TikTok Loses Taylor Swift, Olivia Rodrigo, and More Music Amid Dispute Over Payments, AI

TikTok will lose music from UMG's artists when their license expires Wednesday night.

Fans of Taylor Swift, Olivia Rodrigo, and numerous other Universal Music Group artists — and those who create videos using their music on TikTok — are about to be met with the sounds of silence. Universal Music Group (UMG) said in an open letter that negotiations with the social media platform regarding renewed licensing had fallen through without resolution. The current license, which allows for music from UMG's vast roster of artists and their catalogs to be used as sounds on the short-form video platform, expires Wednesday night.

Per UMG, there are three issues holding up a deal, "appropriate compensation for our artists and songwriters, protecting human artists from the harmful effects of AI, and online safety issues for TikTok's users." UMG's statement added, "TikTok proposed paying our artists and songwriters at a rate that is a fraction of the rate that similarly situated major social platforms pay."

"Ultimately, TikTok is trying to build a music-based business, without paying fair value for the music," the statement concluded. TikTok responded, writing in their own statement that "clearly Universal's self-serving actions are not in the best interests of artists, songwriters and fans."

Why Is AI An Issue With Music?

One of the issues UMG has with TIkTok is AI, specifically that TikTok enables users to create AI music on the platform as well as circulate AI-created recordings — including AI-generated versions of musicians works. UMG's stance is that this "massively dilutes the royalty pool for human artists, in a move that is nothing short of sponsoring artist replacement by AI."

"On AI, 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 – and then demanding a contractual right which would allow this content to massively dilute the royalty pool for human artists, in a move that is nothing short of sponsoring artist replacement by AI," the letter reads.

It continues, "Further, TikTok makes little effort to deal with the vast amounts of content on its platform that infringe our artists' music and it has offered no meaningful solutions to the rising tide of content adjacency issues, let alone the tidal wave of hate speech, bigotry, bullying and harassment on the platform. The only means available to seek the removal of infringing or problematic content (such as pornographic deepfakes of artists) is through the monumentally cumbersome and inefficient process which equates to the digital equivalent of 'Whack-a-Mole.'"

What Happens to Videos Using UMG Artists' Music After the License Expires

Once UMG's license with TikTok expires on Wednesday, videos using any of the official sounds by UMG artists — including popular songs by artists such as Taylor Swift and Olivia Rodrigo — will have their sound removed. This means that potentially millions of videos will go silent. For some users, specifically those creators with accounts built on interpreting music or making videos that heavily utilize the work of artists such as Swift which are especially popular right now as she is in the midst of releasing her re-recorded albums, it's prompting questions about how to continue forward, with some already posting that they might download their existing videos before the license expires and simply move to another platform.

What do you think? Let us know your thoughts about UMG pulling music from their artists from TikTok in the comment section.

(H/t: Deadline)