Universal Music Group (UMG) is preparing to remove its extensive catalog of songs from TikTok following a breakdown in negotiations over royalty payments. This significant move could see TikTok users losing access to tracks by high-profile artists like Taylor Swift, The Weeknd, and Drake.

The disagreement centers around the payment terms, with Universal Music accusing TikTok of offering substantially lower rates than other social media platforms for the use of its music. UMG’s statement characterized TikTok’s approach as “bullying” and expressed dissatisfaction with the proposed financial terms.

TikTok, owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, has responded by accusing Universal Music of greed and of distorting the truth. Despite TikTok’s massive user base of over one billion, Universal Music stated that the platform contributes only 1% to its total revenue. In a public letter, Universal Music emphasized its commitment to fair compensation for artists and songwriters and raised concerns about protecting human artists from AI’s harmful effects and enhancing online safety for TikTok users.

The contract between Universal Music and TikTok is set to expire on January 31st, and unless an agreement is reached, TikTok stands to lose access to a significant portion of the world’s music. Universal Music, which holds about a third of the global music market, boasts a diverse array of artists, ranging from iconic bands like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones to contemporary stars such as Elton John and Ariana Grande. The decision by Universal Music marks a first in the industry, as it’s the first time the company has removed its songs from a tech firm’s platform.

This development follows a successful licensing agreement between Warner Music, the world’s third-largest recorded music company, and TikTok in July last year. The outcome of Universal Music’s decision could have a considerable impact on the way music is accessed and enjoyed on social media platforms and highlights the ongoing complexities of digital music rights and royalties in the age of social media.