If the music business were the real world, a statement from Triller would have been made on Friday (February 5) behind a rickety wooden lectern in front of Four Seasons Total Landscaping.
After UMG announced that it would withdraw its music catalog from Triller, the video platform stated that any previous possible license renewal between the two parties was “just a formality and a courtesy for UMG as a Triller shareholder”.
Instead, Triller claimed no contract with UMG was required to continue operations as [we have] since the relevant artists are already shareholders or partners of Triller and can therefore directly approve their use ”.
Obviously, what is meant by “use” is to be interpreted. However, if this means “the licensed use of recorded music controlled by Universal Music Group” then it is clearly incorrect.
Head twisted wrong.
The fact is, Triller may not think a license agreement with UMG would be of any use, but its users certainly will.
Universal is the world’s largest music rights holder for music recordings. Around a third of all music streams on Spotify are titles in UMG’s master catalog.
This could explain why the stock price of 7Digital in the UK, Triller’s B2B music licensing partner since August 2020, has fallen nearly 10% in the past two trading days.
There were some additional concerns from Triller over Universal’s claims that the platform had withheld payments to artists (which Triller strongly denies), followed by the allegation that UMG “used their stage names as a front to make ridiculous and unsustainable payments for themselves to extract and not their artist ”.
This bandit-like approach, according to Triller, is typical of Universal. “They did the exact same thing with TikTok For [sic] two years and practically every other social network, ”continued the diatribe of the video society.
Universal replied that Triller’s comments on his business were “removed from reality”.
To prove this, UMG announced a new and harmonious global contract with TikTok on the next working day – including a “fair compensation for recording artists and songwriters”.
It’s all in timing.
Friday’s debacle follows notable occasions when Triller made great public statements that have been proven wrong.
On August 24, 2020 Trillers media agency Hiltzik Strategies, MBW sent a press release on a partnership between Triller and Spotify rival Jiosaavn that marked a significant expansion in India for TikTok rival.
In PR was Bobby Sarnevesht, Executive Chairman of thriller and co-owner of Proxima Media – Triller’s majority owner – stated that Triller “would deliver [JioSaavn‘s] 300M Users with unparalleled and first class service ”.
That sounded really great. Jiosaavn then contacted MBW to issue a correction, with a spokesperson clearly stating that “we are not at 300 million MAUs”.
They made it clear that JioSaavn’s last publicly known audience size was actually around 104 million.
On September 9, 2020, Triller sent out another press release: TRILL NAME TOP FEMALE MUSIC EXECUTIVES TO THE NEW ADVISORY BOARD.
MBW also reported on this story, which contained the names of 15 influential women in the music business who had volunteered to become advisors to Triller.
However, after it was released, we received a request – from Triller’s own PR representative – to remove the names of three of the women. It turned out they weren’t on the board at all. We were told this was a “mistake”.
Of course everyone makes mistakes. But confirm three executives on your board who are actually not on your board?
This requires a broader definition of “failure” than most would realize.
There are other words that come to mind.
Such cases of truth expansion are largely trivial, but they speak of Triller’s growing penchant for boasting about accuracy.
Ryan Kavanaugh, the controversial CEO of Triller majority shareholder Proxima Media, is certainly not averse to livening things up, to liven things up.
In an interview for Rolling Stone last year, the Hollywood producer told me: “[We’ve] was actually responsible for discovering more musical talent than any other platform in the world.
“If you speak to Maverick, Universal, Roc Nation, they will tell you that they discovered more talent in Triller than anywhere else.”
“[Triller has] was actually responsible for discovering more musical talent than any other platform in the world. “
I’ve spoken to a lot of people at Universal. they don’t say that. (See also: TikTok claims that 70 artists with major record label contracts broke through their platform over the course of 2020.)
Kavanaugh then went on boldly as brass, “Little Nas X was spotted on Triller and signed off from Triller.”
Insiders at TikTok are more likely to share Universal’s feeling that they are removed from reality.
Allegations of exaggeration and falsehood at Triller take a more serious turn when it comes to the company’s global reach.
Last August, Triller claimed in a press release that it had attracted 250 million lifetime downloads of its app around the world. Industry monitor Apptopia later disagreed, finding that its independent data suggested that Triller had actually only been downloaded 52 million times.
Apptopia withdrew his report under threat of legal action by Triller.
Two months later, a Business Insider report quoted six former Triller employees as saying that the company had publicly increased its active user base by multiples of five.
Those former employees were surprised when Triller found in October 2019 that the company had grown 500% year over year to 13 million monthly active users. According to Business Insider, a former Triller manager provided “a screenshot showing more than 2 million monthly active users.”
In response to these claims, Mike Lu, CEO of Triller, claimed that the former employees were “disseminating inaccurate information” and that Triller could “validate every single one of its metrics.”
Here’s a lesson for Trills: if you claim things that later turn out to be untrue, or at least inaccurate, it becomes difficult to judge what information from your company should be trusted and which information should be considered empty.
That lesson only gets more forward-looking as Triller moves further along the path of his planned IPO.
In October 2020, Reuters reported that Proxima Media had been working with investment bank Farvahar Partners to go public with a plan to merge Triller into a special purpose vehicle for blank checks (SPAC) on the stock exchange.
At the same time, Triller is said to have secured $ 100 million in a separate financing round – a number that was below the $ 200 to $ 300 million that the platform had confirmed three months earlier.
Still, Reuters suggested that that $ 100 million increase had sparked a $ 1.25 billion valuation for Trill, nearly ten times the valuation the TikTok rival had achieved just 12 months earlier … when Proxima Media took control of it.
Ex-Citigroup executive Michael Klein is believed to be responsible for managing the $ 1 billion Triller sale to a SPAC in order to complete that process by the end of the first quarter of 2020.
Universal’s public decoding of Triller’s business practices – and the removal of the catalog from service – could not have come at a worse time for Proxima Media and Ryan Kavanaugh.
No wonder Triller aggressively tries to downplay its effect.
Now fears are growing that the effects between Universal and Trill will inevitably become legal.
If there is now a single copyright infringement at Triller, a freshly driven UMG will certainly instruct its legal representative to opt for the carotid artery.
(One also wonders what the General Counsels of Sony, Warner, and Merlin think of the idea that a digital partner now believes they only need licensed music as a “formality”.)
Trill can’t say it wasn’t warned.
Last summer, David Israelite, CEO and President of US-based publishing house NMPA, said, “Triller needs to legitimize its business by properly licensing all of the music on its platform.”
Triller may just have gone to Full Giuliani with his latest antics. But Universal is the one who is now waiting with bated breath looking for an excuse to stop the theft.Music business worldwide