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TikTok sounds go silent as songs disappear from app

Videos across the platform have lost their audio in dramatic dispute

Andrew Griffin
Friday 02 February 2024 09:53 GMT
No more Swift beats: Universal pulls plug on TikTok music

TikTok videos have gone silent after vast number of songs were removed from the app.

The disappearance is the result of a fallout between label Universal Music Group and TikTok, which it accused of not paying fairly for music rights.

Universal represents many of the world and TikTok’s biggest stars, such as Taylor Swift, Harry Styles and Adele. All three of those have been the soundtrack to many of the site’s biggest recent trends.

Taylor Swift is one of a number of the world’s biggest artists signed to Universal Music Group – and now disappearing from TikTok (AP)

Any videos using the songs will instead be silent – along with a warning indicating that the audio has been removed.

A deal between TikTok and Universal that previously licensed songs expired on Wednesday. As it expired, both companies announced they had failed to come to a new agreement – with Universal announcing it in a dramatic statement.

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”.

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.”

Additional reporting by Press Association

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