UMG Artist Encourages Distorting Music on TikTok to “Spread the Sound”

artists encourage distorting music to get around UMG boycott
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artists encourage distorting music to get around UMG boycott
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Photo Credit: Solen Feyissa / CC by 2.0

JT of the hip-hop duo City Girls has told her fans to distort her music to get around the UMG boycott of TikTok as a platform. The move follows Taylor Swift’s move to ignore the boycott in favor of having her music available on the platform for the launch of her latest album, The Tortured Poets Department.

In January 2024, Universal Music announced it could not reach a licensing agreement with TikTok that it felt compensated artists fairly—resulting in the UMG catalog being muted on the platform. New music from UMG and UMPG artists and songwriters cannot be utilized on the platform without it being muted—which is why JT has told her fans how to bypass.

“Remember, I’m with UMG so once song is out TikTok will be muted so try to get a distorted sound going,” she told her fans on X/Twitter. “I have one on my TikTok use it if you want or make your own, I don’t care—just spread the sound.”

The song she is referring to in this Tweet is “Okay,” which is her third single to date and will feature on her upcoming mixtape, City Cinderella. JT is the first artist to make overt references to how to bypass the DRM that mutes UMG and UMPG songs on the platform. That being said, distorted audio on TikTok was on the rise well before the UMG row.

A study published by Pex in February 2024 found that distorted music on TikTok rose drastically between 2022 and 2023. Modified songs represented 24.55% of audio tested in 2022; that number jumps to 38.03% for 2023. If the UMG boycott continues, the rise of distorted music on TikTok could cross the 50% threshold as both fans and artists seek to utilize the platform’s virality regardless of the label’s stance.

A report last week suggests UMG execs were caught off-guard by Taylor Swift’s decision to bypass their boycott and release her music. According to those familiar with the matter, executives spent a week trying to convince her not to release her latest album on the platform to no avail.