The Day the Music Died

TikTok and UMG get into a pissing match over music licensing, with advertisers and users coming out the losers.

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The Day the Music Died

TikTok and UMG get into a pissing match over music licensing, with advertisers and users coming out the losers.

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Music Rights Fight = Less Music on TikTok

That music catalog on TikTok you’ve been mining for your brand’s videos is about to get a lot smaller.

Universal Music Group is pulling the plug on its deal with the app — they represent some of the biggest names in music right now, including Taylor Swift, Drake, and Harry Styles.

And it’s clear that there’s no love lost between the two.

UMG accused TikTok of strong-arm tactics in licensing negotiations:

TikTok proposed paying our artists and songwriters at a rate that is a fraction of the rate that similarly situated major social platforms pay.

They claim only about 1% of its revenue comes from its deal with TikTok.

For its part, TikTok too seemed to be all too happy to burn the bridge:

It is sad and disappointing that Universal Music Group has put their own greed above the interests of their artists and songwriters.

Despite Universal’s false narrative and rhetoric, the fact is they have chosen to walk away from the powerful support of a platform with well over a billion users that serves as a free promotional and discovery vehicle for their talent.

TikTok has been able to reach ‘artist-first’ agreements with every other label and publisher.

TikTok Statement

UMG isn't just battling TikTok; it's taking legal action against companies over what is says is AI-generated content misuse. Meanwhile, TikTok's parent company, ByteDance, admits it's playing catch-up in monitoring how AI is using music.

While these two trade nasty press releases, your chance to use that Taylor Swift song in your brand’s next TikTok video expires at midnight.

Today’s Trivia — Guess and Win!

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What song is considered the first breakout hit on TikTok?

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Shopify’s Search, Web, and AI Updates

Shopify had a big day today, announcing a bunch of new things.

At the forefront is an AI-powered media editor called the Magic Media Editor. This, like similar tools out there now, lets merchants creatively alter backgrounds of product images. There are seven styles available – ranging from Minimal to Surreal – and you can also generate custom backgrounds.

They also upgraded their search functionality with a new semantic search feature. This goes beyond traditional keyword matching, letting customers find products using more natural and intuitive searches. So something like “warm clothes for winter” will yield a more accurate selection of thermal wear.

For merchants looking to showcase product variations, it now supports up to 2,000 different variants.

And — I suspect of more interest to advanced marketers — the launch of headless storefronts. This gives web admins much more customizability in their store’s look and feel.

Despite raking in $1.7 billion in Q3 2023 revenue, a 25% increase year-on-year, the company recently laid off 20% of its staff and sold its logistics business to Flexport.

So How Is Google Ads’ New GenAI? Meh, It’s Okay.

Every other week, our Google ads correspondent Jyll Saskin Gales walks us through the latest platform changes. Jyll spent six years at Google in a senior ad role, and today runs the Inside Google Ads training program.¹

Google Ads’ generative AI has been in the Ads Manager for a little bit now. How is it performing? Are the auto-created assets any good?

  • Jyll says Google Ads' generative AI provides understated but impressive results.

  • The integration of generative AI into the Google Ads workflow makes it a helpful tool, especially for beginners.

  • The visibility of metrics for automatically generated assets depends on the campaign type.

  • Compared to other AI tools, Google Ads' generative AI offers a faster and easier workflow with natural and normal results.



  • 00:00 Introduction to Google Ads' Generative AI

  • 01:10 Understated Results of Generative AI

  • 02:21 Metrics and Visibility of Automatically Generated Assets

  • 03:16 Integration and Workflow of Generative AI in Google Ads

  • 04:21 Comparison to Other AI Tools

  • 04:54 Overall Assessment of Google Ads' Generative AI

Be sure to check out Jyll’s Inside Google Ads training program (affiliate link).

Google Stock Drops on (…checks notes…) Positive Revenue Numbers?!

Man, investors are hard to please.

Shares of Alphabet, the parent company of Google, tumbled this morning, shedding about $110 billion in market value.

That was a 6% drop this morning:

  • Despite posting profits.

  • Despite being up 11% year-over-year.

  • Despite total revenue of $86 billion—numbers that beat analysts' forecasts.

So what happened? Its $65.5 billion in advertising revenue fell slightly short of the anticipated $66 billion.

Yup, that’s all it took.

There were some silver linings — 26% increase in Google Cloud revenue. And lots of statements about optimism.

Advertising remains the cornerstone of Alphabet's earnings, making up 80% of its total income.

All Numbers at YouTube Continue to Go Up

That said, there was another corner of Google which showed good signs — YouTube, which when broken out, saw a significant rise in ad revenue, jumping 15.5% to $9.2 billion in last year’s Q4.

Subscriptions are another key focus, with a remarkable fivefold increase since 2019, totaling $15 billion in revenue in 2023. YouTube's recent initiatives, such as acquiring NFL Sunday Ticket, have been instrumental in attracting more users and advertisers to the platform.

Also a big part of the growth: Shorts — its answer to TikTok. It’s also been developing new, less intrusive ad formats and creative tools like the YouTube Create app.

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65% of SMBs Don’t Have Marketing Plans

Nearly two-thirds of small- and medium-sized businesses in the U.K. lack a marketing action plan. This, according to a new study by The Marketing Centre.

This leads to what the report terms 'random acts of marketing', which don't significantly contribute to business objectives.

Even more alarming, fewer than a third of the businesses generate sufficient leads for growth, and only 40% use Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools effectively.

Other findings from its survey of 2,000 decision-makers:

  • Only 27% of businesses set clear objectives when engaging with specialist marketing services like agencies

  • Only 25% have clearly defined marketing KPIs

Reddit’s Conversions API Gets Its First Partner

Reddit has its first partner for its fairly new Conversions API: Tealium, a CDM firm.

By connecting Tealium’s Customer Data Management with our Conversions API, advertisers can now quickly and easily share high quality customer conversion data with Reddit to more accurately measure campaign performance. As a result of this partnership, Reddit advertisers can:

Simplify the implementation of the Reddit Pixel and Conversions API, reducing errors and increasing efficiency as a result.

Improve measurement with more accurate, reliable and resilient data.

Elevate the optimization and performance of Reddit ad campaigns thanks to better, more accurate signals.

Reddit's Conversions API is now open to all its advertisers.

Consumers Are Getting Resigned to Streaming Ads

Now that the various streaming platforms are dropping their ad-free plans — or jacking the prices way up on them — has anyone thought to ask viewers what they think?

A new report from Disqo found that viewers are basically cool with it all. Only 13% said they were against ad tiers on streaming platforms. This marks a sharp decline from last year's 36% who opposed ads for cheaper streaming options.

This change in consumer sentiment comes as Amazon introduces ads into Prime Video. Their new ad-supported tier, launched this week, is set to automatically reach an estimated 115 million monthly viewers. Viewers have the option to pay an additional $2.99 a month for an ad-free experience.

Streaming giants like Netflix and Disney are also adapting to this trend. Netflix's ad tier, launched in November 2022, has 23 million monthly viewers, while Disney+ reported 5.2 million users on its ad-supported tier.

Other findings:

  • 88% of adults now have at least one streaming subscription

  • 41% subscribe to services like Fubo or YouTube TV.

  • US audiences last year watched 21% more streamed video than they did the previous year.

The survey polled 18,000 US adults.

Elmo Checks In: How Are You? No, Really. You Good?

On Monday, Elmo, the beloved red monster from "Sesame Street," innocently asked his 457,000 X followers: "How is everybody doing?"

Well, the floodgates opened with thousands sharing their struggles, from depression to job loss and election anxieties. One tweet starkly summed it up: "Elmo each day the abyss we stare into grows a unique horror."

140M people saw the post.

This unexpected outpouring caught the attention of many, including Sesame Street’s marketing head, who directed the four-person social media team to have other show characters like Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch reply from their own X accounts.

It took off in the most wholesome way possible, sparking a conversation about the need for accessible mental health resources.

After receiving over 9,000 responses, Elmo followed up with a tweet emphasizing the importance of asking friends how they're doing. This simple act seemed to bring comfort to some, as one user responded, "Somehow this actually legit makes me feel better."

This isn't the first time Elmo has become an internet sensation. In 2022, his rant about a pet rock named Rocco also went viral.

I have to say, though, in researching this story — which, I’m a little embarrassed to say, I spent more time on that any other story today — the best part of these Sesame Street character accounts are their pinned tweets.

Bert’s reads:

Big Bird’s literally just says “Tweet” — get it? Big Bird? Tweet?

But the runaway winner is the pinned tweet on the account of Oscar the Grouch. It just reads:

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