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TikTok creators find workarounds after Universal pulls music tracks

Posted on 5th February 2024

TikTokers are coming up with creative ways of replacing muted pop songs on their videos after the widely reported licensing row between TikTok and Universal Music Group meant that millions of songs were taken down – including big names like Taylor Swift, Rihanna and Olivia Rodrigo.


Mikael Arellano, who's well-known for creating trending dance routines to Taylor Swift songs, is talking about it being "the end of an era" after lots of his previous videos had their sounds removed. He's just one of many Taylor Swift fans now singing her songs themselves, like this video where he recreates his Bejeweled dance with his own voiceover – which people in the comments say is "The new official bejeweled sound":

Jodi Picoult – author of books including My Sister's Keeper, Nineteen Minutes and The Pact – has used Mikael's sound in a video about "trying to figure out how to sell my books now that Taylor's gone":

Brands are wondering what TikTok is going to be like without access to Taylor Swift's songs, like Flying Tiger Copenhagen ("umg may have removed their songs but we're still swifties") and Moonpig joking about the struggles "trying to sell our silly little cards now UM's pulled their songs".

Influencer Trisha Paytas has done a series of videos covering trending TikTok sounds which people can use on their videos, like Good 4 U by Olivia Rodrigo, Night Changes by One Direction and Hotline Bling by Drake which comments joke "is the only version we need".

Some dance creators are applying royalty-free tracks to their routines – like Fluffing a Duck by Kevin MacLeod which has been used in routines by creators like @nianaguerrero (75m views), @jerseyyjoe (23m views) and @c_marquez_ who jokes "We’re cooked bro ☠️" (17m views).

Sophie Ellis-Bextor reacted to her song Murder on the Dancefloor going from number one in the Top 50 Music Charts on TikTok to being removed, which comments say is "literally a murder on the dance floor". The song had been hugely popular after featuring in the film Saltburn, with thousands of TikTokers recreating the final scene to the song.

Amy Macdonald issued a "Public service announcement" to her followers, explaining how her first four albums were on Universal, but her fifth album isn't, so songs like The Hudson are still available to use. Comments say it's "very strange that you the writer can't use your stuff on here now", to which she's replied: "Even worse, I actually own the copyright too. They’re just loaning it off me for a few years. Music industry is weird."

The removal of millions of songs from TikTok is one of the biggest changes creators have experienced on the platform – and is going to impact the content being posted in the weeks and months to come.


Buzz from Shooglebox surfaces and tracks more than 100 new trends every month, helping brands and their agencies move fast to understand and act on relevant trends and themes in their own marketing plans.

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