Songs by some of the biggest pop stars in the world, including Taylor Swift, Olivia Rodrigo, Drake, Rihanna, Ariana Grande, and many more, are set to disappear from TikTok on Wednesday night. The music will be taken down after Universal Music Group (UMG), which owns the songs, failed to reach a deal with the platform to renew its licensing agreement.
In an open letter on Tuesday, UMG wrote that its contract with TikTok expires on Jan. 31, and that during conversations with senior executives, UMG pressed TikTok on three critical issues: “appropriate compensation for our artists and songwriters, protecting human artists from the harmful effects of AI, and online safety for TikTok’s users.” UMG added that through negotiations, TikTok offered to pay UMG artists “a rate that is a fraction of the rate that similarly situated major social platforms pay.”
According to NBC News, about “60% of TikTok videos include music.” It’s an integral part of the app, used in a number of different ways to create dance trends and jokes and provide background music for aesthetic videos. However, there are major concerns surrounding the use of pre-existing music by machine-learning AI to create AI-generated music. This happened last year when an anonymous user named Ghostwriter uploaded a fake Drake and The Weeknd song called “Heart on My Sleeve,” prompting a slew of AI-generated songs to be posted on TikTok.
UMG wrote in the letter that while it acknowledges TikTok’s user base of over 1 billion people, lucrative advertising rates, and commitment to supporting music-based content, overall, the platform only accounts for 1% of the company’s total revenue. UMG said it would stand committed to preserving the rights of their artists and not accept “a deal worth less than the previous deal, far less than fair market value and not reflective of their exponential growth.”
Late Tuesday, TikTok accused UMG of putting “their own greed about the artists and songwriters” in a statement posted to X. In the statement, TikTok said the record industry behemoth is pushing a “false narrative and rhetoric,” noting that it was able to reach agreements with “every other label and publisher,” but “Universal’s self-serving actions are not in the best interests of artists, songwriters, and fans.”
When UMG reached a global agreement deal with TikTok in 2021, they touted that it “delivers equitable compensation for recording artists and songwriters and significantly expands and enhances the companies’ existing relationship, promoting the development of new innovative experiences.”
TIME reached out to Universal Music Group and TikTok for comment, but did not immediately hear back.
Moises Mendez II