Taylor Swift’s music is back on TikTok, despite no resolution in its dispute with UMG

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When you’re as big as Taylor Swift, you set your own rules.

That might be one key takeaway from the news reports proliferating on Thursday (April 11) that Swift’s music has started reappearing on TikTok – despite the fact there’s been no movement in the ongoing licensing dispute between the social media platform and Universal Music Group, with whom Swift has both recording and publishing agreements.

Music from other UMG artists, such as Drake, Ariana Grande, and Camila Cabello, continues to be absent (at least officially, and at least in their original forms) from TikTok, news reports indicate.

However, tracks such as Cruel Summer, You Belong With Me, Style (Taylor’s Version), Me!, Is It Over Now? (Taylor’s Version), and others have been reported to be available for videos on TikTok.

It’s likely no coincidence that Swift’s music has reappeared on TikTok little more than a week before the April 19 release of her new album, The Tortured Poets Department.

So how is this happening? Given that the details of recording contracts and publishing agreements are rarely made public, that’s currently a matter of speculation – especially given that, at least so far, UMG isn’t talking.

What we do know is that UMG’s Republic Records is Swift’s label in the US, and she signed a deal with Universal Music Publishing Group in 2020.

However, Swift at this point is notable in the industry for the unusual amount of control she has over her own music. As the Hollywood Reporter notes, Swift has owned the publishing rights to her songs since 2019; meanwhile, Variety speculates that TikTok likely “reached a separate deal with Swift,” as she owns many of her own master recordings.

MBW has reached out to UMG for comment.

UMG’s recorded music catalog – around 3 million tracks – disappeared from TikTok at the end of January, after it emerged publicly that the two companies were unable to come to a licensing agreement.

UMG’s publishing catalog – around 4 million tracks – began to disappear from TikTok about a month later.

Amidst the acrimonious dispute, UMG said that TikTok “trying to build a music-based business, without paying fair value for the music,” and said it was “pressing” the platform on “three critical issues” including “appropriate compensation for our artists and songwriters, protecting human artists from the harmful effects of AI, and online safety for TikTok’s users”.

For its part, TikTok accused UMG of “put[ting] their own greed above the interests of their artists and songwriters,” and charged UMG with using “false narrative and rhetoric.”

Variety reports that many UMG-linked artists are growing unhappy with the ongoing dispute, and that songs from UMG’s recorded and publishing catalog “continue to pop up on the platform, posted by fans or, some suspect, representatives of the artists themselves.”

Swift has become well-known for the degree of control over her music that she has attained, most notably in the wake of her objections to Scooter Braun’s acquisition of Big Machine Records in 2019, complete with its ownership of the masters of Swift’s first six albums, and his subsequent sale of those rights to Shamrock Capital 18 months later, for an estimated profit of $265 million.

Evidently upset that she didn’t end up with the masters herself, Swift re-recorded “Taylor’s versions” of the albums, made possible by the fact that she retains publishing rights over her music. Her fans rallied around her in the controversy, ensuring that Taylor’s versions massively out-streamed the Big Machine originals.

However, news emerged that Swift had the opportunity to buy her master recordings, and emails obtained by MBW suggested that Braun was interested in selling her those masters.

However, the deal fell apart over a disagreement about the details of the non-disclosure agreement Braun wanted Swift’s management team to sign before giving them access to Big Machine’s confidential data.Music Business Worldwide

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