Is TikTok losing all its music? UMG publishers situation explained

Connor Bennett
Taylor Swift and Drake side-by-side next to TikTok logo

TikTok users have been left worried that UMG – Universal Music Group – and countless independent publishers will pull their music from the app, leaving videos without sound from the likes of Taylor Swift. Here’s everything we know about what’s going on. 

When TikTok first started out in 2016, it merged with ByteDance’s other short-form video app – – which was all about dance routines, lip-syncing, and other ways for creatives to showcase their work. 

As a result, music has always played a big role in videos. This includes rising artists debuting their own songs and massive stars having their hits used in different roles. However, the latter part of that can create issues. 

That’s unfolding now as Universal Music Group – UMG – has pulled their music from the short-form video app after TikTok wouldn’t increase the payments that artists receive for their music being used. Additionally, a slew of independent publishers are now claiming they’ll pull music once their contract ends on April 30.


TikTok started losing music from UMG artists

As it stands, TikTok’s license to use UMG’s music expired on January 31, and the publishers have been pulling down music or striking TikTok videos that have used them since then.

UMG began removing select songs from their library of music, but that doesn’t include fan edits for now. So, if a song is remixed and credited to a fan, it’ll still be available – for now. 

Any pre-existing video that uses a song from a UMG artist, which includes Taylor Swift, Drake, Kendrick Lamar, The Weeknd, Harry Styles, and Billie Eilish- some of the most popular artists on TikTok – will simply just be muted. 

UMG has accused TikTok of trying to “bully” them into taking a worse deal. “As our negotiations continued, TikTok attempted to bully us into accepting a deal worth less than the previous deal, far less than fair market value and not reflective of their exponential growth,” they said. 

TikTok has fired back by claiming that UMG is putting “their own greed above the interests of their artists and songwriters.” 

Independent publishers have no plans of renewing TikTok contract

In the aftermath of UMG pulling their catalog artists, it appears independent publishers are lining up to have their music removed from the platform.

On March 6, Billboard released a report in which The National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA) issued a letter saying they “do not anticipate” a renewal or extension of their licensing contract with the company.

“Recently, the press has highlighted concerns around TikTok’s licensing practices, concerns that NMPA has heard directly from many of our members,” read the letter, in part.

“It is important that all NMPA members understand that without a license in place, TikTok should not be using your musical works on its platform,” the letter continued.

Currently, those who wish to leverage a new contact can do so beyond the contract expiration date. For those who don’t, the NMPA has counsel on stand-by to help enforce the removal of their artist’s music starting on May 1.

UMG brings music back to TikTok after new agreement

On May 1, UMG and TikTok revealed that they’d reached a new agreement which meant that UMG would return their music to the app for creators to use.

In the announcement, they also revealed that as the music is returned to TikTok, the companies will work together to find new ways to monetize the music that will benefit both platforms.

UMG and TikTok also revealed they’d focus on protecting musicians and songwriters from AI technologies, and any unauthorized AI-generated music will be removed from the platform.

As of writing, no date has been set for when the UMG catalog will be back on TikTok.

About The Author

Based out of Liverpool, Connor is Dexerto's UK News Editor having joined the website in 2018 with a degree in International Journalism. You can find him covering everything from CoD, GTA, FIFA, Apex Legends, and influencer boxing. Need to get in touch? Email Connor at