Following a contract expiration, TikTok removes Universal Music Group’s licensed music

March 19, 2024

By Jocelyn Torres
Staff Writer

TikTok began removing music licensed by Universal Music Group on Jan. 31. The reason behind the removal of this music is that the licensing deal between TikTok and UMG had expired. 

According to ABC News, the two companies could not come to any agreeable terms, so they decided not to renew the contract. 

Tiktok’s content creators were posting warnings for users to save any videos they wanted to keep before the music was removed. 

Freshman Ava Shapiro said she saw these warnings on her For You Page but was skeptical. 

“I was hearing things for a week before the sounds started getting removed, and I didn’t believe it,” Shapiro said.

She said she assumed TikTok would not follow through on its announcement.

Once the music was removed, any videos containing music by UMG were muted, leading to most creators just deleting the videos. 

Shapiro said only three out of the 11 videos she created were muted, one of them included music from “The Grudge” by Olivia Rodrigo. 

Rodrigo’s music–along with that of Bad Bunny, Drake, and Taylor Swift, among others–was removed from the social media platform according to the monthly magazine Wired. 

“TikTok has been through lots of changes over the years, like when it rebranded the then-popular platform []. I think viewers will learn to adapt to this new change.”

Since the beginning of TikTok, a main feature of the app was its music, including music licensed by UMG. Now that most of the app’s music selection is gone, Shapiro said it could change the overall user experience because now there are a limited number of options. 

Shapiro said she does not think the removal of UMG’s music will impact the overall success of the app. 

“You can still use a screen-recorded sound. It just can’t be the direct sound under the artist,” Shapiro said.

There are accounts on the app that solely upload audio clips from trending songs for lip-syncing videos. The audio clips can be acquired by a screen recording from streaming platforms such as Apple Music, Spotify and YouTube. 

Taylor Swift’s tracks “Mine” (left) and “Cruel Summer” (right) were removed from her TikTok on June 24 and July 21, respectively.

Sophomore Joseph Brennen said the contract termination with UMG could lead to big changes for the app. 

“With the removal of the music, I feel that the app can be used now more for funny videos,” Brennen said. “We will [also] see more original music content with the absence of UMG’s.”

Brennen said he has not had any of his videos muted. However, he said he has noticed the removal of rapper Tyler the Creator’s music.

“I was most upset about Tyler the Creator’s music being removed. Tyler the Creator is not my absolute favorite artist, but he is an artist that I like that I would have been likely to hear on TikTok,” Brennen said.

Sophomore Debbie Ogunbowale said she is not upset about the music being removed because there are users who create different versions of trending songs. 

“Editors [have] made slower [and] sped up versions of different songs by different artists,” Ogunbowale said.

Like Shapiro, Ogunbowale said she does not believe the change will hinder TikTok’s success.

“TikTok has been through lots of changes over the years, like when it rebranded the then-popular platform []. I think viewers will learn to adapt to this new change,” Ogunbowale said.

Even before the music was removed, beauty content skyrocketed with “Get Ready With Me” and makeup tutorials. Ogunbowale said this could also be the time for lifestyle content like vlogs and storytimes to continue to grow and possibly become the main focus of the app. 

She said she has faith that TikTok can still keep its users entertained. 

“TikTok is a very interesting platform, and I think creators will come up with different ideas to fill the silence we have been left in,” said Ogunbowale.

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