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April 12, 2024

Taylor Swift fans upload homemade versions of her music on TikTok during label dispute

Taylor Swift fans upload homemade versions of her music on TikTok during label dispute

Taylor Swift’s music has been swiftly pulled off of TikTok, leaving Swifties with no choice but to record their own versions of the artist’s songs.

Universal Music Group, one of the “Big Three” music corporations, sparked a chaotic era for the fans when it pulled its catalog from the platform after it failed to reach a deal with TikTok. 

A UMG spokesperson told NBC News that the company’s agreements with TikTok 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.” In a public statement, TikTok called UMG’s claims “false,” saying the company “put their own greed above the interests of their artists and songwriters.”

As a result, UMG, which has no relation to NBC News or NBC Universal, removed thousands of songs by popular artists from the platform this week, including all of Swift’s catalog. Now, hundreds of thousands of TikToks, some with millions of views, are silent and read, “Sound removed due to copyright restrictions.”

But Swift fans on TikTok have developed a workaround: Singing the songs themselves. The artistic quick-fix has resulted in a handful of people filming themselves belting, sometimes off-key, and posting the hilarious results. 

Other TikTok creators have been using well-known noncopyrighted stock music in replacement of music, with similarly humorous effects. 

A representative for Swift didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Angela, a Swift fan from Argentina who spoke on the condition that her last name not be published, has been posting covers of Swift songs to TikTok for more than five months. Now, some of those covers are being used in TikTok videos about Swift in place of Swift’s songs. 

“I want people to enjoy them, and if it also helps them that’s even better,” Angela said in a direct message. “It also helps me, because more people will be able to listen to my covers and find out about my account.” 

Other Swift fans have realized there are ways to game the new copyright system — by speeding up or slowing down the audio in Swift’s songs, or changing the pitch of the songs, they can still post them without automatic detection. 

Angela thinks that eventually TikTok and UMG will reach a new agreement, allowing Swift fans to use her songs in TikTok videos again. Until then, she wrote that Swift fans will likely continue to find creative ways to incorporate Swift’s music into videos. 

“I’m sure fans will discover all sorts of ways to include Taylor songs,” she wrote.

Kat Tenbarge

Kat Tenbarge is a tech and culture reporter for NBC News Digital. She can be reached at Kat.Tenbarge@nbcuni.com

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