Universal Music Group has pulled its catalog from TikTok rival app Triller. A UMG spokesperson issued the following statement: “We will not work with platforms that do not value artists. 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.”
Triller CEO Mike Lu gave a statement to Billboard on the development, saying, “This has to be a bad Punk’d episode. I’m waiting for Ashton to jump out of my closet. 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.”
When reached by Pitchfork, a Triller spokesperson issued the following statement:
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.
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 two years and virtually every other social network.
It is unfortunate UMG decided to use the press as its “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
In June 2018, Triller and UMG announced that they had reached a licensing agreement that would give Triller users access to UMG’s entire catalog, which includes Taylor Swift, Drake, Kanye West, and other well-known acts. That agreement has ostensibly expired. A representative for UMG later gave Music Business Worldwide the following comment in response to Triller’s statement: “Triller’s statements are removed from reality.”
Triller, founded in 2015, has come under fire from several sides over the past year. The National Music Publishers Association asserted in July 2020 that the video app company had failed to properly license music on its platform. In November, Wixen Music Publishing hit Triller with a $50 million copyright infringement lawsuit, claiming that compositions administered by Wixen had been improperly used on the app. Triller has also been engaged in a legal battle with TikTok and Chinese parent company ByteDance since July 2020, when the former sued the latter for patent infringement.