From Triller owing rightsholders over $23m to the MLC’s plan to audit DSPs… it’s MBW’s Weekly Round-Up

Welcome to Music Business Worldwide’s weekly round-up – where we make sure you caught the five biggest stories to hit our headlines over the past seven days. MBW’s round-up is supported by Centtrip, which helps over 500 of the world’s best-selling artists maximize their income and reduce their touring costs.

This week, we learned that TikTok rival Triller has $23.6 million in outstanding music licensing-related payment obligations, and less than $1 million in cash on hand to pay them.

The company also revealed, in a new SEC filing amending its notice of intent to trade on the New York Stock Exchange, that it has raised more than $420 million from investors to date.

We also found out this week, as first reported by Reuters, that France-headquartered music company Believe is ‘exploring the possibility’ of delisting from the Paris Euronext Exchange, and according to sources, has been talking to private equity groups about it.

Two of these firms were identified by Reuters‘ sources: EQT and Permira. However, it appears talks with both firms ended last month.

Elsewhere, the Mechanical Licensing Collective (MLC), a nonprofit established under US law to develop and administer a mechanical licensing system for digital music, is planning to audit nearly 50 digital service providers, including Spotify, SoundCloud and Apple Music. The audits will cover the first three years of The MLC’s mechanical licensing system, from the beginning of 2021 to the end of 2023.

Also, the latest MBW podcast features Rasty Turek, the founder of content identification firm Pex, which has discovered that over a million tracks on streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music are what Turek calls “modified audio.”

These are tracks that have been sped up, slowed down, or otherwise modified, and reuploaded to streaming services, often without proper attribution. Which means, of course, that royalty payments aren’t going where they’re supposed to.

Finally, news arrived on Friday (January 12) that a round of redundancies is coming/underway at Universal Music Group.

Here’s what happened this week…

1) Triller owes music rightsholders more than $23m (which it doesn’t have the cash to pay). Oh, and it’s just purged 200m bot/duplicate accounts from its platform. Oh, and it still wants to IPO.

TikTok rival Triller simply will not give up on its ambition of trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

On Friday (January 12), the US company filed its most recent Amendment (No.4) to its S-1 Registration statement with the SEC for a proposed IPO.

According to the amendment, Triller is planning a direct listing on the NYSE “on or about 2024“. No specific month or quarter is provided.

But that’s not the most interesting thing in the document.

Many, erm, ‘eye-opening’ facts about Triller – which has made various proclamations about floating on a US stock exchange in recent years, without actually doing so – are revealed within the new amendment’s ‘Risk Factors’ section.

They tell a story of a company facing various legal problems and financial uncertainty.

Here are four of Triller’s most surprising declarations – including the one where it confirms having raised over $420 million from investors to date… (MBW)

Denis Ladegaillerie
2) Is Believe about to come off the stock market and re-privatize?

Could Paris-based music company Believe be set to leave the stock market and re-privatize?

According to Reuters, the largest shareholders at the company, which trades on the Paris Euronext, are ‘exploring the possibility‘.

MBW’s own sources have confirmed in recent weeks that various discussions have taken place between the company and potential private investors.

Citing its own sources, Reuters reports that Believe investors, including founder and CEO Denis Ladegaillerie, have been ‘working with advisers’ and ‘have been sounding out interest’ from the private equity space for potential bids.

One of the external parties involved in those talks, according to Reuters, is Sweden-based private equity group EQT.

However, sources suggest that EQT and Believe ended talks last month. Another potential investor, private equity company Permira, is also said to have ended talks in December… (MBW)

Credit: photo_gonzo/Shutterstock
3) The MLC issues notices of intent to audit Spotify and other DSPs to verify the accuracy of their royalty payments

The Mechanical Licensing Collective (The MLC) has issued notices of intent to conduct audits of digital service providers (DSPs) that started operating under the compulsory blanket license administered by The MLC in 2021.

According to a press release issued on Wednesday (January 17), the audit period noticed includes usage under the blanket license that occurred between January 1, 2021 and December 31, 2023 – the first three years of The MLC’s full operations.

The MLC says it has sent audit notices to nearly 50 DSPs, including music streaming services Spotify, SoundCloud, Apple Music and others.

Established by the landmark Music Modernization Act (MMA), the MLC is a nonprofit entity designated by the United States Copyright Office to develop and administer a mechanical licensing system that launched on January 1, 2021.

The MLC is responsible for collecting and distributing royalties payable to songwriters and copyright owners by digital music services, and for the creation of a first-of-its-kind, public database that will contain critical copyright information on all musical works.

In October, The MLC announced that it has distributed more than $1.5 billion in royalties to date… (MBW)

Rasty Turek
4) A different kind of streaming fraud: Over 1m ‘manipulated’ tracks are on audio streaming services

On this episode of the Music Business Worldwide podcast, MBW founder Tim Ingham is joined by Rasty Turek.

Turek is the founder and CEO of Pex – which, amongst other things, tracks and analyzes copyrighted content on digital services.

According to Pex’s tech, over a million tracks on audio streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music, and TIDAL present a headache for music rightsholders.

These million-plus tracks are what Pex calls “modified audio” – which means an original track has been sped up, slowed down, or otherwise manipulated, and then uploaded as an entirely new recording.

The main issue for the music industry? Unless these million-plus tracks have legally licensed the original recording on which they’re based, they’re infringing copyright.

More than that, they’re pulling royalties away from the original artists in question… (MBW Podcast supported by Voly Entertainment)


Universal Music Group essentially confirmed on Friday (January 12) that a round of redundancies is coming/underway at the company. Said confirmation followed a report in Bloomberg, whose headline suggested UMG will be laying off “hundreds” of staff globally.

In truth, this was all quite predictable: UMG top brass told investors in October that they were preparing a “cut to grow” strategy for the start of 2024 that would see a trimming back of global employees. And while “hundreds” of layoffs deserve a certain amount of media hubbub, the mathematical reality offers useful context: at the end of 2022 (we don’t yet have updated stats for 2023), UMG employed 9,992 people, a figure that was up by 487 net employees YoY. UMG’s employee base also swelled the previous year (2021), up by 322 net employees YoY.

Much more interesting than ‘how many’ in this story, though, is the ‘why’ and the ‘where’…

MBW’s Weekly Round-Up is supported by Centtrip, which helps over 500 of the world’s best-selling artists maximise their income and reduce their touring costs.Music Business Worldwide

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