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Universal Music Announces Licensing Truce With Triller

The months-long licensing dispute between Universal Music Group and the social video site Triller appears to be over, as UMG announced it has signed a worldwide agreement for its music catalog.

Triller is a social media video app, similar to TikTok, in which users can combine video and licensed music to produce their own videos. Triller is different in the sense videos are generally longer, and may last for an entire song, whereas TikTok specializes in shorter, 15-second videos.

The two companies were locked in a bitter dispute after Triller said it didn’t need a licensing deal with UMG, which resulted in Universal pulling its entire music catalog from the platform. Universal also said Triller had failed to pay licensing fees for songs from Universal’s catalog.

Since then, however, Triller announced it had reached a licensing agreement with the National Music Publishers’ Association, which represents most of the music publishers in the US. This appears to have provided some impetus for Universal to negotiate its own agreement, which was announced this week. Triller users will now have full access to UMG’s entire music catalog, and both companies appear happy to have reached a mutually advantageous truce.

“We are pleased to announce our renewed agreement with UMG and our new pact with UMPG,” said Triller chairman 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.”

The road to an agreement may also have involved some changes at Triller, which Sarnevesht appears to have acknowledged in his statements to the press. In early May, while speaking to reporters about an unrelated acquisition deal, Sarnevesht said the company wanted to play nice with the music industry, and he directly addressed UMG’s claims against Triller for not paying royalties. “I think Triller got some bad press around its relationship with publishers, but that was the previous regime,” said Sarnevesht. “We want to be part of the community, not pirates stealing stuff.”

Shortly before making those comments, Triller made changes at the top in April, appointing co-founder and CEO Mahi de Silva as the new chief executive of the company. Triller’s previous CEO, Mike Lu, moved into a new role leading investor relations.

With those changes in place, UMG appeared happy to close this chapter in its relationship with Triller.

“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,” said Jonathan Dworkin, UMG’s EVP of digital business development and strategy. “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.”

Triller says it now looks forward to a close and mutually beneficial relationship, free of the acrimony of the past several months.

“It was a weird moment in time for both parties, so we’re happy to have any badness behind us, so that we can continue to build up our platform, amplify our artists, and work closely with UMG moving forward,” Sarnevesht said.


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