Things were going well for Cody Fry, a singer-songwriter and producer known for his lush pop songs. He was looking forward to a pair of concerts with Ben Rector and the Colorado Symphony at the Boettcher Concert Hall in Denver. And on Monday his management team called him with exciting news: One of his songs, “Things You Said,” a romantic duet with Abby Cates, was gaining TikTok traction in China.
More than 750,000 videos were created with that song in a single day, Mr. Fry said in a TikTok video. It was the kind of organic viral moment that artists and marketers dream of, the kind that can’t be forced.
But by Thursday, many of the fan-made videos featuring “Things You Said” went mute. The sudden TikTok silence came about after Universal Music Group, the world’s largest music company, pulled its catalog from TikTok after its contract with the platform expired.
In addition to Mr. Fry, who is signed to Decca Records, one of the company’s many labels, Universal artists whose videos went silent include SZA, Taylor Swift and Ice Spice.
Picture a TikTok video of somebody dancing to a snippet of Ms. Swift’s “Bejeweled.” Now picture that person dancing in complete silence.
“Help, this is so awkward with no music,” a comment read on a recent TikTok posted by Ice Spice, a rapper whose music regularly sparks a big reaction on the platform.