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Universal Music Group and Triller Get In Heated Dispute Over Artist Royalties

Miles Opton

The concept of proper licensing has, for a long time, been just that, a concept. The music industry is nowhere near perfect when it comes to copyright, which has directly resulted in artists not getting paid since the birth of the business. Today, one of the largest growing short-form video/music media companies, Triller, has been accused of this illicit act by Universal Music Group, as the label claims that Triller has not paid their artists and has taken action by removing their entire artist catalog from the app.

This isn’t the first time Triller has been blamed for improper licensing either, as last summer, David Israelite, CEO & President of the publishing company National Music Publishers’ Association, said, “[Triller] boasts ‘millions of songs at your fingertips,’ however many of those songs have not been properly licensed.“ The pattern of tech platforms asking for forgiveness instead of permission to use songwriter’s work must stop. Triller must legitimize its business by properly licensing all music on its platform.”

Today, UMG echoed this position with a press release stating, “Triller has shamefully withheld payments owed to our artists and refuses to negotiate a license going forward”. In a bitter response, Triller fired back at Universal through a spokesperson saying, “We can confirm our deal with UMG expired approximately one week ago. We have been negotiating since then in an attempt to renew. The renewal however was just a formality and a courtesy to UMG, as a shareholder of Triller.”

“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. Triller has no use for a licensing deal with UMG.” “We categorically deny we have withheld any artist payments (our deal has only been one week expired) and 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. They did this exact same thing to TikTok For [sic] two years and virtually every other social network.”

It’s unclear how this claim will hold up, however Universal has since responded with the following: “Triller’s statements are removed from reality.” Also, the Artists Rights Alliance, which lobbies on behalf of the US artist community, has joined the conversation, stating “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.”

Hopefully Triller becomes more transparent about their payouts in the near-future, otherwise it’s hard to say how the company will hold up in the music industry, especially given their ambitious goal to go public soon.

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