Let the Muting Begin: Creators Speak Out As TikTok Axes Uploads’ Audio Due to UMG Licensing Dispute

tiktok muting videos
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tiktok muting videos
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A distraught TikTok user. Photo Credit: Michael Heise

Let the muting begin: Amid a high-profile licensing dispute between TikTok, Universal Music Publishing Group (UMPG) and its mega-label parent UMG, the short-form app is officially axing the audio from videos containing certain protected works.

ByteDance-owned TikTok confirmed to Digital Music News that it had started muting the relevant clips – meaning those featuring songs owned or co-owned by UMPG songwriters and UMG artists, that is. While the audio removal’s precise extent (and the exact acts affected) is unclear at present, the sizable undertaking is already impacting certain uploads that include the music of commercially prominent acts, according to an examination of social-media posts and TikTok videos.

And as it follows through with the mass-muting, TikTok will also have to target all videos with recordings containing UMPG-owned publishing – an extremely large collection of clips to say the least that goes beyond the UMG umbrella.

More immediately, the development is eliciting less-than-thrilled feedback from Gen Z TikTok diehards, who are, in effect, seeing creative efforts of personal significance (and possibly monetary importance) dismantled. Needless to say, the step further means that the involved musicians’ tracks cannot be added to new TikToks.

“My edits were a victim of TikTok’s audio removal and I’m so sad what the hell now,” one ticked-off TikToker vented on Twitter/X.

“Universal Music Group has officially removed @PaulaAbdul’s catalog off TikTok due to not renewing their contract w/ the platform,” confirmed a Paula Abdul fan account, including for good measure a screenshot showing TikTok’s “sound removed due to copyright restrictions” notice.

“Nah they wasted no time,” another individual penned, bringing attention to the situation’s comparatively little-discussed impact on video creators. “My music videos are on MUTE on TikTok… Thankfully my best performing videos did not have a background music and I used my own voice because I would’ve just died 😭”

No resolution to the licensing standoff seems to be in sight, and particularly given TikTok superfans’ early comments (written, in a testament to the platform’s global reach, in a variety of languages), it’ll be worth closely monitoring the episode’s usership byproducts moving forward.

“Man this UMG audio removal from TikTok is so devastating,” one person wrote, appearing to indicate that he or she will upload fewer clips due to the widespread muting. “I don’t even feel like editing any videos for now, like what if they mute it the instant I upload it? I would’ve wasted hours of editing.”

“Right I know the people that run #tiktok are weird banning people for things that are not true if they actually watch the vids etc or live streams but to mute clips for copyright when the music is from THIER OWN SOUNDS COLLECTION???” raged a self-described gaming content creator.

On the other side of the showdown, logic and evidence suggest that Universal Music is encountering far less difficulty – and not solely because it doesn’t have to mute the videos in question or grapple with the complaints of more than a few irked users.

“TikTok accounts for only about 1% of our total revenue,” Universal Music claimed earlier this week of the disagreement’s seemingly manageable fiscal fallout. UMG stock’s per-share worth experienced a small valuation decline during today’s trading but finished just one dollar or so beneath its 52-week high.