K-Pop Hits To Return To TikTok As UMG Reaches Agreement

Many of our favs will be back on the app!

At the end of January, UMG (Universal Music Group) announced its plan to remove its artists’ music from the video-sharing app TikTok starting February 1 as its “contract” with the app ended. UMG cited concerns, such as compensation, the danger of AI, and safety for users, as to why it was parting ways with TikTok for now.

Our core mission is simple: to help our artists and songwriters attain their greatest creative and commercial potential.  To achieve these goals, our teams employ their expertise and passion to strike deals with partners all around the world, partners who take seriously their responsibilities to fairly compensate our artists and songwriters and treat the user experience with respect.

One of those partners is TikTok, an increasingly influential platform with powerful technology and a massive worldwide user base.  As with many other platforms with whom we partner, TikTok’s success as one of the world’s largest social platforms has been built in large part on the music created by our artists and songwriters.  Its senior executives proudly state publicly that “music is at the heart of the TikTok experience” and our analysis confirms that the majority of content on TikTok contains music, more than any other major social platform.

The terms of our relationship with TikTok are set by contract, which expires January 31, 2024. In our contract renewal discussions, we have been pressing them on three critical issues—appropriate compensation for our artists and songwriters, protecting human artists from the harmful effects of AI, and online safety for TikTok’s users.

We have been working to address these and related issues with our other platform partners.  For example, our Artist-Centric initiative is designed to update streaming’s remuneration model and better reward artists for the value they deliver to platforms.  In the months since its inception, we’re proud that this initiative has been received so positively and taken up by a range of partners, including the largest music platform in the world.  We’ve also moved aggressively to embrace the promise of AI while fighting to ensure artists’ rights and interests are protected now and far into the future.  In addition, we’ve engaged a number of our platform partners to try to drive positive change for their users and by extension, our artists, by addressing online safety issues, and we are recognized as the industry leader in focusing on music’s broader impact on health and wellness.

With respect to the issue of artist and songwriter compensation, TikTok proposed paying our artists and songwriters at a rate that is a fraction of the rate that similarly situated major social platforms pay.  Today, as an indication of how little TikTok compensates artists and songwriters, despite its massive and growing user base, rapidly rising advertising revenue and increasing reliance on music-based content, TikTok accounts for only about 1% of our total revenue.

Ultimately TikTok is trying to build a music-based business, without paying fair value for the music.

On AI, TikTok is allowing the platform to be flooded with AI-generated recordings—as well as developing tools to enable, promote and encourage AI music creation on the platform itself – and then demanding a contractual right which would allow this content to massively dilute the royalty pool for human artists, in a move that is nothing short of sponsoring artist replacement by AI.

Further, TikTok makes little effort to deal with the vast amounts of content on its platform that infringe our artists’ music and it has offered no meaningful solutions to the rising tide of content adjacency issues, let alone the tidal wave of hate speech, bigotry, bullying and harassment on the platform. The only means available to seek the removal of infringing or problematic content (such as pornographic deepfakes of artists) is through the monumentally cumbersome and inefficient process which equates to the digital equivalent of “Whack-a-Mole.”

But when we proposed that TikTok takes similar steps as our other platform partners to try to address these issues, it responded first with indifference, and then with intimidation.

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.  How did it try to intimidate us?  By selectively removing the music of certain of our developing artists, while keeping on the platform our audience-driving global stars.

TikTok’s tactics are obvious: use its platform power to hurt vulnerable artists and try to intimidate us into conceding to a bad deal that undervalues music and shortchanges artists and songwriters as well as their fans.

We will never do that.

We will always fight for our artists and songwriters and stand up for the creative and commercial value of music.

We recognize the challenges that TikTok’s actions will cause, and do not underestimate what this will mean to our artists and their fans who, unfortunately, will be among those subjected to the near-term consequences of TikTok’s unwillingness to strike anything close to a market-rate deal and meaningfully address its obligations as a social platform. But we have an overriding responsibility to our artists to fight for a new agreement under which they are appropriately compensated for their work, on a platform that respects human creativity, in an environment that is safe for all, and effectively moderated.

We honor our responsibilities with the utmost seriousness. Intimidation and threats will never cause us to shirk those responsibilities.


TikTok responded at the time but was met with mixed reactions. While many were disappointed by UMG’s decision, netizens agreed that TikTok’s response wasn’t “professional.”

Originally, many were concerned that mainstream pop artists, Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber, and Ariana Grande, and K-Pop groups, BTS and BLACKPINK, would be affected. Yet, on February 1, when the purging began, it was different. Many artists were affected, but not as many as netizens initially thought.

Most Western UMG artists were indeed affected, but BTS and BLACKPINK were primarily unaffected by UMG’s song removals. For example, HYBE groups were some of the least K-Pop acts affected since their deal with UMG was only for distribution. The one BTS song muted initially was “Bad Decisions,” but it was a collaboration with Benny Blanco and Snoop Dogg.

This was not the case for all K-Pop groups, though. NCT units, SuperM, Red Velvet, &TEAM, and more had some of their songs taken down. Many groups’ Japanese or English releases were removed. Yet, some groups, such as TWICE, lost specific but popular songs. For example, “Feel Special,” “Cry For Me,” and “Knock Knock” were taken down.

As time went on, more songs were removed. ONCEs noticed additional TWICE songs, including “Set Me Free” and Jihyo‘s solo releases, were muted.


BLACKPINK finally took a hit, too. Most of their discography, with only a few exceptions, was removed. So, when you checked the group’s account, there were miles of muted videos.


Likewise, BTS became affected by UMG’s takedown. There became numerous muted videos on the group’s account as their solo releases, including Jungkook and Jimin, were hit. However, even beloved songs by the group, including “Spring Day,” “Stay Gold,” “Run BTS,” “Life Goes On,” and more, were “removed due to copyright restrictions.” More collaborations, such as “My Universe” with Coldplay and J-Hope and Becky G‘s “Chicken Noodle Soup,” were also affected.


Labelmate TXT‘s album, The Name Chapter: TEMPTATION, was affected too. For example, videos containing “Sugar Rush Ride,” “Happy Fools (feat. Coi Leray),” and “Tinnitus” were then muted.


Even NewJeans‘ viral hit “OMG” was removed! Any video that once featured it became muted.


Select MONSTA X songs were removed from the app. The Dreaming, including the song “One Day,” was taken down. Both English and Korean releases, such as FANTASTIA X, were affected.


Many sad K-Pop fans reported that even more artists were affected, including 1st, 2nd gen and disbanded groups. Their favorite artists’ videos had no sound; edits were muted, etc., as a result. This change also made challenge videos difficult.

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At the start of UMG’s TikTok purge, only artists and songs directly under UMG or published via a subsidiary were purged. However, it ultimately targeted music related to the company in any way, including if a song’s writer, producer, etc., were under UMG or a subsidiary.


they took down even more music! what’s safe!? #kpop #kpopfyp #umg #universalmusic

♬ original sound – DizZzyPop

Now, our favorite artists’ songs will be returning to TikTok.

UMG and TikTok have finally come to a new agreement for licensing that will restore UMG’s catalog of millions of sounds on the app. However, according to a press release, it will return in “due course,” but they are “working expeditiously” on the return.

This new chapter in our relationship with TikTok focuses on the value of music, the primacy of human artistry and the welfare of the creative community. We look forward to collaborating with the team at TikTok to further the interests of our artists and songwriters and drive innovation in fan engagement while advancing social music monetization.

— UMG chairman/CEO Lucian Grainge 

From left: Bang Si Hyuk (Chairman of HYBE), Sir Lucian Grainge (Chairman and CEO of Universal Music Group), Scooter Braun (CEO of HYBE America) | Jordan Strauss
From left: Bang Si Hyuk (Chairman of HYBE), Sir Lucian Grainge (Chairman and CEO of Universal Music Group), Scooter Braun (CEO of HYBE America) | Jordan Strauss

The press release also states that TikTok and UMG have entered a “new era of strategic collaboration.” The new deal “improves remuneration for UMG and artists, new promotional and engagement opportunities for their recordings and songs, and industry-leading protections with respect to generative AI.”

Music is an integral part of the TikTok ecosystem and we are pleased to have found a path forward with Universal Music Group. We are committed to working together to drive value, discovery and promotion for all of UMG’s amazing artists and songwriters, and deepen their ability to grow, connect and engage with the TikTok community.

— TikTok CEO Shou Chew

Shou Chew
Shou Chew

UMG and TikTok will be more collaborative with one another, as UMG will utilize TikTok’s monetization options, as TikTok Shop was launched last year. TikTok is also investing “significant resources into building artist-centric tools” by integrating better data, analytics, and ticketing capabilities, as well as improving “artist and songwriter attribution,” helping artists receive payment for their sound usage.

We are delighted to welcome UMG and UMPG back to TikTok. We look forward to working together to forge a path that creates deeper connections between artists, creators and fans. In particular, we will work together to make sure that AI tools are developed responsibly to enable a new era of musical creativity and fan engagement while protecting human creativity.

— TikTok global head of music business development Ole Obermann

Unauthorized AI-generated music will also be removed by the two companies. Many anonymous users, such as Ghostwriter, have become popular on the app for imagining artists sing each other songs.

Developing transformational partnerships with important innovators is critical to UMG’s commitment to promoting an environment in which artists and songwriters prosper. We’re gratified to renew our relationship with TikTok predicated on significant advancements in commercial and marketing opportunities as well as protections provided to our industry-leading roster on their platform. With the constantly evolving ways that social interaction, fan engagement, music discovery and artistic ingenuity converge on TikTok, we see great potential in our collaboration going forward.

— UMG executive vp/chief digital officer Michael Nash

We will slowly but surely see changes on TikTok.

Read more below.

UMG’s Copyright Purge On TikTok Hits BTS, BLACKPINK, And More Hard

Source: Billboard

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