Videos on TikTok began to go silent early Thursday, after combative licensing negotiations broke down this week between the popular social media platform and Universal Music Group, the giant company that releases music by Taylor Swift, Drake, U2, Ariana Grande and many other stars whose songs have been key to TikTok’s rapid growth around the world.
On Tuesday, a day before its licensing contract with TikTok was set to expire, Universal published a fiery open letter accusing TikTok of offering unsatisfactory payment for music, and of allowing its platform to be “flooded with A.I.-generated recordings” that diluted the royalty pool for real, human musicians.
TikTok confirmed early Thursday that it had removed music from Universal, and videos on the app began to show the effects of the broken partnership. Recordings by Universal artists were deleted from TikTok’s library, and existing videos that had used music from Universal’s artists had their audio muted entirely. Universal songs were also unavailable for users to add to new videos.
A video posted by Kylie Jenner in September, for example, using a song by Lana Del Rey, who is signed to a Universal label — commenters to the video had remarked on the music — was silent, with a note saying, “This sound isn’t available.” Other videos carried similar statements, including “Sound removed due to copyright restrictions.”
When users went to the official profiles for Universal artists like Swift and Grande — who is scheduled to release a new album next month — the tabs that would normally display dozens of tracks that users could add to their own clips were either entirely bare or reduced to a handful of brief snippets.