The silencing of Universal Music Group’s artists on TikTok has become the talk of the music industry ahead of the Grammys, as fans and UMG-signed artists have been vocal about the licensing rift between the major label and the massively popular social media app.
Of the artists who have thus far talked publicly about the rift, none have so spoken out in a way to provoke either party; instead, the singers impacted have approached the situation with humor and optimism.
Noah Kahan, signed to Universal label Republic and whose career was launched in part when his “Stick Season” went viral on TikTok, told fans on the app, “So, like you, I’ve read the news about the UMG catalog taken off of TikTok, some of my songs aren’t gonna be on there anymore. I won’t be able to promote my music on TikTok anymore. But luckily, I’m not a TikTok artist, right?”
He added, “You’re gonna have to pre-save forever now, if you wanna listen to it, ’cause I can’t stick it down your throats anymore on this app. I’m still releasing it, it’s still coming out, and I’ll probably be okay, right? I’ll land on my feet, right? Right?”
Fellow Republic artist Conan Gray was similarly unserious when discussing the UMG-TikTok split when asked by Rolling Stone on the red carpet of Spotify’s Best New Artist party. “My career is over, for sure. I’m never gonna have a hit song again at this rate,” Gray quipped.
“No, no, it’s fine. TikTok has its ups and downs, and I guess we’ll see what happens. I guess we’ll be creative. There’s gonna be a lot of interesting a cappella covers happening from UMG artists until this is settled.”
Yungblud, signed to Universal’s Geffen label, viewed the split as typical corporate “bullshit” but welcomed it as an opportunity for a new creative challenge.
“I’m a bit mind-blown to be honest. Am I relieved? Same bullshit, though, isn’t it? Two massive companies deciding what goes on with people’s art. It’s a bit fucking daft, isn’t it?” Yungblud said on TikTok. “Ultimately, it’s a big reminder to myself and hopefully other artists that the things you create shouldn’t be beholden to massive tech companies and like the metrics that they present.”
However, “I think it’s gonna be cool what might come, when people like can just focus on pure expression and not some fucking algorithm,” the British singer added.
Fletcher (on UMG’s Capitol) and Paul Klein of LANY (on UMG’s Virgin Record) also addressed the label’s silencing on TikTok in tongue-in-cheek ways:
The removals started gradually late Wednesday evening. The official versions of UMG-owned recordings, such as Taylor Swift‘s “Cruel Summer,” Olivia Rodrigo‘s “Get Him Back,” and Lana Del Rey’s “Let the Light In,” were no longer appearing in search results. Meanwhile, videos featuring UMG songs — such as a Kylie Jenner post set to Del Rey’s “Cherry” and a Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson video that was soundtracked to Rick Ross’s “Hustlin’” — were muted. The videos now have a prompt at the bottom noting the sound was removed due to copyright restrictions.
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. The world’s largest music company — whose artists include Taylor Swift, Billie Eilish, Olivia Rodrigo, Drake, Kendrick Lamar, and Daddy Yankee — said it was making a stand “for the creative and commercial value of music.”