresolved licensing negotiations. UMG has outlined major concerns, such as fair compensation for artists, protection against harmful AI effects, and user safety, as cornerstones of the disagreement.

Conversely, TikTok attributes Universal's stance to greed, emphasizing their satisfactory agreements with other labels. Universal’s CEO Sir Lucian Grainge insists on no free rides for global platforms that neglect AI concerns, platform safety, and fair pay for creators’ work.

De Buretel's Argument for Artists' Rights

De Buretel argues that TikTok's algorithm prioritizes addiction over genuine musical discovery, resulting in a spread of modified songs without proper artist consent or compensation. A study by Pex corroborates this claim, indicating a higher prevalence of modified songs on TikTok compared to other platforms.

TikTok's parent company ByteDance is developing AI-powered music-creation tools, which de Buretel believes further blurs the line between original works and imitations. He asserts, however, that TikTok cannot survive without music and those behind its creation, and it is the responsibility of the music industry to protect and remunerate artists adequately.

De Buretel's advocacy for music rights is not new. He has in the past endorsed a user-centric payment model for streaming, aimed at fairer income distribution and countering fake streams.

Universal, TikTok, Music