Universal Music pulls its catalog from music video app Triller

The two companies are locked in a war of words.

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BRAZIL - 2020/08/28: In this photo illustration an icon of Triller app displayed on a smartphone. (Photo Illustration by Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
SOPA Images via Getty Images

Universal Music Group (UMG) has pulled its entire song catalog from music video app Triller, according to Billboard. The publisher claims the app withheld payments from its artists and refuses to negotiate a new licensing deal. “We will not work with platforms that do not value artists,” a spokesperson for the company told Billboard. Some of Universal’s more well-known artists include Taylor Swift, Drake and Kanye West. 

As you can imagine, it’s not ideal when the world’s largest music company pulls its entire catalog from your app, but Triller CEO Mike Lu claims he only recently learned of the removal this morning after reading the news. "This has to be a bad Punk'd episode. I'm waiting for Ashton to jump out of my closet," he said. 

In a subsequent statement to Pitchfork, a spokesperson for Triller denied that it had withheld any artist payments. They also said “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.” 

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In 2018, Triller reached a licensing agreement with UMG to give its users access to the company’s entire music catalog. The startup claims UMG is weaponizing the media and its artists to extract “non-sustainable payments” from it. “They did this exact same thing to TikTok for two years and virtually every other social network,” the company said. 

As Billboard points out, this isn’t the first time Triller has run into this type of trouble. In November, Wixen Music Publishing sued the company for copyright infringement. The National Music Publishers Association has also slammed the company for its licensing practices, particularly after it sued TikTok for patent infringement

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