Fans of Universal Music Group’s artists, including Taylor Swift, Nicki Minaj, and Olivia Rodrigo, are not pleased that the record label group has ceased to license its music to TikTok.
The day after UMG threatened to stop licensing its music to the social media platform amid a breakdown in deal negotiations, songs from UMG‘s unparalleled stable of artists began vanishing from the social media platform. The removals started gradually late Wednesday evening as official versions of UMG-owned recordings, such as Swift‘s “Cruel Summer,” Rodrigo‘s “Get Him Back,” and Lana Del Rey’s “Let the Light In,” were no longer appearing in search results.
Just after midnight, some of Swift’s own videos that originally featured her songs like “Hits Different” had now been muted. Several of Justin Bieber’s videos on his page, including a live performance of him singing “Yummy,” are now silent.
Today, fans have woken up to the realization that many TikTok videos are now completely silent. Swift fan account The Eras Tour tweeted, “All Taylor Swift’s music, along with all other artists under UMG, has officially been removed from TikTok.”
Fan accounts for Niall Horan, 5 Seconds of Summer, Zayn, the Weeknd, Halsey, Billie Eilish, and 1975 posted similar updates. One presumed Eilish fan’s reaction seems to sum it all up: “UMG BRING BACK UR SHIT I AM NOT FUCKING AROUND U RUINED MY TIKTOK PAGE.”
Another added in dismay, “UMG was serious serious. TikTok silent, could hear a pin drop. Were we silent or silenced?”
Some fans directed their ire at TikTok, rather than UMG. The decision came after a tense year of negotiating between UMG and TikTok over the two companies’ differing views on what constitutes a fair deal for use of the record company’s music on the platform.
Earlier this week, UMG claimed TikTok, the wildly popular short-form video app owned by Chinese company ByteDance, was responding to its concerns with “indifference” or “intimidation” on three important issues: “appropriate compensation for our artists and songwriters, protecting human artists from the harmful effects of AI, and online safety for TikTok’s users.”
“Tiktok should’ve gave UMG a better deal instead of trying to exploit these artists by using AI!” one fan commented.
Others took a middle ground, noting that UMG should allow each artist to make their own decision about the deal with TikTok. “Why doesn’t UMG let artists decide whether they want their music on TikTok or not?” one fan wondered. “The company has valid concerns, but with that being said music being on that platform is how some people find songs that they listen to.”
UMG set the stage for the sonic stripping when it posted an open letter Tuesday night saying its prior licensing deal with TikTok was set to expire Wednesday and that talks over a new deal had reached an impasse.
“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,” the open letter read.
“Ultimately TikTok is trying to build a music-based business, without paying fair value for the music,” UMG claimed. It accused TikTok of trying to “bully” it into accepting a “bad deal” by “selectively removing the music of certain of our developing artists, while keeping on the platform our audience-driving global stars.” Universal further alleged that TikTok was allowing its platform to be “flooded” with AI-generated recordings. The company described TikTok’s response to AI as “nothing short of sponsoring artist replacement by AI.”
In a statement posted online, TikTok accused UMG of putting its “own greed above the interests” of artists and songwriters. It called Universal’s decision to revoke licensing a “self-serving” action. It seems many fans agree.