TikTok users woke up to a musical silence on Monday, as the popular video-sharing app removed all songs by artists licensed to Universal Music Group (UMG), the world’s largest music company.
The move came after the two parties failed to reach a new licensing agreement before the deadline of Jan. 31, 2024.
A TikTok spokesperson told NPR that the removal started late on Sunday night and affected videos containing music licensed by Universal, which were muted.
UMG, which represents stars such as Taylor Swift, BTS, Drake and Olivia Rodrigo, accused TikTok of not paying its artists fairly and exploiting their music for its own benefit.
In an open letter published on its website, UMG claimed that TikTok allowed its 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.”
UMG argued that these practices violated the rights of its artists and songwriters, and undermined the value of music. UMG also demanded that TikTok stop using its music until a fair and transparent deal was reached.
TikTok, on the other hand, defended its position and said that it had offered UMG “market-leading rates” and “unprecedented levels of transparency.” TikTok also said that it respected the work of artists and songwriters and supported their creative expression.
TikTok’s massive success “has been built in large part on the music created” by UMG’s artists, as the company pointed out in its letter. Many emerging artists have used the platform to launch their careers and reach millions of fans. Some of them, such as Lil Nas X, Doja Cat and Conan Gray, have even signed with UMG labels.
However, not all UMG artists are happy with the removal of their songs from TikTok. Noah Kahan, a Grammy nominee for Best New Artist, posted a video on the platform expressing his frustration. “I won’t be able to promote my music on TikTok anymore. But luckily I’m not a TikTok artist, right?” he said sarcastically.