Taylor Swift Songs Return to TikTok Despite Label’s Feud With Platform


Earlier this year, Universal Music Group (UMG) and its publishing arm, Universal Music Publishing Group (UMPG), pulled their songs from TikTok amid a licensing dispute with the app. The removal meant that music from Drake, Lana Del Rey, Ariana Grande, and many others could not be used with videos on TikTok.

Now, according to Variety, one of Universal’s biggest stars has her songs back on TikTok: Taylor Swift. In their report, writers Todd Spangler and Jem Aswad speculate as to why Swift, and none of her Universal colleagues, has her music back on TikTok:

However, 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 the ban has extended to all artists with similar deals.

Pitchfork has reached out to representatives for Taylor Swift, Universal Music Group, Universal Music Publishing Group, and TikTok for comment and more information.

Taylor Swift announced her global recording agreement with Universal Music Group in November 2018. Later, in February 2020, she announced an exclusive global publishing deal with Universal Music Publishing Group.

Swift has released four all-new studio albums through UMG’s Republic Records, and she has a fifth new album, The Tortured Poets Department, coming out next week. Famously, Swift has also been re-recording her back catalog to regain control of her masters. So far, she’s released new editions of Fearless, Red, Speak Now, and 1989 via Republic.

Universal Music Group and Universal Music Publishing Group’s licensing deals with TikTok expired this past winter. The day before the license expired, UMG chairman-CEO Lucian Grainge said in an open letter that his company and TikTok had failed to meet on three main issues: “appropriate compensation for our artists and songwriters, protecting human artists from the harmful effects of AI, and online safety for TikTok’s users.” He added that “TikTok is trying to build a music-based business, without paying fair value for the music.”

TikTok responded in its own open letter that UMG had “put their own greed above the interests of their artists and songwriters,” touting the “artist-first” agreements it had made “with every other label and publisher.”