After spat with TikTok, UMG expands Spotify partnership to include music videos and more

In the wake of Universal Music Group’s (UMG) public spat with TikTok, which saw the label pulling its full catalog from the video app earlier this year, the company is doubling down on its deal with Spotify. On Thursday, UMG announced an expansion of its strategic relationship with the streaming music service that will focus on “music discovery and social interaction” as well as enhanced fan experiences. The addition of music videos is included among these new features in the U.S.

Spotify recently announced its plans to support music videos, saying in March it would test the option in beta in 11 select markets — which, at the time, didn’t include the U.S. Instead, the feature was to be supported in Brazil, Colombia, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Kenya, the Netherlands, Poland, the Philippines, Sweden and the U.K., the company said.

With the UMG deal, U.S. users will also have the option of watching music videos instead of just streaming audio. The companies didn’t state what portion of UMG’s catalog would be offered as videos, nor did it name specific high-profile artists whose videos would be included.

Universal Music Publishing Group, however, includes a number of popular artists like Taylor Swift, Billie Eilish, Ariana Grande, Bad Bunny, The Weeknd, SZA, Drake, Harry Styles, Kendrick Lamar, Adele and others. That catalog of 4 million songs was also pulled from TikTok after UMG failed to renew its agreement with the video app.

To watch videos, Spotify users can access a new “Switch to Video” option from the app’s Now Playing Screen. Plus, if you rotate your phone to landscape mode, you can watch the video full-screen.

As a part of the new agreement, Spotify will introduce new promotional and social features to help artists generate excitement around their new releases. For instance, UMG artists will be able to share teasers of upcoming songs and users will be able to pre-save music before a new release.

The companies will explore other collaborations on features over time, with further details still to come, UMG said in an announcement.

“UMG has consistently been a progressive partner on behalf of their artists and songwriters, contributing to our product development efforts of experimental tools and adopting them early to help artists stand out,” said Spotify founder and CEO Daniel Ek, in a statement. “The forthcoming features will put more power in the hands of artists and their teams to help them authentically express themselves, efficiently promote their work, and better monetize their art,” he added.

The timing of the deal, of course, is notable given the drama around TikTok. In addition to facing a possible U.S. ban, the short-form video app and UMG were unable to come to an agreement over TikTok’s use of UMG’s music. As a result, TikTok had to remove some 3 million songs owned or distributed by UMG by January 31, 2024. Later, it also had to remove more songs that contained compositions controlled by UMG — that is, songs written or co-written by a songwriter signed to Universal Music Publishing Group.

By partnering with Spotify, UMG still has a way to promote its music to fans, even if its artists lose the ability to market themselves on TikTok. In previous years, the loss of UMG’s music would have been a larger blow to TikTok, but given the app’s move away from lip-syncing and dancing videos to more vlogs and long-form content, not to mention its controversial e-commerce push, the impact may not be as profound.

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