EXPLAINER: How TikTok’s UMG Deal Affected Less Established Female Artists

Universal Music and TikTok came to an agreement on May 2nd, agreeing to now “work expeditiously” to return artist’s music back to the platform after 1000’s of artists had their music removed from the app earlier this year.

After Universal Music Group removed their artist’s music from TikTok, users could not use or listen to songs from major artists such as SZA, Taylor Swift and Billie Eilish. This happened because TikTok’s licence to use UMG’s music expired on January 31st and stayed that way until May 2nd when both sides announced they had come to a mutual agreement to continue for TikTok to use the music production company’s content.

CEO of Universal Music, Sir Lucian Grainge said: “This new chapter in our relationship with TikTok focuses on the value of music, the primacy of human artistry and the welfare of the creative community. We look forward to collaborating with the team at TikTok to further the interests of our artists and songwriters and drive innovation in fan engagement while advancing social music monetization.”

Between January 31st and May 2nd many mainstream artists expressed concern after a lot of content and work on the app had disappeared, and they therefore were not getting the exposure or getting paid they would have prior to January 31st.

American pop singer, Fletcher, took to TikTok after being affected.


♬ Were you silent _ Oprah interviews Meghan Markle – keyrenity

However, some of the more up-and-coming artists who are less established saw this as a positive opportunity to utilized the gap in the market to their advantage.

@chandra.bby you could try mine 👀 #umg #universalmusic #mutedsounds #smallartist #newmusic #singer ♬ Good Without You – Chandra

@.justjourney Why this song kinda eat #stillmyace #fyp #ddg #umg #austinmcbroom #acefamily ♬ original sound – Theacefamily

@cattmccreary we’re all in thiiiis togeeeether . . . . . artists that are safe from umg artists that are not signed to umg UMG Artist List ~ artists reacting to umg removing their songs umg removing music small indie artists what artists are not part of umg what artists is under umg #umg #indieartist #independentartist #recordlabel ♬ Bad Bitch Energy – Catt McCreary

Although the 2-month period did help less established artists promote their music, due to a high demand for music to use on the social platform, since UGM came to an agreement with TikTok larger artists such as Fletcher, Taylor Swift and SZA are slowly being added back onto the apps sound’s section, resulting in the artists who do not get as much exposure to be pushed back to the bottom of trending sounds.

As part of the deal, the companies say they “will work together to realize new monetization opportunities” using TikTok’s e-commerce capabilities and will work together on campaigns supporting UMG’s artists across genres and territories globally.

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Written by: Jessica Hine