UMG vs TikTok: A Battle of Two Bulls


Most official songs from artists signed under Universal Music Group have been removed from TikTok following the expiry of licensing agreements between the app and UMG. Negotiations to renew the licenses by the record label weren’t successful.

From today you can’t use songs from artists like Drake, Taylor Swift, The Weekend, Beyonce, SZA, Billie Eilish, Harry Styles, Adele, Elton John, Coldplay, Post Malone among others for your TikTok videos. Videos that have the music from these artists are now muted with the text “Sound removed due to copyright restrictions”

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This move means that many viral songs will be unavailable from TikTok, a platform with more than 1.2 billion monthly active users.

Universal claims that TikTok only pays a fraction of the licensing rates other platforms like Spotify pay for its entire catalogue of songs.

With this battle of two bulls, TikTok will survive as UMG needs the app more than it needs the record label. TikTok will do just fine.

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Music is a huge part of TikTok and has in recent years become an essential platform to discover both new and popular songs you wouldn’t have bumped into outside the mainstream – and this works for both up-and-coming and established music artists.

TikTok dictates which songs will feature on the Billboard Hot 100 charts since 2019 either gaining attention from meme popularity or viral dance challenges – artists are even working with TikTok dance influencers to come up with built-in dance challenges to help their songs go viral and maintain their top positions in the charts.

It is only recently that users on TikTok started using official songs from artists in their videos. Most videos used song edits – slowed, nightcore, revereb or sped-up versions which worked in their favour and it looks like that will be the case going forward until both Goliaths resolve this.

It won’t take long for TikTok and Universal to work out their licensing agreements as this is more of a time-out rather than a divorce according to UMG’s letter.

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