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TikTokers are finding creative (and funny) ways to get around having less music

I’m sorry UMG but I like this version of TikTok more

An image showing Gojo in the Jujutsu Kaisen season 2 trailer. He is beat up from a fight and is letting out a heavy exhale. Image: Studio MAPPA/Toho Animation
Ana Diaz (she/her) is a culture writer at Polygon, covering internet culture, fandom, and video games. Her work has previously appeared at NPR, Wired, and The Verge.

I gotta hand it to fans for turning a limitation into something fun.

Last week, Universal Music Group (UMG) removed its entire catalog of music from TikTok. As a result, songs from hundreds of globally popular musicians like Taylor Swift and Bad Bunny are no longer available on the platform, severely limiting the options for creating viral thirst videos, among other use cases. That hasn’t stopped the platform’s users from getting creative. Non-copyrighted music has, of course, become extremely popular. But since Friday, users have even begun using ringtones and other familiar jingles to create their videos. The result has been a perplexing mix of previously obscure songs alongside new bops uncovered from, of all places, modern washing machines.

At this point, it’s hard to fully evaluate the scope and the impact that UMG’s actions have had for TikTok users — including the creatives who actually generate the music in the first place. Its catalog includes several popular artists, many of whom have made a name for themselves on the TikTok platform. For a mega-popular artist like Swift, one single song could be integral to more than 100,000 videos on TikTok, which now have to find another source of music. Even seemingly unrelated internet bubbles, like fans who create fan edits of anime characters, were impacted by the change as their library of viable music became more restricted.

Luckily for us, it seems there is no news event too big or change to our culture so small that it cannot be turned into a meme online. Currently, some fans are leaning into TikTok’s suddenly limited licensed music options by sourcing hilarious new songs. One particular song called “Fluffing a Duck” has taken off as a popular choice. Fans are even reverse-engineering videos to make Taylor Swift dance to it.

@w4ybright

thanks tiktok for muting our edits!! gonna start using kahoot music and this ig. || insta account on my bio, i'll start posting more content there #taylorswift #taylorswiftedit #taylornation #taylorsversion #swifttie #swfittok#erastour #theerastour #reputation #lover #midnights #ae #fyp

♬ original sound - w4ybright - w4ybright

Other than using royalty-free and copyright-free music, others have taken common sounds, like the default iPhone alarm sound, and used it to create a remix for use in fan edits. Here is an example using Baldur’s Gate 3’s beloved Astarion.

The Jujustu Kaisen fandom has been particularly hard at work. If these video editors have taught me anything, there really is no limit to what can be spun into a funny video of a character. I’ve seen Jujustu Kaisen fans make videos using songs like “Cotton Eye Joe,” “Baby Shark,” and a warped version of the opening fanfare that plays when you watch a Disney movie. My personal favorite is someone used the jingle that my LG clothes washer and dryer plays whenever it is done with a load of laundry, and used it to make an edit of Gojo from Jujutsu Kaisen. Just scroll on to see some hilarious examples.

@rxooby

✧・゚#YUJIITADORI || tiktok you’ll have to try harder than that || #jujutsukaisen #jjk #jjkedit #fypシ゚ #viral #shotosloverr #rxooby @[Eli ] @aiste @Mera (Getos wifeyy) @snyxyz @☆•ɪᴛᴀᴅxʀɪ•☆ @☆ ☆ @Elixr ✁ @☆ kuno @Steph @Steph! @jas ❅ @Ani | Sanemi’s 100% canon wife @Brook ✨

♬ original sound - ꕥ rooby

Although edits like these have taken a major disruption and spun it into a joke, we have yet to see the full ramifications of the decision. UMG is one of the largest music groups in the world, and many of their artists depend on the platform to promote their music. Even inside the anime world, TikTok showed that fandom can be a way to help bolster a musician’s work and turn music into a viable career. Now, fans all over the world won’t be able to discover UMG’s music on TikTok through fun videos like thirst edits of Gojo from Jujutsu Kaisen. Perhaps they’ll be inspired to purchase a new LG washer instead.

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