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Fans Concerned As HYBE Enters Exclusive Deal With UMG Amidst Sexual Assault Lawsuit And TikTok Ban

HYBE, the parent company of many K-Pop labels, including BTS and TXT‘s BIGHIT MUSIC, has entered a 10-year deal with Universal Music Group (UMG). The agreement was signed by UMG chairman and CEO Lucian Grainge, HYBE chairman Bang Si Hyuk (also known as Bang PD), and HYBE America CEO Scooter Braun.

Chairman Bang, Scooter Braun and Park Jiwon have brought an innovative and progressive vision to the industry that underscores music’s global power. With the opportunities in engaging the superfan via their groundbreaking Weverse model, we’re thrilled to grow and expand our platform business collaboration as we evolve together leading the music industry’s evolution.

— Lucian Grainge

The companies’ respective logos

This will grant UMG access to HYBE’s phenomenal roster of artists and vice versa, as HYBE will have greater access to UMG’s notable global network. So, the two will continue to collaborate on future projects in North America, such as promotions and activities for artists. This will be overseen by Scooter Braun, whom the K-Pop fandom has been protesting for his removal due to his Zionist ties.

The opportunity created here not only allows us to help our current roster, but grow opportunities for independent artists and labels globally.

— Scooter Braun

From left: Bang Si-Hyuk (Chairman of HYBE), Sir Lucian Grainge (Chairman and CEO of Universal Music Group), Scooter Braun (CEO of HYBE America)Jordan Strauss
From left: Bang Si Hyuk (Chairman of HYBE), Sir Lucian Grainge (Chairman and CEO of Universal Music Group), Scooter Braun (CEO of HYBE America) | Jordan Strauss

UMG and HYBE began working together in 2017 for BTS due to distribution in Japan. In 2021, the business relationship expanded with more collaborations. This includes the virtual fan community platform Weverse. Likewise, HYBE and Geffen Records collaborated for the global audition show The Debut: Dream Academy, which ultimately debuted the girl group KATSEYE.


While Bang Si Hyuk hopes this new partnership with UMG will continue expanding HYBE and reaching global markets, international fans are concerned.

A partnership of this magnitude only comes together when both sides are equally committed to continued growth. UMG is an iconic music company and together with Hybe, the potential is endless. We are certain that this will expand our global footprint, while benefiting our fans, artists, and labels.

— Bang Si Hyuk

Currently, UMG has “banned” its music from the video-sharing app TikTok as its contract with the app ended. UMG expressed concerns, including compensation, the danger of AI, and safety for users, as to why it was parting ways with TikTok for now. Read the company’s complete statement, released on January 30, below.

Our core mission is simple: to help our artists and songwriters attain their greatest creative and commercial potential.  To achieve these goals, our teams employ their expertise and passion to strike deals with partners all around the world, partners who take seriously their responsibilities to fairly compensate our artists and songwriters and treat the user experience with respect.

One of those partners is TikTok, an increasingly influential platform with powerful technology and a massive worldwide user base.  As with many other platforms with whom we partner, TikTok’s success as one of the world’s largest social platforms has been built in large part on the music created by our artists and songwriters.  Its senior executives proudly state publicly that “music is at the heart of the TikTok experience” and our analysis confirms that the majority of content on TikTok contains music, more than any other major social platform.

The terms of our relationship with TikTok are set by contract, which expires January 31, 2024. 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.

We have been working to address these and related issues with our other platform partners.  For example, our Artist-Centric initiative is designed to update streaming’s remuneration model and better reward artists for the value they deliver to platforms.  In the months since its inception, we’re proud that this initiative has been received so positively and taken up by a range of partners, including the largest music platform in the world.  We’ve also moved aggressively to embrace the promise of AI while fighting to ensure artists’ rights and interests are protected now and far into the future.  In addition, we’ve engaged a number of our platform partners to try to drive positive change for their users and by extension, our artists, by addressing online safety issues, and we are recognized as the industry leader in focusing on music’s broader impact on health and wellness.

With respect to the issue of artist and songwriter compensation, TikTok proposed paying our artists and songwriters at a rate that is a fraction of the rate that similarly situated major social platforms pay.  Today, as an indication of how little TikTok compensates artists and songwriters, despite its massive and growing user base, rapidly rising advertising revenue and increasing reliance on music-based content, TikTok accounts for only about 1% of our total revenue.

Ultimately TikTok is trying to build a music-based business, without paying fair value for the music.

On AI, TikTok is allowing the platform to be flooded with AI-generated recordings—as well as developing tools to enable, promote and encourage AI music creation on the platform itself – and then demanding a contractual right which would allow this content to massively dilute the royalty pool for human artists, in a move that is nothing short of sponsoring artist replacement by AI.

Further, TikTok makes little effort to deal with the vast amounts of content on its platform that infringe our artists’ music and it has offered no meaningful solutions to the rising tide of content adjacency issues, let alone the tidal wave of hate speech, bigotry, bullying and harassment on the platform. The only means available to seek the removal of infringing or problematic content (such as pornographic deepfakes of artists) is through the monumentally cumbersome and inefficient process which equates to the digital equivalent of “Whack-a-Mole.”

But when we proposed that TikTok takes similar steps as our other platform partners to try to address these issues, it responded first with indifference, and then with intimidation.

As our negotiations continued, TikTok attempted to bully us into accepting a deal worth less than the previous deal, far less than fair market value and not reflective of their exponential growth.  How did it try to intimidate us?  By selectively removing the music of certain of our developing artists, while keeping on the platform our audience-driving global stars.

TikTok’s tactics are obvious: use its platform power to hurt vulnerable artists and try to intimidate us into conceding to a bad deal that undervalues music and shortchanges artists and songwriters as well as their fans.

We will never do that.

We will always fight for our artists and songwriters and stand up for the creative and commercial value of music.

We recognize the challenges that TikTok’s actions will cause, and do not underestimate what this will mean to our artists and their fans who, unfortunately, will be among those subjected to the near-term consequences of TikTok’s unwillingness to strike anything close to a market-rate deal and meaningfully address its obligations as a social platform. But we have an overriding responsibility to our artists to fight for a new agreement under which they are appropriately compensated for their work, on a platform that respects human creativity, in an environment that is safe for all, and effectively moderated.

We honor our responsibilities with the utmost seriousness. Intimidation and threats will never cause us to shirk those responsibilities.


While initially only a few K-Pop artists’ discography was affected, before the end of February, netizens realized that more and more were being taken down. For instance, originally, only one song of BTS was affected, but recently, most of their new music, such as collaborations and solo projects, was removed. Initially, only artists and songs directly under UMG or published via a subsidiary were purged. The latest UMG takedown targeted music related to the company in any way, including if a song’s writer, producer, etc., were under UMG or a subsidiary.


they took down even more music! what’s safe!? #kpop #kpopfyp #umg #universalmusic

♬ original sound – DizZzyPop

K-Pop fans have already wanted HYBE to end its relationship with UMG and Scooter Braun due to problematic ties. Additionally, with UMG in partnership with HYBE, we can see even more songs not promoted via the app.

Not only that, but Sean “Diddy” Combs, UMG, Motown, Love Records, and Chalice Recording Studio were recently sued for providing “inadequate or negligent security.” The billionaire hip-hop mogul Diddy has been accused of sexual harassment, assault, not compensating for work, and more by producer Rodney ‘Lil Rod’ Jones Jr, who also added that UMG and Grainge are complicit in the crimes, as they “knew or should have known” about spiked drinks. Others have also accused Diddy of rape, sexual assault, and more, some including against minors, dating back three decades.

‘Mr. Jones agreed, and his life has been detrimentally impacted ever since,’ the lawsuit says.

Jones alleges that Combs sexually harassed and assaulted him while he lived with him at Combs’ homes in Florida, Los Angeles and New York, as well as on a yacht Combs rented in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The harassment and assault included ‘constant unsolicited and unauthorized groping and touching of his anus,’ according to the lawsuit.

Jones says he was forced to work in Combs’ bathroom as Combs showered naked in a glass enclosure, according to the lawsuit.

When he raised concerns about the behavior to Khorram, Combs’ chief of staff, the lawsuit says, she dismissed them as ‘friendly horseplay, stating that those acts were Mr. Combs way of ‘showing that he likes you.’’

 The lawsuit accuses Khoramm of aiding and abetting Combs’ sexual assault of Jones and of working with Combs ‘to groom him into accepting a homosexual relationship.’

— NBC News

So, for HYBE to partner with UMG during an ongoing lawsuit wouldn’t be the wisest choice. Fans are highly concerned about the partnership.

Read more below.

UMG’s Copyright Purge On TikTok Hits BTS, BLACKPINK, And More Hard

What’s Happening Around The World



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