Stacey Addo | Arts & Entertainment Editor
TikTok Mario Tama/Getty Images
On Feb. 1, 2024, millions of TikTok users and creators woke up to muted videos after Universal Music Group (UMG) pulled its entire catalog from TikTok after its licensing agreement with the platform expired on Jan. 31, 2024. “In some markets, that might account for more than half of the music used on the platform,” says Billboard. The publishing company represents large artists like Taylor Swift, Bad Bunny, and Billie Eillish. Users are now unable to use any music from UMG’s artists in any video.
While companies like Meta, X (formally known as Twitter), and Amazon want to reduce copyright protections and other hurdles so they can monetize music on their platforms and pay less for it, music artists and record labels want to protect their copyrights and maintain control over their intellectual property and revenue.
Both sides have a financial stake in this situation. TikTok is using the same argument that radio has used for decades in that, the use of music on their platform has the promotional value that should override the need to pay copyright holders.
One example of this is singer Noah Kahan whose career took off because of song “Stick Season” went viral on TikTok. He has since been signed to UMG’s Republic Records and his music has since been removed from the platform that once helped start his career.
Music industry expert Michael Winger argues that TikTok may have overplayed their hand. While TikTok knows that music labels need them as a discovery tool for artists, UMG is one of the largest record labels in the world with some of the largest artists. By not budging on this deal, TikTok risks losing its users to competing platforms. In recent years, artists have found it important to build relationships with their fans, and without their music having the ability to live on TikTok, they will likely move on to other platforms.
While the removal of much of TikTok’s music catalog affects many creator’s content, this unforeseen change to the platform might be a great opportunity for creatives to get discovered and new artists to promote their music.