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Universal Music and Triller make up, enter into new licensing deal

By | Published on Friday 21 May 2021


If you, like me, have a Music Industry Spat List stuck up on the wall next to your desk, you need to get the Tippex out and remove “Universal Music v Triller”. Because the major has made up with the TikTok rivalling video-sharing app and signed a new licensing deal.

Triller has had deals in place with various labels and publishers for some time now, but has also had some run ins with certain music rights companies in the last year. Most notably the biggest music rights company of them all, ie Universal Music.

Although the mega-major had had a short-term licensing deal with Triller, in February it announced it was bailing on the app because “we will not work with platforms that do not value artists”.

Universal added in a statement: “Triller has shamefully withheld payments owed to our artists and refuses to negotiate a licence going forward. We have no alternative except to remove our music from Triller, effective immediately”.

The Triller company expressed surprise when Universal put out that statement, conceding that its initial deal with the major had expired, but adding that negotiations for a new deal were ongoing. And then CEO Mike Lu said that he thought his company had a “solid relationship” with the Universal team.

Triller’s official statement then somewhat ominously said its efforts to renew its Universal deal were “just a formality and a courtesy” to the major anyway, because it has direct relationships with many of the record company’s key artists and therefore had “no use for a licensing deal with UMG”.

Except, of course, those artists are unlikely to be in control of any recordings they’ve released with a Universal label. And to compete with all the other social and video-sharing apps now providing in-built audio libraries of track snippets, Triller really needs access to the UMG catalogue.

But anyway, all that squabbling is over, and Triller and Universal are best buddies again. Well, they’re buddies. Well, they’re friends. Well, they’re acquaintances. Well, they are corporate entities not likely to file litigation against each other any time soon.

“With the new agreements, Triller’s users gain access to UMG’s full catalogue of music from the company’s iconic record labels and recording artists, as well as the songwriters and catalogues represented by Universal Music Publishing Group, for use on Triller”, said a new statement yesterday.

That should say “some” of the catalogues represented by UMPG, of course, because song licensing is never that simple. But still, best buds!

“We are pleased to announce our renewed agreement with UMG and our new pact with UMPG”, said Triller’s Bobby Sarnevesht. “Triller has become one of the most important platforms in music today, and these agreements ensure that artists and songwriters across Universal Music Group have full access to the global Triller ecosystem”.

“We’re pleased to have a deal with Triller that embraces the importance of compensating our artists, especially given the tremendous value music generates across their platform”, added Universal’s EVP Digital Business Development & Strategy, Jonathan Dworkin. “With this agreement, UMG continues to expand the universe of licensed social media platforms that allow fans to legitimately create and share content, while also growing an important new source of revenue for our artists”.

Meanwhile David Kokakis at UMPG chipped in: “UMPG’s mission is to support songwriters. By licensing new platforms like Triller, we ensure writers are fairly compensated and we are strategically delivering growth to the overall publishing business”.

So that’s good. Now who’s going to start a new spat to go on my list?