Berkeley, CA — After Universal Music Group failed to reach an agreement with TikTok, the company allowed its contract to lapse, effectively pulling all its music off the platform of more than a billion users. Videos featuring music from artists like Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande, Drake, Bad Bunny, Billie Eillish and — worst of all — Lady Gaga were silenced late last week. Delivered in the form of an open letter to their artists, Universal’s announcement sent shockwaves through the music industry, with several artists quickly responding with betrayal.
After limiting Instagram comments, Universal’s Twitter page has been all but flooded with disapproval; and calls to fix TikTok.
“After all this time of bullying their artists into becoming influencers, they decide to pull this?” MNEK, a former signatory to Universal, posted on X. He maintained that the company’s employees focus significant time, energy and resources scouring TikTok for the next viral trends. “It’s silly & it’s greedy if you ask me.”
The effects of a record label of this size — one of the three largest, next to Sony and Warner — removing their entire catalog from one of the most influential apps of our generation presents a vacuum in which independent artists may rise to fame, or at the very least higher up TikTok’s Hot 50 list, not aided by a label, but time will tell. It also gives artists leverage to be more fairly compensated.
Universal cited three main points of issue with TikTok’s services, “appropriate compensation for our artists and songwriters, protecting human artists from the harmful effects of AI, and online safety for TikTok’s users.”
“It is sad and disappointing that Universal Music Group has put their own greed above the interests of their artists and songwriters,” responded TikTok. Music is the lifeblood of the app, but forcing their hand has thus far proven unsuccessful.
Willow Thomas (she/they/he) is a Berkeley, California-based arts and culture journalist. Follow them on Instagram at @thecurlythomas.
Edited by Nykeya Woods