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Universal Music Group has removed its song catalog from social network Triller, citing several months of unpaid artists’ royalties. The world’s biggest music company also claims Triller shutdown negotiations for a new licensing deal after a 2018 agreement ended.
“We will not work with platforms that do not value artists,” a Universal Music Group spokesperson told Billboard. “Triller has shamefully withheld payments owed to our artists and refuses to negotiate a license going forward. We have no alternative except to remove our music from Triller, effective immediately.”
UMG says it sent multiple warnings to Triller, but the video-sharing platform’s CEO told Billboard otherwise, maintaining that he first learned about the eviction from last week’s press.
“This has to be a bad Punk’d episode. I’m waiting for Ashton [Kutcher] to jump out of my closet,” Triller head Mike Lu said in a statement. “Our relationship with UMG is solid. Its biggest artists are investors and partners in Triller and Universal owns part of Triller. We find it hard to believe UMG wouldn’t give us any warning or notice but just tell us via press.”
Triller launched in 2015 as a video-editing service, later morphing into another music-based social network, which gained traction last year following rival TikTok’s ban in India. Among its notable users are Miley Cyrus and her father Billy Ray Cyrus, Mike Tyson, The Weeknd, Snoop Dogg, and DJ Khaled, as well as a handful of internet celebrities and, most recently, Donald Trump.
The platform boasts music from partners like Verve Records, Spotify, Atlantic Records, Sony Music, RCA Records, Epic Records, Warner Records, and Columbia Records, as well as collaborations with Def Jam Recordings, Island Records, Republic Records, Interscope Geffen A&M Records, Caroline Records, and Capitol Records—all of which are owned by Universal Music Group.
“We can confirm our deal with UMG expired approximately one week ago. We have been negotiating since then in an attempt to renew,” a Triller spokesperson told Pitchfork. “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.”
The statement goes on to “categorically deny” withholding any artist payments, adding that, “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.”
“It is unfortunate UMG decided to use the press as its ‘negotiating leverage’ when they realized we aren’t going to be held hostage,” the spokesperson said. “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.”
Neither UMG nor Triller immediately responded to PCMag’s request for comment.
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