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Tiktok Without Music: Why Top Music Stars May Be Leaving Tiktok

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By Jaden Francis - - 5 Mins Read
Young ladies dancing on Tiktok
Photo | Nattakorn_Maneerat/Shutterstock

In a surprising turn of events, some of the music industry's biggest stars may have to bid TikTok farewell, leaving fans puzzled and disappointed.


The abrupt departure comes after negotiations between Universal Music Group (UMG) and TikTok failed to extend their licensing agreement, which expired on January 31st.


The rift between the two giants revolves around fundamental issues such as artist compensation, concerns about generative AI, and ensuring online safety for musicians.

The Licensing Standoff: UMG Removes Top Music Catalogs

Universal Music Group, a major player in the music industry that represents famous artists such as Taylor Swift, Drake, and Olivia Rodrigo, has taken a bold step by removing its performers' music catalogs from TikTok.


This move follows unsuccessful negotiations to renew licensing agreements, leaving a void in the popular social media platform.


UMG's decision to pull the plug on TikTok has far-reaching consequences for the artists and the millions of users who have become accustomed to creating content featuring their favorite tracks.

A woman holds up a smartphone while opening the Tiktok app
Photo | Shutterstock

As of now, UMG-owned music that once graced TikTok videos will be muted, forcing users to explore alternative options from different music labels.

The Dispute Unveiled: Artist Pay, Generative AI, and Online Safety

At the core of the disagreement between UMG and TikTok lies a complex web of issues that span artist compensation, generative AI, and online safety.


UMG accuses TikTok of strong-arming the label into accepting an unfavorable deal that fails to address record labels' concerns about fair compensation for artists and songwriters.

  •  Artist Compensation Woes

UMG contends that TikTok's proposed deal does not adequately address the pressing issue of artist pay. With top-tier performers like Taylor Swift and Drake under its umbrella, UMG is steadfast in its commitment to ensuring that artists receive fair and just compensation for their creative endeavors. On the other hand, TikTok asserts that its proposals are reasonable and aimed at fostering collaboration and mutual benefit.

  • Battle Against AI-Generated Music

Another battleground in this dispute is the emergence of generative AI in music creation. UMG is adamant about protecting its artists from the potential threats posed by AI-generated music, expressing concerns about the authenticity and originality of the content produced. TikTok, a platform known for its innovative use of AI in content creation, argues that its approach enhances creativity and offers new opportunities for artists.

  • Online Safety Concerns

The third front in this war of negotiations involves online safety. UMG emphasizes the need for robust measures on TikTok to shield artists from "hate speech, bigotry, bullying, and harassment." In response, TikTok defends its existing safety protocols but acknowledges that there might be room for improvement. 

The Fallout: TikTok UMG Deal and Its Implications

With UMG removing its music catalogs from TikTok, users are left to grapple with the sudden silence of their favorite tunes in videos.


The fallout from this dispute extends beyond a mere inconvenience for users, raising questions about the dynamics of digital partnerships in the social media music industry.

  • Muted Melodies

The most immediate consequence of the failed negotiations is muting UMG-owned music on TikTok. Videos that once thrived on the beats of Taylor Swift or Drake will now be void of the familiar tunes. Users, who have come to associate certain tracks with viral trends and creative expression, are now forced to adapt to this sudden shift.

  • Quest for Alternatives

As UMG-owned music fades into the background, TikTok users find themselves on a quest for alternative soundtracks. Exploring music from other labels becomes necessary, and the absence of chart-topping hits from UMG artists may allow lesser-known tracks to take the spotlight. 

  • The Larger Industry Impact

Beyond the immediate implications for TikTok users, the fallout from the TikTok UMG deal has broader industry ramifications. It raises questions about the power dynamic between music labels and digital platforms, with both entities vying for advantageous terms in licensing agreements. The outcome of this dispute could set a precedent for future negotiations in an industry that is increasingly reliant on digital platforms for distribution and promotion.

The War of Words: UMG vs. TikTok

The failed negotiations between Universal Music Group (UMG) and TikTok have resulted in a silent Tiktok, and a war of words between the two entities.


UMG claims that TikTok has prioritized its interests over those of artists and songwriters, and has labeled the proposed deal as a "bad deal" that fails to address crucial concerns.


In response, TikTok expressed disappointment in UMG's decision to walk away from a platform boasting over a billion users, accusing the label of putting "greed above the interests" of its artists.