Universal Music Group started removing its artists' songs from TikTok on February 1.
For some indie musicians, it's an opportunity.
Some independent artists say they've already been seeing a surge in listeners and engagement.
In the days since Universal Music Group pulled its music off TikTok, countless videos on the platform have suddenly been muted. People have started recording themselves dancing to classical music and royalty-free jingles. And many independent artists are realizing this might be their moment to shine.
UMG is the massive music label behind some of the world's best-selling artists — the likes of Taylor Swift, The Weeknd, and Bad Bunny. In addition to topping charts, all three of those artists create music that features prominently on TikTok.
On February 1, UMG pulled its music off TikTok. The move came after the label wrote an open letter claiming a list of grievances against TikTok. Among UMG's accusations are that TikTok pays artists a fraction of the rate paid by other social media platforms, and that the platform is "flooded with AI-generated recordings."
As a result of the move, any TikTok video that used UMG-licensed music has been muted.
Now, many indie music artists are jumping on the opportunity to maximize their exposure. They're using the hashtags #indieartist and #umg in combination on Tiktok posts celebrating their newfound shot at visibility on the platform.
As Emily Zeck, an indie country musician with 2.5 million TikTok followers, wrote on a recent video caption, "It's our time to shine baby."
TikTok did not respond to Business Insider's request for comment, but provided a statement in which it denies UMG's accusations.
'My views and followers have skyrocketed'
Shane Niemi is an independent singer and songwriter best known for his viral song "Maybe My Soulmate Died," which has over 97 million streams on Spotify. Niemi reacted to the UMG ban by posting a video of his music on TikTok on February 2.
"Need music for TikToks since UMG has pulled your favs," Niemi wrote in an overlayed caption of a video compilation of his tracks.
San Diego-based independent rap artist Ktlyn, who has 2.4 million followers on TikTok and 1.5 million monthly Spotify listeners, posted a similar video.
"When UMG removes all their music from tiktok but ur an independent artist and now you might actually have a chance," Ktlyn wrote in a video of her dancing to one of her rap songs, "Big Mad." The song has over 20 million streams on Spotify and has been reused in 1.1 million TikTok videos.
Rebecca Rea, an indie pop artist based in Dallas Fort Worth, took to TikTok on February 5 to share a song she had written about the situation. The lyrics, in part, read: "They're all halfway up the mountain, asking why they can't go higher while small artists stare up from rock bottom after years of trying."
The musician, who has 6,000 followers on TikTok and roughly 1,500 monthly listeners on Spotify, told BI she thinks a lot of smaller artists stand to benefit from UMG's ban.
"Creators will now be seriously limited in what music they can use for their TikToks, which will encourage them to search deeper for less popular sounds to use instead," Rea said.
Lilith Max, an independent folk and pop artist from Houston who's best known for her viral TikTok song "Peasant's Throne," said the move has already helped her engagement.
"My views and followers have skyrocketed since I made a post about the UMG situation and called for a rise of indie artists," Max told BI. Max said she gained 10,000 followers and 563,000 views after she posted the video. BI was not immediately able to verify those stats.
"With UMG's removal, TikTok users are seeking fresh music to add to their videos, and indie artists are willing to fill that gap," Max said.
While some people online are saying the ban also affects small artists who have signed with UMG, most are seeing it as a time to support artists struggling to compete with labels. One of Max's recent videos has gotten comments like, "I'm glad that famous people don't have their songs on here. So people can find artists like you," and, "Who knew TT was gonna be the largest source of indie music on the planet," referring to TikTok.
Max said music from labels like UMG is usually the most sought-after music for videos, but that the past couple of days have marked a happy inversion of that trend for her.
"Now I constantly receive comments from people saying how happy they are to discover underrated artists like myself," Max said.
February 6, 4:49 p.m. SGT: This story has been updated.
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