Night Light | I Think You're Muted

Universal Music Group Pulls All Music From TikTok

You won’t find anything from Drake, Taylor Swift, The Weeknd, BTS, Post Malone or Kanye on TikTok anymore. This week Universal Music Group (UMG) pulled all of their artists from the world’s most downloaded app. Before I get into what that means for artists and music on TikTok, we have to look at everything that caused UMG to go nuclear.

Just a few of the artists removed from the platform. You know, no big deal.

It comes down to money. The label was concerned with three main issues: getting their artists paid, cracking down on AI-generated recordings, and safety of its artists. UMG even claimed that TikTok attempted to bully and intimidate the record label into an unfair licensing deal. TikTok responded by essentially calling them greedy. Things got ugly, and the two are no longer together.

If it’s meant to be, it will be 💔

What Does This Mean for Artists?

We can think about this two ways. On one hand, artists that have huge followings on platforms like Spotify and Apple Music, or make their money from touring (Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour grossed over $1B in 2023) probably won’t see that much of a change. Their music is ubiquitous, and they aren’t really making anything from the small payout they get from TikTok. They’re more important to UMG’s catalogue than any kind of exposure TikTok can give to them.

Billions of sounds about to be muted.

On the other hand, you have smaller artists who greatly benefit from having their songs used all over TikTok. It’s an essential promotional tool for up-and-coming artists and can even magically turn a hit song from the ‘70s into a Gen Z household banger (for the record I’ve always been a Stevie Nicks stan). Some artists are angry, Alison Wonderland even slammed UMG for pulling her music without her knowing.

What does this mean for TikTok?

Does this mean that any TikToks using popular songs from Eminem, Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj are going to be muted? As of writing this, I’m still hearing “All I Want for Christmas Is You”. Not every sound was removed overnight, but If you scroll through Mariah’s page, a bunch of her videos are now muted. I did catch a stat from Billboard that at least 17 tracks from TikTok’s Top 50 chart are no longer available. Although UMG has tried to remedy it in the past, I’d bet we’re going to see more bootlegs of popular songs than ever before.

🔇 5 muted videos in a row…

There are a few good things coming out of this. If I was an independent artist, this would be a huge opportunity for me. When you look through the Top 50 charts now, many of them are either independent artists or content creators. There’s never been less competition from bigger artists on TikTok. This is going to present an interesting opportunity for TikTok and independent artists/content creators to work together.

How does this change TikTok’s new music features?

TikTok has been always been a place to discover new music. The “Add To Music” feature lets you click a button under a sound you like on TikTok and it adds it to your Spotify or Apple playlist. I’d be interested to see if streams of songs that people discover on TikTok actually decrease on music streaming platforms in the next few weeks. They’re also supposed to be releasing their own premium streaming feature in the US soon. This definitely would complicate things if a third of the songs in the Top 50 charts are missing.

Is anyone out there using Add to Music?

The Big Takeaway:

Music has always been an incredibly important part of TikTok. Remember when it was called Do I think people are going to stop using the world’s most popular app because their favorite songs were removed from the platform? No. We’ll see the community adapt to meet the changing landscape like we always do. Excited to see how this story develops over the next few weeks.

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