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By Imran Rahman-Jones
BBC News

TikTok has removed music by stars including Taylor Swift, The Weeknd and Olivia Rodrigo from videos after a row with their record label, Universal Music Group (UMG).

A licensing agreement between TikTok and the label expired on Wednesday, and a new deal could not be reached.

UMG said TikTok wanted to pay a “fraction” of the rate other social media sites do for access to its songs.

TikTok accused UMG of presenting a “false narrative and rhetoric”.

All videos which have UMG music on them will be muted and new videos will not be able to be made with those tracks.

Some artists such as Ariana Grande and Katy Perry have had most of their music disappear from their official pages, except a few songs which are on other labels.

Billie Eilish, another UMG artist, has had all but one of her songs taken down.

Her song What Was I Made For? was featured in the Barbie movie – whose soundtrack was published by Warner Music Group.

Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s Murder on the Dancefloor, which became a viral hit after appearing in the film Saltburn, is also unavailable.

Unofficial, sped-up and slowed-down versions of tracks are still available to use.

The likes of Lewis Capaldi and Taylor Swift have no music available, while Billie Eilish only has one track available, which is not a Universal song

Noah Kahan, whose number one song Stick Season started as a viral TikTok clip, posted a video on his account saying he was unable to promote his new song on the platform.

“I can’t stick it down your throats any more on this app,” he said.

“I’ll probably be OK, right? I’ll land on my feet, right?”

Music companies and artists earn royalty payments when their songs are played on streaming and social media platforms.

On TikTok, they are used as backing music to the videos uploaded to the site.

But there has long been unease about how little the platforms pay, which in this case developed into a major and very public disagreement.

UMG and TikTok were in talks over a new deal, but were unable to agree one before the 31 January deadline.

In an open letter, published on 30 January, Universal claimed that “ultimately TikTok is trying to build a music-based business, without paying fair value for the music”.

Universal said it was also concerned about getting artists fair compensation for AI-generated songs made to sound like real artists – such as one made to sound like Drake and The Weeknd which went viral.

It also had issues with TikTok’s content moderation, saying it failed to adequately deal with “the tidal wave of hate speech, bigotry, bullying and harassment on the platform”.

TikTok responded: “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,” it added.

Universal’s rival Warner Music agreed a licensing deal with TikTok in July 2023.

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