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Some Taylor Swift Tracks Return to TikTok, Despite Ongoing Dispute with UMG


Good news: Some Universal Music is returning to TikTok.

Bad news: It’s only a few songs by Taylor Swift.

That’s no shade to Swift, whose massive fanbase will undoubtedly be excited that her music is returning to the app. It’s only bad news in the sense that TikTok and Universal (UMG) haven’t come to a new agreement, meaning that the rest of UMG’s catalog remains off-limits in the short-form video app.

As a quick recap, back in January, UMG announced that it would be pulling its tracks from TikTok after the two parties could not come to terms on a new licensing agreement. UMG is one of the biggest music producers in the world, with artists like Adele, Drake, and Billie Eilish on its books.

And, of course, Taylor Swift.

But now, with Swift’s new album set for release next week, some Swift tracks are back, though the details of the deal are not clear.

As reported by Variety:

It seems likely that the platform reached a separate deal with Swift, who owns her masters and presumably would have the ability to strike her own arrangement, even though her music is distributed by UMG and she signed with the company’s publishing division in 2020.

Variety also notes that Swift may have an individual promotion deal with TikTok for her new album, which is why her songs are back in the app.

But again, the rest of UMG’s tracks remain off limits.

UMG has accused TikTok of lowballing them with offers far lower than their previous licensing arrangement, with TikTok looking to use its power as a music hit-maker to squeeze more out of publishers.

UMG claims that TikTok’s new licensing offer is “far less” than what it gets from other social apps. Which is why it claims to now be moving on from TikTok, and focusing on other opportunities instead, which would be a big shift, considering the role that TikTok now plays in music discovery.

Indeed, a TikTok commissioned report published last November showed that TikTok users are significantly more likely to both discover and share new music content in the app, while 75% of its users also find new artists via TikTok clips.

Given the stats, you can see why TikTok feels like it has the upper hand in negotiations, though Universal also wants to ensure that it’s being fairly paid for its artists’ work.

It seems likely, then, that the stand-off between the two will continue on for some time yet, though maybe, through smaller, short-term licensing deals like this, some UMG artists will still be able to share their tracks in the app, at least occasionally.

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