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Universal pulls catalogue from Triller

By | Published on Friday 5 February 2021


Universal Music has announced that it is withdrawing all of its content from TikTok rival Triller with immediate effect. The major label says that the service has withheld payments and refused to negotiate new licences.

“We will not work with platforms that do not value artists”, says Universal 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”.

Although launched in 2015, Triller enjoyed a boost last year, helped in part by then US President Donald Trump’s attack on TikTok and other political woes facing its biggest competitor. Having raised around $100 million in funding, and reportedly looking to raise $250 million more, there are also rumours that the Triller company is seeking to IPO.

The app has secured licensing deals and partnerships with various music companies, including the majors, but is by no means completely covered, especially on the songs side. Which is something that the boss of the US National Music Publishers Association, David Israelite, noted last year.

Then, in November, music publisher Wixen sued Triller over allegedly unlicensed songs being used in the app. The publisher argued that rather than paying songwriters, the Triller company prioritises mega-bucks deals with ‘social influencers’.

Losing the Universal catalogue is a significant blow to Triller, the label being the largest owner of recording rights in the music industry. The decision to withdraw its music is presumably an attempt to force Triller into agreeing better licensing terms.

With new style services that use music, labels sometimes initially agree to relatively short-term experimental licences, often based around lump-sum advances, and possibly getting equity in the business. More long-term deals are then done once the new service’s business model is better realised.

Terms of Triller’s initial label deals aren’t known, of course, though it is thought that the majors – including Universal – got a minority stake in the social app.