TikTok-UMG Standoff Deepens As Mass-Muting Expands to UMPG’s Catalog

universal music tiktok
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universal music tiktok
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Photo Credit: BoliviaInteligente

The much-publicized licensing dispute between Universal Music Group (UMG) and TikTok is deepening, as the former’s publishing catalog is now being removed from the video-sharing platform.

This latest twist in the companies’ well-documented showdown just recently entered the media spotlight, after TikTok at the top of the month began muting all manner of videos containing UMG recordings.

And while some assumed that the mass-muting was likewise affecting the compositional side of Universal Music’s holdings – it was, in any event, difficult to discern the precise extent of the far-reaching removals – the Universal Music Publishing Group (UMPG) catalog is just now being torn down, per Variety.

Like with the initial muting, it’s unclear how many works are being affected. But the BBC, citing an estimate from TikTok itself, has indicated that 30 percent of “‘popular songs’” could be muted when all is said and done.

Adding another layer of complexity to the already-multifaceted situation, the fiasco’s newest development will impact recordings owned by non-UMG companies when UMPG possesses an interest in the underlying compositions at hand. Also in the major label’s crosshairs are fan renditions (official covers and hastily made karaoke clips alike) involving the appropriate works, many ticked-off TikTokers are reiterating on social media.

And if these frantic social posts are any indication, the app may already be feeling the pinch from the fresh round of mutings, to put it mildly.

On the other side of the coin, there’s also the argument that UMG’s incurring a substantial loss due to the unavailability of its works on TikTok, which is leaning into its perceived role as a promotional tool. But the associated licensing revenue is relatively minor for UMG overall, and most frustrated fans appear to be placing the blame squarely on TikTok’s shoulders.

“@tiktok wtf r u up to? Why did u take down seven and SNTY [‘Standing Next to You’]?!!!!” one self-described Army member demanded on Twitter/X. UMPG-signed Cirkut co-wrote and produced both Jungkook-recorded efforts.

“I dont care if you did not reach an agreement with tiktok or if you mute everyone else[‘s] songs,” vented another Army diehard, tagging the relevant businesses for good measure. “FIX THE ISSUE WITH BTS. YOU CANT MUTE THEM!!!!!!!”

“tiktok just muted my edit with what would you do wtf r they starting to mute tate [McRae, who has a record deal with Sony Music’s RCA] songs too??” inquired a different individual.

“why is tiktok randomly putting all famous songs on mute[?]” summed up a fourth user.

As touched upon, it goes without saying that the chain of events is far from ideal for TikTok in particular. Moving forward, it seems the most pressing questions for the ByteDance subsidiary – besides those pertaining directly to the prospect of resolving the UMG conflict, which could evolve into an industry-wide confrontation – will concern the exact usership impact of the muting.

Though many enjoy the highly controversial TikTok to say the least, it’s unclear whether they’ll stick around amid the absence of their favorite music – especially given the availability of fully licensed alternatives like Shorts and Reels.