Business

TikTok Signs Licensing Deal With Sony Music, Hiking Payouts to Labels

TikTok
Joel Saget/AFP/Getty Images

TikTok

TikTok has struck a new music licensing agreement with Sony Music Entertainment, making songs from the world's second-largest label group available for global use in clips on the popular video-sharing app, TikTok announced in a company blog post today (Nov. 2).

The deal follows a short-term licensing pact the two parties signed in April. This time, TikTok is paying Sony a notable increase over previous deals for the rights, according to a source familiar with the matter.

"Short form video clips have developed into an exciting new part of the music ecosystem that contribute to the overall growth of music and the way fans experience it," said Sony Music Entertainment president, global digital business and U.S. sales Dennis Kooker. "TikTok is a leader in this space and we are pleased to be partnering with them to drive music discovery, expand opportunities for creativity and support artist careers."

The Sony roster counts superstars like Beyoncé, Travis Scott, Alicia Keys, OutKast and Mariah Carey; and storied labels including Columbia, RCA and Epic. TikTok says it has 100 million monthly active U.S. users, and has been downloaded globally about 2 billion times.

Under the new agreement, TikTok and Sony will also collaborate to promote Sony's music and artists on the platform, driving "new and forward-looking opportunities for fan engagement," the blog post reads. Already, video trends on TikTok have helped popularize songs from the Sony catalog like Doja Cat's "Say So" (18.4 million TikTok creations) and 24kGoldn's "Mood" (2.1 million), which topped the Hot 100 for two weeks.

Sony has discovered new talent on the app, too: Columbia in particular has signed a handful of artists who rose to fame after their songs went viral on the app, including Lil Nas X, Powfu, StaySolidRocky, Jawsh 685, Arizona Zervas and 24kGoldn.

"We are thrilled to enter into this agreement with Sony Music so that we can continue to work together to connect the incredible roster of Sony artists in the U.S. and across the globe to new audiences and harness the power of TikTok," said TikTok global head of music Ole Obermann. "Especially during this time when the artist community is challenged to find new ways to reach fans with their music, we are committed to working together to do just that."

Further terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The deal reflects an increasingly collaborative relationship between TikTok and the music industry, which got off to a rocky start last spring. At the time, the platform was growing into a valuable promotional vehicle for music, catapulting Lil Nas X's "Old Town Road" to global hit status, just as its licensing deals with major labels and publishers were expiring -- and the music industry demanded better payouts.

TikTok has not yet announced new licensing pacts with Universal Music Group or Warner Music Group, which also signed short-term licensing deals in April. At the time, sources close to the situation told Billboard that the deals were notably shorter than the 18-24 month agreements that labels usually strike with technology companies. TikTok signed a global licensing deal with Merlin in January to cover music from the digital rights agency's 900 members, including more than 20,000 independent labels.

Meanwhile, TikTok has spent the past several months fighting Pres. Donald Trump's threat to ban the app in the U.S., although tensions have abated in recent weeks. TikTok's China-based parent company, ByteDance, signed a deal to sell a stake in the app to Oracle and Walmart in September; and on Friday (Oct. 30), a federal judge in Pennsylvania blocked an order from the Trump administration that would have outlawed U.S. transactions on TikTok beginning Nov. 12.