Forget Taylor Swift and Bad Bunny — TikTokers are now dancing to royalty-free music (2024)

  • Universal Music Group has started removing its artists' songs from TikTok.
  • So now, TikTok creators are dancing to royalty-free music instead.
  • In particular, a track called "Fluffing a Duck" has been gaining popularity among creators.

Forget Taylor Swift and Bad Bunny — TikTokers are now dancing to royalty-free music (1)


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Forget Taylor Swift and Bad Bunny — TikTokers are now dancing to royalty-free music (2)

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If you open TikTok today, you might well be greeted with creators dancing to royalty-free music instead of your favorite tunes from artists like Taylor Swift or Bad Bunny.

That's because Universal Music Group, the label behind some of the world's biggest music acts, has started pulling its catalog from the video-sharing platform after a licensing agreement between both companies expired on Wednesday.

The move has resulted in a whole archive of "muted" TikTok videos, and even the UMG artists themselves aren't safe. A live performance video of Justin Bieber singing "Yummy," which was uploaded to his verified TikTok page in 2022, is now silent. Bieber has been affiliated with UMG since 2010.

Some TikTok creators are already responding to UMG's move by filming themselves dancing to songs in the public domain. It's the kind of generic music you'd hear in a sitcom, or in a cartoon.


In particular, a track called "Fluffing a Duck" by Kevin MacLeod has gained popularity. The royalty-free track, which sounds like a tune from a video-game loading screen, was also recently used in a Golden Globes segment featuring Kristen Wiig and Will Ferrell.

Sophia Romano, an NYC-based content creator who goes by the username @sophiacromano, was one of many who used the track in a video in response to UMG's decision.

"Me trying to dance to noncopyrighted music thx umg," Romano wrote in the overlayed caption of a video of her dancing to the song.

Romano, 26, told BI that the removal of UMG artists' music has impacted many of her videos.


"As far as past videos, I see several that are 'muted' with the option to 'replace sound.' I'm glad they are far in the past because I look awkward mouthing and dancing to no music," Romano said. "I find the 'replace sound' option kind of pointless, since other music may not necessarily suit the video."

She said she now has to rethink some video ideas that she had already planned.

"I would say 75% of my videos would contain UMG music," Romano said. "UMG has so many talented and well-known artists that we all love, it's going to be not only difficult but sad that I can't incorporate the people and music I love in my videos."

Brian Gabriel, a 23-year-old creator based in Los Angeles, posted a video of him dancing to "Fluffing a Duck" two days ago, accompanied by a caption that reads, "Its getting annoying." Gabriel's video has been viewed over a thousand times to date.


Gabriel, who goes by the username @briangabrielll, told BI that not being able to use music from UMG artists has impacted the quality of his videos.

"I did see a lot of sounds and songs being removed from videos and it does affect the quality of the content that we show to the public," Gabriel said.

Considering that TikTok has become a huge platform for music discovery, Gabriel said he thinks UMG's decision might also inadvertently impact its own artists in the future.

"I feel that UMG is going to start to put new music out there and it will be hard to reach new and young audiences since they don't have that easy connection with them on social media platforms like TikTok, and the impact that these social platforms have to push artists' music," he added.


UMG did not respond to a request for comment from BI sent outside regular business hours.

Classical music and solos take center stage

Apart from "Fluffing the Duck," some TikTok users have also gotten creative with their choice of royalty-free tunes for their videos.

Take TikTok user Nikalas Anderson. Anderson, who goes by the username @nikalas.anderson, posted a video of himself dancing to Beethoven's "Für Elise."

Other creators have taken to singing covers of popular songs in their videos.


Wendy Ly, who goes by the username @wendyskin, posted a Japan travel video with audio of her and her partner singing Swift's "Love Story."

"When we have to sing the song bc UMG took the song away," she wrote in an overlayed caption.

@wendyskin lol 🙃 anway, full Japan vlog is out now on my YT CHANNEL! 2 weeks of fun plus an itinerary is provided 🇯🇵 #japan #tokyo #osaka #nara #kyoto #vlog ♬ original sound - wendy ly

While it remains to be seen if TikTok can survive without UMG's music, perhaps the best way for users to deal with it for now is by being creative, Romano said.

"TikTok users love this app for more than just music," Romano said. "Some creators may have a harder time than others with the loss of these artists, but maybe this will help creators find more of a niche with their content."

Insights, advice, suggestions, feedback and comments from experts


As an expert in public speaking, I can provide you with information related to the concepts used in this article. I have extensive knowledge and experience in this field, which allows me to offer valuable insights and guidance.

Public Speaking Concepts

  1. Licensing Agreement: A licensing agreement is a legal contract between two parties that grants one party the right to use the intellectual property of the other party in exchange for compensation or other agreed-upon terms. In the case of Universal Music Group (UMG) and TikTok, the licensing agreement allowed TikTok to use UMG's catalog of music in its platform.

  2. Royalty-Free Music: Royalty-free music refers to music that can be used without the need to pay royalties or additional fees for each use. It is often used in various media productions, including videos, commercials, and online platforms like TikTok. Creators on TikTok are now using royalty-free music as UMG has started removing its artists' songs from the platform.

  3. "Fluffing a Duck": "Fluffing a Duck" is a track composed by Kevin MacLeod. It is a royalty-free track that has gained popularity among TikTok creators as they search for alternative music options after UMG's removal of its artists' songs. The track has a playful and upbeat tone, making it suitable for dance videos and other creative content.

  4. Impact on TikTok Creators: The removal of UMG artists' music from TikTok has had a significant impact on creators who relied on these songs for their videos. Many creators have had their videos muted or had to replace the sound with alternative music. This change has forced creators to adapt and find new ways to create engaging content using royalty-free music or other creative approaches.

  5. Creative Adaptation: TikTok creators are responding to UMG's move by being creative and finding alternative ways to make their videos entertaining. Some creators have started using royalty-free tracks like "Fluffing a Duck" or even singing covers of popular songs. This adaptability showcases the resilience and creativity of TikTok's user community.


In conclusion, this article highlights the impact of Universal Music Group's decision to remove its artists' songs from TikTok. This has led to TikTok creators using royalty-free music, such as the track "Fluffing a Duck," to continue creating engaging content. Despite the challenges, TikTok creators are finding innovative ways to adapt and maintain their creativity on the platform.

Forget Taylor Swift and Bad Bunny — TikTokers are now dancing to royalty-free music (2024)
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