MBW (and Skibidi Toilet) just inspired a flurry of TikTok music takedowns

Skibidi Toilet videos have had over 65 BILLION plays on YouTube and YouTube Shorts, according to the Washington Post's Taylor Lorenz

Traditionally speaking, you wouldn’t expect an article about a digitized head in a toilet to count as ‘activist journalism’. Evidently, these are not traditional times.

Last Thursday (March 14), MBW told you all about Skibidi Toilet – an online phenomenon, streamed tens of billions of times around the internet, that happens to be built on a ‘manipulated’ version of Timbaland’s 2007 track, Give It To Me (feat. Justin Timberlake and Nelly Furtado).

Why were we obsessing over this puerile slice of viral content, that’s gone so wild amongst ‘Gen Alpha’?

Because ‘manipulated audio’ (i.e. tracks that have been sped up, slowed down, or otherwise tweaked, before being uploaded to the internet) is becoming a major story for the record industry in 2024.

Last month, monitoring platform Pex estimated that over 38% of all tracks available on TikTok today are ‘manipulated’ in some way. Pex analyzed over 100 million videos on the platform to draw this conclusion.

In MBW’s report last week, we tied all of this to a plain fact: Despite Universal Music Group pulling its ‘official’ catalog from TikTok in the past two months, there remained stacks of ‘manipulated’ versions of UMG recordings on the ByteDance platform, typically uploaded by users as ‘Sounds’.

We did our own quick bit of research on the platform, and identified that – at the time of publication – the following six-strong sample of ‘manipulated’ sounds were all readily available on TikTok:

  1. A bundle of videos featuring a modified version of Katy Perry’s Dark Horse (a UMG recording);
  2. A bundle of videos featuring a modified version of Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance (a UMG recording);
  3. A bundle of videos featuring a modified version of Amy Winehouse’s Back To Black (a UMG recording);
  4. A bundle of videos featuring a modified version of Sam Smith & Kim Petras’ Unholy (a UMG recording);
  5. A bundle of videos featuring a modified version of Lana Del Rey’s Doin’ Time (a UMG recording);
  6. A bundle of videos featuring a modified version of Soulja Boy’s Crank That (a UMG recording), spliced with Mariah Carey’s All I Want For Christmas Is You (a Sony recording);

But guess what happened then – within 48 hours of MBW’s Skibidi Toilet article going live?

All of these ‘Sounds’ were removed from the TikTok platform.

This screen now greets TikTok users who attempt to find the ‘manipulated’ sounds covered in MBW’s report last week

That’s not all.

Also in the Skibidi Toilet article on MBW last week: We pointed to a specific video with over 34 million plays on TikTok, in which an influencer – ‘Ykare’ – sings Noah Kahan’s Stick Season in the shower while dressed as a Teletubby.

As we noted, this video clearly depicted ‘Ykare’ singing Stick Season over the top of a (very loud) playback of the original recording of Stick Season (as controlled by UMG/Republic). Yet the ‘sound’ of the video on TikTok was attributed to ‘Ykare’ himself.

Now… this wasn’t exactly ‘modified audio’ in terms of a pitch or tempo being deliberately adjusted, but it was heavily surprising, considering that the original recording of Stick Season – since UMG’s deal with TikTok expired on February 1 – has not been licensed for use on ByteDance platforms.

Same question again, then… guess what happened to the ‘Ykare’ video within 48 hours of MBW’s Skibidi article going live?

Yup: The ‘sound’ of YKare’s shower video was removed by TikTok – as noted by the influencer and his viewers in the comments under his work of art.

Ykare interacts with viewers of his video regarding the takedown of his TikTok ‘Sound’

Who’s responsible for the removal of all of these sounds on TikTok?

Ultimately, TikTok itself. But it may or may not have been triggered into action in this case by copyright takedown requests from Universal Music Group.

As MBW’s story last week uncovered, since February 1, UMG’s team has sent TikTok over 37,000 separate takedown requests regarding ‘sounds’ on the platform that manipulate UMG-controlled audio.

This action from UMG has resulted, we discovered, in the muting of over 120 million (!) videos on TikTok so far.

He’s a determined one, though, that purple Teletubby.

At the time of publication of this article (March 18), following the takedown of his original ‘Sound’, ‘Ykare’ appears to have re-uploaded audio for his Stick Season video on TikTok… this time, with ever-so-slight differences from the audio that accompanied the video previously.

Once again, however, this new version features – loud and proud in the background – the vocals from Noah Kahan’s original recording of Stick Season… a UMG/Republic release.

And doesn’t that kinda perfectly sum up the current ‘whack-a-mole’ nature of attempting to police manipulated audio on TikTok?

TikTok removed the ‘sound’ underpinning Ykare’s shower video. He’s since uploaded a new audio track to accompany the video… that once again features Noah Kahan’s vocals from the original recording of Stick Season

Talking of ‘whack-a-mole’ stories: the original ‘music’ video of Skibidi Toilet has been removed in recent weeks on YouTube, where it first found global fame.

Happily, you can still find ripped-and-reuploaded versions of this video on YouTube, including the below (before it gets taken down, anyway):

You can also, of course, enjoy the original, official, 17-year-old Give It To Me video, from Timbaland, Justin Timberlake, and Nelly Furtado, over on YouTube.

This writer’s personal favorite comment under that video?

“FUN FACT: this song is older that 99.9% of skibidi toilet fans”

Not this one, pal. Not this one.Music Business Worldwide