TikTok-UMG music purge: Taylor Swift, Billie Eilish and more disappeared from the site

TikTok users are still caught up in the battle between Universal Music Group and TikTok. But the musicians themselves aren't standing still, with some adding another Grammy to their trophy cases on February 4th. This is a positive end to a week where many users woke up on February 1st and discovered music from their own videos. A dispute between UMG and a video-sharing social media platform resulted in the removal of content created or viewed.

Videos are muted even if they only contain a few seconds of a UMG artist's song, and UMG music is no longer available in new videos.

The dispute with TikTok involves big stars — UMG artists include Taylor Swift, The Beatles, Billie Eilish, Drake, The Weeknd, Bad Bunny, and more. A complete list of artists can be found on his UMG site. Swift and Eilish were among those at the Grammy Awards on February 4, and Grammy host Trevor Noah also joked about the feud during his opening monologue.

“Unlike TikTok, there's everyone at the Grammys!” Noah said at the awards ceremony. “Didn’t you see? Universal just pulled all of their artists off TikTok…and you know what? TikTok? Shame on you! Shame on you for ripping off all these artists!…That’s just how it is. What do you do? That's Spotify's job. ”

TikTok is a massive social platform and music app with over 1 billion users worldwide and over 100 million in the United States. And with the fact that its parent company, ByteDance, is Chinese, the site is no stranger to controversy. U.S. lawmakers argue that Chinese law allows the Chinese government to request data from companies based in the country, but TikTok says such concerns are unfounded. are doing. Still, the federal government and some states prohibit its use on government or state equipment.

TikTok creators can create videos using music accessed from the site's library. Millions of TikTok videos use those sounds. According to Forbes magazine, Taylor Swift's song “Cruel Summer” alone has been used in about 2.5 million videos. Here's what you need to know about the dispute and how to replace other music if your video is affected.

What happened to the video?

Videos previously created by TikTok creators using artists who were allowed at the time were still on the site on Thursday. However, it came with a note stating that the music was no longer available. The sound was muted for the entire video, even if the affected artist's music was only briefly used. You can still watch the videos, but on sites where dancing and lip-syncing are a big part of the content, those videos are essentially useless without audio.

This change is global and doesn't just affect TikTok videos created in specific countries.

How to replace with other music

If music is removed from one or more videos, affecting hundreds or thousands of videos by some TikTok creator, a message will appear on the thumbnails of those videos. TikTok should give you the option to choose new sounds from non-UMG music. That list includes Paul Russell's TikTok hit “Lil Boo Tongue,” Cyndi Lauper's 1983 hit “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” Coolio, Green Day and Weezer. Contains music from.

Some video creators are attempting a stop-gap solution by using sped-up or tweaked versions of the UMG songs they originally used, but audio detection software may ban those clips as well. is high. Video creators may want to start looking for independent music available on TikTok or consider providing their own background soundtrack. In fact, this ban could be a boon for smart independent music artists if they can see their music go viral, as many creators are suddenly looking for new music. .

UMG complaints

It wasn't surprising that the music would cut out. Two days before the contract between the two businesses was set to expire, UMG published a letter on its website announcing its intention to declare a “time-out” on TikTok. UMG said in the letter that the company has been pressuring TikTok on three issues: “adequate compensation for artists and songwriters, protecting human artists from the harmful effects of AI, and online safety for TikTok users.” Stated.

UMG also said that “TikTok has offered to pay our artists and songwriters a fraction of the fees paid by similarly located major social platforms.”

TikTok creators saw messages like this on Feb. 1 if they used music by Universal Music Group artists.

Screenshot by Gael Fashingbauer Cooper/CNET

TikTok's response and UMG's response

UMG's letter was long. TikTok fired back with a short, three-paragraph response. Although it did not provide details on the three issues mentioned in UMG's letter, TikTok called the controversy “sad and unfortunate” and said UMG “put their own greed ahead of the interests of artists and songwriters.” He accused them of giving priority to

“TikTok was able to reach 'artist-first' agreements with all other labels and publishers,” it said in a statement. “It's clear that Universal's selfish actions are not in the best interest of our artists, songwriters, and fans.”

In July, TikTok reached a new music licensing agreement with Warner Music Group, and songs from these artists will continue to be available. Among them is Lizzo, Panic! At the Disco, Blake Shelton and the Doors.

In a statement sent to CNET after TikTok's response, a UMG representative elaborated further.

“TikTok still says artists should be grateful for the 'free promotion' and expects music companies to compensate artists and songwriters appropriately and at a level similar to what other social media platforms currently do.” “Greed,'' the emailed statement said. Said. “TikTok also made no attempt to address other issues we raised regarding harmful AI and platform safety.”

TikTok did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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