Music missing from TikTok videos? Songs by Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, and more pulled as negotiations fail

taylor swift pictured on the eras tour in the at&t stadium in arlington last year

Taylor Swift is one of a number of artists signed with Universal whose music has been pulled from the social network, leaving thousands of viral videos muted for the foreseeable future

Aaron Brown

By Aaron Brown

Published: 04/03/2024

- 11:21

Updated: 04/03/2024

- 12:25

Thousands of viral videos are now muted as licensing negotiations between Universal and TikTok failed

  • Universal has pulled songs from any artists signed to its label from social network TikTok
  • It has cited concerns over AI on the platform
  • Universal also claimed TikTok only pays a "fraction" of the fees from other apps
  • TikTok claims these arguments represent a "false narrative"
  • Artists caught between these two corporations are unable to promote new songs

If you’ve scrolled through TikTok lately and videos intended to be accompanied by music playing out in complete silence — you’re not alone. Thousands of songs from chart-topping artists like Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, The Weeknd, Billie Eilish, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Ariana Grande, and more have been pulled from the social media network, leaving videos deathly silent.

The decision was made by record label Universal Music Group (UMG) after it failed to reach a fresh licensing agreement with TikTok after their previous deal expired last week. TikTok is refusing to respond to concerns over artificial intelligence (AI) in an ongoing dispute, indicating “they simply do not value your music”, the record label has claimed after discussions fell apart.

Until an agreement can be reached — any videos hosted on TiKTok with music from UMG artists will be automatically muted. TikTok users will not be able to make new videos with those tracks.


The Eras Tour has been the most meaningful, electric experience of my life so far and I’m overjoyed to tell you that it’ll be coming to the big screen soon 😆 Starting Oct 13th you’ll be able to experience the concert film in theaters in North America! Tickets are on sale now at Eras attire, friendship bracelets, singing and dancing encouraged 🫶 1, 2, 3 LGB!!!! (iykyk)

♬ TS The Eras Tour concert film - Taylor Swift

Unapproved sped-up, slowed-down, and otherwise manipulated versions of the songs are still available to use on TikTok for now.

TikTok has increasingly become a place for artists to promote new music. Noah Kahan, whose reached Number One with his song Stick Season after it was used in as background music in thousands of videos posted on TikTok, posted a video lambasting the fact that he’s not able to promote his new single on the platform that kickstarted his commercial success.

"I can't stick it down your throats any more on this app," he says in the clip.

Universal Music Group claims TikTok has said it will only pay a "fraction" of the rate other social media sites do for access to its vast catalogue of songs.TikTok says UMG is presenting a "false narrative and rhetoric".

The impasse could mean more musicians face the prospect of their work disappearing from TikTok or being unable to promote new albums and tracks in the coming weeks and months. TikTok has become an invaluable tool to drive music consumption in recent years.

Taylor Swift, who is a vocal champion of the rights of musicians, is one of UMG’s most powerful artists. The 34-year-old musician, who is in the middle of her Eras tour that broke records as the first World Tour to make over $1 billion in ticket gross sales, signed a deal with Universal back in 2018 which gave her ownership of her masters, after parting ways with Big Machine Records.

Other artists signed to Universal include Drake, Justin Bieber and Bad Bunny.

Music companies earn royalty payments when their songs are played on streaming and social media platforms. A statement written as “an open letter to the artist and songwriter community” said: “TikTok proposed paying our artists and songwriters at a rate that is a fraction of the rate that similarly situated major social platforms pay.

“Today, as an indication of how little TikTok compensates artists and songwriters, despite its massive and growing user base, rapidly rising advertising revenue and increasing reliance on music-based content, TikTok accounts for only about 1% of our total revenue.

“Ultimately TikTok is trying to build a music-based business, without paying fair value for the music.”

The open letter also said TikTok allows the platform to be “flooded with AI-generated recordings”, and also develops tools to “enable, promote and encourage AI music creation on the platform itself”.

It accuses TikTok of “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”.

\u200bKaty Perry in a gold dress performs Firework on stage during the Coronation Concert for King Charles III

Katy Perry performs on stage during the Coronation Concert for King Charles III on May 07, 2023 in Windsor. Perry is another prominent artist signed to Universal whose music has vanished from one of the biggest social networks on the planet


The letter also criticises the platform for making “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”.


A statement from TikTok said: “It is sad and disappointing that Universal Music Group has put their own greed above the interests of their artists and songwriters.

“Despite Universal’s false narrative and rhetoric, the fact is they have chosen to walk away from the powerful support of a platform with well over a billion users that serves as a free promotional and discovery vehicle for their talent.

“TikTok has been able to reach ‘artist-first’ agreements with every other label and publisher. Clearly, Universal’s self-serving actions are not in the best interests of artists, songwriters and fans.”

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