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Timbaland and Swizz Beats sue Triller

By | Published on Wednesday 17 August 2022


Timbaland and Swizz Beats have sued video sharing platform Triller, which they say still owes them $28 million from a deal relating to the popular livestream DJ battle series Verzuz, which the two producers created in March 2020.

Verzuz was launched at the start of the original COVID-19 lockdown and quickly gained a significant following as interest in livestreamed events started to surge. A long line of DJs and artists have now taken part in a Verzuz battle, in which each participant pits a selection of tracks they have produced, written or performed on against those selected by their competitor.

Initially streamed via Instagram Live, the battles were subsequently made available on a number of other social and streaming platforms too. It was then announced that Triller had acquired the rights to the Verzuz format and brand in March 2021, although the livestreams remained accessible on the other platforms even after that acquisition.

For a brief moment earlier this year it looked like future Verzuz battles would be exclusively available via Triller channels, but following a backlash to that proposal, including from Swizz Beatz, the format continued to be accessible elsewhere.

The new legal dispute relates to payments due to Timbaland and Swizz Beats after last year’s acquisition. According to Billboard, the duo’s lawsuit claims that Triller was due to make a number of payments as part of its deal to buy Verzuz. Two payments were made last year on schedule, but a third payment due in January this year didn’t arrive.

A new payment schedule was then agreed which said the producers would receive $18 million in March and then another $1 million a month over the next ten months. However, they claim, those payments never materialised.

Their lawsuit states: “Defendants have failed and refused to respond to plaintiffs’ written notice and demand for payment. To date, defendants have failed and refused to make any payment to [Timbaland and Swizz Beats] of the past due sums due and owing, and defendants continue in default of their payment obligations”.

Despite some high profile content partnerships, Triller has struggled to gain momentum with its core short-form video sharing service, where it faces tough competition from TikTok as well as the TikTok-esque strands of Instagram and YouTube.

For a time it looked like it could get a major boost from Donald Trump’s TikTok ban, primed as it was to fill the big gap in the market that would have been created had the then American President successfully stopped use of Triller’s China-owned rival within the US. But that ban never went into force.

And while the wider Triller business has also shifted into other kinds of video streaming, that also puts the company up against some big competitors with big pockets.

The lawsuit from Timbaland and Swizz Beats comes as the Triller company works its way towards an Initial Public Offering, having abandoned previous plans to merge with the already Nasdaq listed video advertising software provider SeaChange International Inc.

This story is discussed on this edition of our Setlist podcast.