The gloves are off. Earlier today, MBW broke the news that Universal Music Group was pulling its music catalog off TikTok rival Triller.
Universal accused Triller of “not valu[ing] artists”, suggesting that the platform had “shamefully withheld payments owed to our artists” and was “refus[ing] to negotiate a license going forward”.
Adding intrigue to the story: Triller announced a licensing deal with Universal back in 2018, which we presumed to have expired.
Now Triller has fired back at Universal. A spokesperson for the short-form video company just sent a statement which reads as follows: “We can confirm our deal with UMG expired approximately one week ago. We have been negotiating since then in an attempt to renew. The renewal however was just a formality and a courtesy to UMG, as a shareholder of Triller.
“Triller does not need a deal with UMG to continue operating as it has been since the relevant artists are already shareholders or partners on Triller, and thus can authorize their usage directly. Triller has no use for a licensing deal with UMG.
“Triller does not need a deal with UMG to continue operating as it has been since the relevant artists are already shareholders or partners on Triller, and thus can authorize their usage directly. Triller has no use for a licensing deal with UMG.”
“We categorically deny we have withheld any artist payments (our deal has only been one week expired) and if anything, it is UMG using their artist names as a front to extract ridiculous and non-sustainable payments for themselves and not their artists. They did this exact same thing to TikTok For [sic] two years and virtually every other social network.”
Triller’s statement continues: “It is unfortunate UMG decided to use the press as it’s [sic] ‘negotiating leverage’ when they realized we aren’t going to be held hostage. UMG is well aware any agreement was just out of respect and courtesy, not necessity. We have been operating without it and there has been no change in our business.”
UPDATE: Having read Triller’s latest claims, a Universal Music Group spokesperson responded with the following: “Triller’s statements are removed from reality.”
“Triller’s statements are removed from reality.”
All three major music companies are believed to own minority stakes in Triller.
Trade body the Artist Rights Alliance, which lobbies on behalf of the US artist community, said of today’s news: “It’s sad to see Triller join the long list of tech companies that talk big about music but fail to deliver for artists, songwriters, and fans.
“We strongly support the ongoing fight for fair treatment for music creators and an online world in which all music is licensed and paid for.”
In the last quarter of 2020, reports said that Triller was looking at going public, having secured a $100 million funding round at a $1.25 billion valuation.
In November last year, Triller announced that it had hired Tuhin Roy in a senior role as Operating Principal. He left his position as SVP, Innovation at Universal to join Triller.
Universal Music Group’s own IPO, according to its parent Vivendi, could happen this year, and will definitely happen by “early 2022 at the latest”.Music Business Worldwide