Even before Universal Music Group removed its catalog from TikTok in the early hours of Thursday, artists with the label were on the platform sounding the alarm.
"I have a new song coming out. So my music is getting taken down in five hours but I have a new song coming out in nine hours," said singer Dean Lewis in a TikTok posted Wednesday. "So my song's not coming out on TikTok."
Lewis joins a list of some of the top music acts of the moment — including Taylor Swift, Drake, Olivia Rodrigo, Lady Gaga, Ariana Grande and more — who saw much of their catalogs removed from the app after TikTok and UMG failed to strike a deal on a new contract.
A spokesperson for TikTok confirmed to NBC News on Thursday that UMG’s music catalog is no longer on the platform. (UMG, a Dutch American-owned company, has no relation to NBC Universal, the parent company of NBC News.)
A spokesperson for UMG said "artist rights advocates are speaking out in support of our action."
Their "agreements with TikTok have expired because of TikTok’s unwillingness to appropriately compensate artists and songwriters, protect human artists from the harmful effects of AI, and address online safety issues for TikTok’s users," the spokesperson said.
The removal of UMG’s songs means thousands and potentially millions of videos that used music from the company’s catalogue will now have no audio. Clips of people scream-singing along with Taylor Swift’s “Speak Now” or dancing to Ariana Grande’s new song “Yes, And?” are eerily silent.
It’s not just fan videos — some artists’ own music has been removed from their pages as well. Audio from a video on Swift’s profile, which appeared to previously use the UMG-owned song "Ridin'” by Chamillionaire, is now silenced. On mobile devices, the video shows a label that says, “sound removed due to copyright restrictions.”
In a statement ahead of the music's removal, UMG said the issue was compensation for its artists.
“TikTok proposed paying our artists and songwriters at a rate that is a fraction of the rate that similarly situated major social platforms pay,” UMG said in the statement.
TikTok pushed back on Wednesday, claiming the company was putting “their own greed above the interests of artists and songwriters."
Since its rise in 2019, TikTok has emerged as a major part of the music industry and become a crucial component of marketing campaigns for new music. The platform, which boasts 1.5 billion monthly users, has launched songs like Lil Nas X's "Old Town Road" to top-of-the-charts success and re-invigorated old songs, like Lady Gaga's "Bloody Mary," to enter the public consciousness in new ways. This is thanks to the music-forward nature of the app, where lip-syncs and dance trends were once the cornerstone of the content created on the platform and still pervade the space.
Cody Fry's "I Hear a Symphony" is one of the songs that went mainstream thanks to TikTok. That song was remixed with "Pluto Projector" by Rex Orange County and took off on the platform as a popular sound used when TikTokers wanted to share a sentimental moment or a bittersweet memory.
Fry, talking to NBC News while on tour in Denver, said TikTok changed his life — and his career.
"Obviously, the whole reason I'm signed by Universal is because of my success on TikTok. I don't know if they would have approached me otherwise," he said.
Fry said he was unaware that UMG's music was even in danger of being removed until it was too late.
"I think everyone is still sort of trying to digest what's going on," he said. "Obviously, this is a huge deal for me because I had a viral trend that was started, but there's also artists who are releasing albums that had full promotional strategies centered around TikTok, and overnight those promotional strategies are just null."
Other artists who had hits on TikTok, like "Stick Season" singer Noah Kahan, posted to TikTok upon learning his music would soon be unavailable on the platform.
"I won't be able to promote my music on TikTok anymore, but luckily I'm not a TikTok artist, right?" Kahan said jokingly, later adding, "I'll probably be OK, right? I'll land on my feet, right? Right?"
Some labels encourage artists to make music that goes viral on the platform, Long said. Such a feat would be even more difficult to achieve under these circumstances.
"I mean, it's not like they are refusing to support my music until I prove that it's valuable by investing my own money and maybe possibly lucking up on a hot TikTok trend or anything like that," she wrote in the text of her TikTok video. "It's fine. Everything's fine."
Long did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In an attempt to address its artists' concerns before the music removal, UMG released an open letter titled, “Why We Must Call Time Out on TikTok."
“Ultimately TikTok is trying to build a music-based business, without paying fair value for the music,” UMG wrote.
UMG's letter also addressed concerns about artificial intelligence used on TikTok and also said their is a significant amount of copyright infringement on the platform.
“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,” UMG wrote.