Say good-bye to viral TikTok videos set to Taylor Swift, Bad Bunny, Drake, Rihanna, and many of your favorite artists’ songs. On Thursday, Universal Music Group — one of the three biggest record labels — began removing music by artists it represents from videos on the platform after licensing negotiations between the two companies fell apart earlier this week.
On Tuesday, a day before Universal’s contract with TikTok was set to expire, the record company published an open letter, “Why We Must Call Time Out on TikTok.” It accused the social-media platform of wanting to underpay Universal and said TikTok has allowed itself to be “flooded with A.I.-generated recordings” that reduce royalties for musicians. “TikTok proposed paying our artists and songwriters at a rate that is a fraction of the rate that similarly situated major social platforms pay,” UMG claimed. It went on to say, “Ultimately TikTok is trying to build a music-based business, without paying fair value for the music.”
In recent years, TikTok has been hit with hundreds of thousands of copyright removal requests. In an effort to make it possible for users to have access to popular songs for their videos, the company made agreements with labels and producers and put some 1 million songs in a library on the app, which, until recently, also included the Universal songs.
As of late Thursday morning, videos with songs by Taylor Swift, Drake, SZA, Olivia Rodrigo, Adele, Rihanna, the Weeknd, Bad Bunny, and many other artists were now soundless with notes saying “this sound isn’t available” and “sound removed due to copyright restrictions.”
For its part, TikTok responded with a four-sentence statement calling Universal “self-serving” and claiming the label is the one that doesn’t care about its artists. “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 said.