Universal Music Group (UMG) has officially removed its music from Triller over the TikTok competitor’s allegedly withholding payments and failing to “value artists.”
The Big Three record label formally announced the decision today, in a brief statement that was emailed to Digital Music News. “We will not work with platforms that do not value artists,” stated Universal Music Group. “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.”
The exact circumstances surrounding Triller’s allegedly withholding payments and refusing to negotiate a licensing agreement with UMG remain unclear – though evidence suggests that the all-encompassing takedown may have been abrupt. Triller CEO Mike Lu said that he only learned of the tracks’ removal this morning, for instance.
Additionally, Universal Music Group, UMG Nashville, Universal Music Latin Entertainment, Capitol Records, Def Jam Records, and others were still listed as “partners” on the landing page of Triller’s website at the time of publishing.
In a widely circulated response to Universal Music’s statement, a Triller spokesperson indicated, in part: “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.”
The message proceeded to note that the previous Triller-Universal Music licensing agreement expired one week back, and Triller – which each of the Big Three labels reportedly has a stake in – denied withholding payments from UMG artists (including prominent acts such as Taylor Swift, Billie Eilish, and Lil Baby, to name just some). UMG then returned fire through the press, responding: “Triller’s statements are removed from reality.”
London-based digital music and radio services platform 7digital, which scored an 18-month-long contract with Triller in August of 2020, also addressed the dispute. (The company still states on its website that it is “trusted by global brands and pioneers” including both Triller and UMG.) Triller “remains a customer of 7digital,” higher-ups emphasized in part, and “7digital will continue to provide Triller with services from the company’s platform under the existing terms.”
Nevertheless, 7digital stock – bought and sold as 7DIG on the London Stock Exchange – parted with 7.25 percent of its value during today’s trading hours.
Finally, music industry organizations including the Artist Rights Alliance (ARA) are weighing in on the decidedly public Triller-UMG licensing dispute. In a concise statement that was shared with DMN this afternoon, the ARA relayed: “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 October of 2020, Triller inked licensing deals with PRS for Music, GEMA, STIM, and several other ICE Core collecting societies and indie publishers. The following month, Wixen Music Publishing levied a $50 million copyright infringement complaint against the short-form video-sharing app.