Publication date February 7, 2024

TikTok Goes Silent! What Happened with Universal Music Group?

Wondering why suddenly you’re not able to hear the audio in your favorite TikToks? Well, you’re not alone! Below, we've got the lowdown on the shocking silence plaguing the platform and the culprit behind it: Universal Music Group. Buckle up for a deep dive into the drama and what it means for your future TikTok grooves.

Source: UMG vs TikTok

The world's biggest music company, Universal Music Group (UMG),  has recently removed their artists' songs from TikTok after the two parties failed to agree on new contractual terms on Wednesday, 31 January. 

Yes, that means our videos no longer be soundtracked by music from hundreds of artists ranging from megastars such as Taylor Swift, BTS, Abba, and Harry Styles to emerging musicians, with fans quickly expressing dismay on social media. That’s not all, UMG artists who use TikTok to promote their work and interact with fans can no longer post their own music.

Videos that once had UMG music now trigger a variety of messages such as “This sound isn’t available” or “This music is currently unavailable”. The music removal comes a day after UMG posted an open letter accusing TikTok of bullying and intimidation, and complaining about “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”.

Open letter from Universal group

Source: TMZ

In response, TikTok said UMG had “chosen to walk 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”. However, it’s important to highlight that both companies have not made any fresh statements since the content removal. In refusing a deal that it saw as not properly compensating its artists, UMG will position itself as a protector of artist revenues, but there will also be fears that the decision will shut its artists out of an important cultural meeting place, and diminish their marketing power. 

For instance, viral dance challenges on TikTok complete with a song soundtrack have helped to propel stars such as Megan Thee Stallion and Victoria Monét to wider fame. Noah Kahan, who is top of the UK singles chart with Stick Season, addressed the decision on the social media platform saying with a concerned expression: “I won’t be able to promote my music on TikTok any anymore… I’ll probably be OK, right? I’ll probably land on my feet, right? Right?”

At the same time, some artists have found engaging with TikTok a hindrance to their creativity, and an experience that negatively shapes approaches to songwriting. Metro Boomin, one of the leading producers in rap music, stated on X following the publication of the UMG open letter: “I love the creativity and appreciation the kids show for the music on TikTok but I don’t like the forced pandering from artists and labels that results in these lifeless and soulless records.”

While it’s clear that Universal Music will no longer allow its music on TikTok, the big question is, where does TikTok go from here?

Thousands of songs from superstars like Taylor Swift, Billie Eilish, Kendrick Lamar, Drake, and Post Malone are unavailable, and thousands of videos featuring those songs are potentially muted, it’s certainly not going to be an easy ride for TikTok. The platform might negotiate with other major and independent labels to fill the void left by UMG. This could potentially diversify their music library and appeal to different audiences. 

However, as there’s no official announcement has been made by TikTok, we’ll have to wait and see how users respond to a version of TikTok that doesn’t include music from their favorite artists. Anyway, what do you think about how this Universal Music Group TikTok dispute will impact us? Let us know in the comments below! 

Frequently Asked Questions 

Q. What artists are under Universal Music Group?

There are many artists under Universal Music Group, some of the big names include Billie Eilish, Drake, Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande, Lady Gaga, Post Malone, Ed Sheeran, The Beatles, Queen, and SZA.

Q. What did UMG do to TikTok?

Earlier this week, Universal Music Group,  which represents high-end artists like Taylor Swift, Bad Bunny, and Drake, stated that it would no longer allow its music on TikTok following the Wednesday expiration of a licensing deal between the two companies.

Q. Why was Taylor Swift kicked off TikTok?

Talor Swift's music was removed, along with songs from other big-time musicians including Olivia Rodrigo, Drake, Rihanna, and Ariana Grande, by Universal Music Group (UMG) after it did not reach a deal with TikTok to renew its licensing agreement. Swift’s songs disappeared from TikTok by Feb. 1

Q. Why is TikTok removing music?

Last week, Universal Music Group (UMG), said it would no longer allow its music on TikTok following the expiration of a licensing agreement, leading to thousands, potentially millions, of songs from UMG's library being suddenly removed from the platform.

Q. What music was removed from TikTok?

TikTok users signing up on Thursday will no longer be able to search for many popular songs, including music from Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber, Olivia Rodrigo, Taylor Swift,  Drake, and more — under the “sounds” tab.

Q. What company owns Universal Music Group?

As of January 2024, Universal Music Group (UMG) is not owned by a single company. It operates as a publicly traded company on the Euronext Amsterdam exchange under the ticker symbol "UMG." This means its ownership is distributed among various shareholders. It was formerly majority-owned by Paris-based Vivendi, however, since UMG floated on the 

Amsterdam Euronext exchange in September 2021, it has been 10% owned by Vivendi, 10% owned by Pershing Square Holdings, 20% owned by a Tencent-led consortium, and 60% owned by other shareholders of its stock.

Q. What artists have been removed from TikTok?

Many artists under Universal Music Group (UMG), have been removed from TikTok including Talor Swift, BTS, Olivia Rodrigo, Drake, Rihanna, and Ariana Grande. They were removed after UMG did not reach a deal with TikTok to renew its licensing agreement. 

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