Major Music Catalogs Are Being Removed From TikTok Including Olivia Rodrigo and Taylor Swift

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Feb. 1 2024, Published 10:25 a.m. ET

Olivia Rodrigo in New York City during the Sour Tour.
Source: Getty Images

One of the miracles of TikTok is that it can feel like, when creating a video, you have all the tools you might need at the tip of your fingers. Among those tools has always been a vast library of music that you can set your video to, which included most major artists.

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Now, it looks like the platform is in for a major change following the news that Universal Music Group (UMG), one of the country's biggest music labels, will be pulling their artists' music off of the platform. Now that the news has been made official, here's what we know about what it might mean.

A TikTok logo on a phone screen.
Source: Getty Images
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Is UMG pulling music from TikTok?

UMG is already beginning to pull down the catalogs of its artists, including major ones like Drake, Taylor Swift, and Olivia Rodrigo. The move comes after the licensing agreement between the platform and UMG expired on Jan. 31, 2024, and a new one wasn't put in place.

Now, videos that feature songs from UMG artists will be muted, and users will have to choose from a list of other artists to create new sounds for their videos.

Why is UMG pulling its music off of TikTok?

Although this move is certainly going to be a downer for anyone hoping to make a new video on TikTok, UMG made the call after it accused TikTok of trying to bully the company into accepting a bad deal.

In an open letter published on Jan. 30, UMG said that TikTok was trying to run a "music-based business" but was unwilling to pay a fair price for the rights to that music. The letter also suggests that TikTok was suppressing emerging artists in favor of more established ones.

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UMG said it was focused on three core areas as it attempted to negotiate a new contract: appropriate compensation for performers and songwriters; protections against a potential flood of AI-generated music; and bolstering online safety.

"TikTok is allowing the platform to be flooded with AI-generated recordings — as well as developing tools to enable, promote and encourage AI music creation on the platform itself," the letter claims.

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Which artists are represented by UMG?

There are quite a few major artists who will likely have their music removed from TikTok. While UMG undoubtedly believes it's doing what's best for its artists and for its own bottom line, there are undoubtedly downsides to removing its artists from the platform.

One of the company's most major emerging artists in recent years was Olivia Rodrigo, whose song "Drivers License" became a phenomenon in large part thanks to TikTok.

Now, TikTok will be closed to UMG artists as an avenue for discovery. It isn't clear whether the two sides will continue to work towards a licensing agreement or whether the removal of the music signals a more permanent separation. For now, though, there will be plenty of major artists who aren't available on the platform.

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