Here’s Why Your Favorite Songs are Disappearing from TikTok
Music from A-list artists like Taylor Swift, Billie Eilish and the Beatles has been disappearing from TikTok due to an ongoing dispute with Universal Music Group.
One of the world’s biggest record labels called out the internet’s most popular app after the two entities were unable to reach a licensing agreement concerning low payout for performers, AI-generated recordings being reproduced at a rapid rate without artist permission, and user safety on the app.
UMG shared an open letter that says in part: “We will always fight for our artists and songwriters and stand up for the creative and commercial value of music…. (we) do not underestimate what this will mean to our artists and their fans who, unfortunately, will be among those subjected to the near-term consequences of TikTok’s unwillingness to strike anything close to a market-rate deal and meaningfully address its obligations as a social platform. But we have an overriding responsibility to our artists to fight for a new agreement under which they are appropriately compensated for their work, on a platform that respects human creativity, in an environment that is safe for all, and effectively moderated.”
TikTok’s response was concise: “It is sad and disappointing that Universal Music Group has put their own greed above the interests of their artists and songwriters… 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 has been able to reach ‘artist-first’ agreements with every other label and publisher. Clearly, Universal’s self-serving actions are not in the best interests of artists, songwriters and fans.”
In summation: UMG claims that TikTok needs to pay more for usage of their artists’ music in videos. TikTok claims that the artists are profiting from their presence in its song library, which has been pivotal for music discovery since the app launched in 2016 and surged in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The contract between the two companies expired on January 31st, 2024. Since then, Universal Music Group has been pulling songs from its artists – both current signings and previous releases – off of TikTok, leaving silence on thousands of past clips and rendering users unable to use them in new content.
We’ll see how long the legal standoff lasts. If an agreement is not reached, rock artists affected will include U2, Sting, Beastie Boys, Blink-182, Pearl Jam, Sleep Token and many more. In fact, Billboard reports that at least 17 out of the top 50 TikTok tracks have already disappeared from the app’s library as of this publishing.
The silver lining that could come out of all this is that independent artists will get more attention as digital creators search for alternatives to UMG songs. With many mainstream options taking a backseat for the time being, it’s an opportunity for indie acts to get discovered if they’re savvy enough to work a song of theirs into trending territory on the app.