Tons of Popular Songs From Taylor Swift, Drake and More Just Disappeared From TikTok

TikTok's licensing deal with Universal Music Group expired, removing some of the most popular musicians from the platform on Thursday.

Music by Taylor Swift, Olivia Rodrigo, Drake and many other popular musicians was removed from TikTok on Wednesday when the app's licensing deal with Universal Music Group came to an end. TikTok has long hosted music from UMG artists which can be added to videos on the platform, but when the licensing deal was up for renewal on Wednesday, UMG demanded better compensation for artists. When neither side budged, the deal expired at the end of the day on Wednesday.

"TikTok proposed paying our artists and songwriters at a rate that is a fraction of the rate that similarly situated major social platforms pay," UMG said in a statement published by NBC News. TikTok's parent company, Bytedance, responded by saying that the record company was seeking money for itself, not for its artists. The two companies disagreed about the importance of TikTok's role in the modern music market. The app has an estimated 1.5 billion monthly users, and artists can get a huge boost by going viral on the platform.

Still, UMG said that TikTok only accounts for about one percent of its advertising revenue, while the company represents eight out of the 10 most popular artists on the platform. Bytedance said that UMG was putting "their own greed above the interests of artists and songwriters."

Some of the biggest acts under the UMG umbrella include The Beatles, Elton John, Bob Dylan, U2, Ariana Grande, SZA, Billie Eilish, Adele and Coldplay. Of course, the artists getting a boost from TikTok can change from week to week or even day to day, but UMG said that it took a stand here to set the precedent for the whole industry. The company published an open letter to artists called "Why We Must Call Time Out on TikTok," which said: "Ultimately TikTok is trying to build a music-based business, without paying fair value for the music."

The letter said that TikTok does not do enough to combat copyright infringement, nor "a tidal wave of hate speech, bigotry, bullying and harassment." It went on: "As our negotiations continued, TikTok attempted to bully us into accepting a deal worth less than the previous deal, far less than fair market value and not reflective of their exponential growth."

Bytedance and TikTok called this a "false narrative," adding: "The fact is they have chosen to walk away from the powerful support of a platform with well over a billion users that serves as a free promotional and discovery vehicle for their talent." There's no telling if or when the two companies might reach a new deal, but in the meantime the absence of UMG's artists will likely change the user experience on TikTok immediately.