As the Triller Dispute Turns Ugly, Universal Music Expands Its TikTok Partnership

Universal Music TikTok partnership
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Universal Music TikTok partnership
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Photo Credit: Solen Feyissa

Universal Music Group pulled its music from Triller over royalty payment disputes — and Triller fired back. Now the music giant is expanding its TikTok partnership.

On Friday, Universal Music Group abruptly pulled all of its music from Triller. “We will not work with platforms that do not value artists,” a UMG representative confirms. “Triller has shamefully withheld payments owed to our artists and refuses to negotiate a license going forward.”

Triller’s CEO said he learned of Universal pulling its music via the press. But it’s not the first time CEO Mike Lu says he’s been unaware of licensing disputes. The National Music Publishers’ Association said last year that Triller wasn’t fully licensed for its music. At the time, Rolling Stone recorded Mike Lu’s response saying he’s “really surprised to see that form David” Israelite, CEO of NMPA.

Neither Sony or Warner Music have commented on the Universal Music and Triller break-up. But Universal Music isn’t resting on its laurels with short-form video, either.

UMG has just announced a global agreement with TikTok that “delivers equitable compensation for recording artists and songwriters.” It’s a direct slap in the face to Triller amid the dispute over artist payments.

“With this agreement, which covers recorded music from artists at UMG’s labels and songwriters with UMPG, TikTok users will be more empowered than ever to express themselves through music, soundtrack their video creations with songs about which they are passionate, and build communities around artists and music-centered culture,” Universal Music says in a release announcing the partnership.

Michael Nash, Executive Vice President of Digital Strategy at UMG, says the two companies will now work more closely together. “With the shared objective of developing new music experiences and features and driving new and deeper connections with fans,” Nash explained.

“This agreement delivers equitable compensation to our recording artists and songwriters, as well as a commitment to develop industry-leading tools, A&R insights, and models necessary to advance their careers,” Nash continues.

Triller says its partnership with UMG did expire one week ago, but that its renewal was just a formality. Universal Music has moved on with TikTok, it seems.

“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,” a Triller spokesperson says. “Triller has no use for a licensing deal with UMG. We categorically deny we have withheld any artist payments. 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.”