TikTok has removed songs by high-profile artists like Taylor Swift, The Weeknd, and Olivia Rodrigo from its platform following a disagreement with their record label, Universal Music Group (UMG).
The clash ensued after a licencing agreement between TikTok and UMG expired on Wednesday, with negotiations for a new deal hitting a deadlock. UMG accused TikTok of offering a significantly lower rate for song access compared to other social media platforms, while TikTok countered, accusing UMG of spreading false narratives.
Consequently, all videos featuring UMG music have been muted, and users are barred from incorporating these tracks into new videos. Artists like Ariana Grande and Katy Perry witnessed most of their music vanish from their official pages, leaving only a few tracks from other labels accessible.
Even Billie Eilish, an artist under UMG, saw all but one of her songs removed. Meanwhile, unofficial versions and remixes of songs remain available.
The dispute’s ripple effects are felt across the music industry. Noah Kahan, whose song “Stick Season” gained traction on TikTok, expressed frustration over the platform’s restrictions, while Cody Fry, an artist under UMG, described feeling caught between two conflicting entities.
As negotiations faltered, concerns mounted over fair compensation for artists and content moderation practices on TikTok. UMG criticised TikTok for undervaluing music and failing to address hate speech and harassment adequately. In response, TikTok lamented UMG’s prioritisation of profits over artist well-being and accused the label of abandoning a vast promotional platform.
The impasse highlights broader tensions surrounding royalty payments and content moderation in the digital sphere. While platforms like TikTok serve as creative outlets for artists and content creators, disputes over compensation and platform policies underscore the challenges of balancing artistic integrity and corporate interests in the digital age.