Triller Finally Forges Licensing Agreement With Music Publishers

Jem Aswad
·3-min read

Triller, the short-form video app, has struck a licensing agreement with the National Music Publishers’ Association, which represents most American music publishers. The deal will see the platform compensating the songwriters and publishers covered by NMPA when their songs are used in videos on the platform. NMPA announced the deal on its social media platforms on Wednesday afternoon.

“NMPA is pleased to have come to an agreement with Triller to account for the past use of songs as well as a forward-looking license for our eligible independent publisher members,” NMPA president and CEO David Israelite said in a statement announcing the agreement posted on the organization’s social media platforms Wednesday afternoon. “Music is foundational to Triller’s platform and it is essential that the songwriters who create that music are paid for their contributions to the Triller experience. Music and video offer limitless potential to social media platforms, however compensating songwriters must be a primary consideration, not an afterthought,” he continued. “Triller has recognized the importance of music creators and made a positive step forward by coming to this partnership.”

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Triller chairman/co-owner Bobby Sarnevesht said in a statement shared with Billboard: “We are very excited to enter this partnership with the NMPA, which ensures that songwriters are fairly compensated and fully recognized for their work. David Israelite and the NMPA team are truly amazing advocates for writers and publishers, and we greatly look forward to working with him and the NMPA membership to demonstrate Triller’s ongoing commitment to supporting writers.”

The license is opt-in, meaning that eligible publisher members must actively seek coverage; it will not happen automatically.

The deal follows a familiar pattern with new platforms, from TikTok on down the line: Initially hostile relations with music publishers and labels, followed by a deal. Israelite has long been critical of Triller’s approach to licensing, and a previous licensing agreement with the major labels erupted into belligerence last month when Universal, the world’s largest music company, withdrew its entire music library from Triller, alleging the platform withheld payments to the music giant’s artists.

“We will not work with platforms that do not value artists. Triller has shamefully withheld payments owed to our artists and refuses to negotiate a license going forward,” a UMG rep said in a statement to Variety. “We have no alternative except to remove our music from Triller, effective immediately.”

Asked for comment, Triller provided the following statement from CEO Mike Lu: “This has to be a bad ‘Punk’d’ episode. I’m waiting for Ashton to jump out of my closet. Our relationship with UMG is solid. Its biggest artists are investors and partners in Triller and Universal owns part of Triller. We find it hard to believe UMG wouldn’t give us any warning or notice but just tell us via press.”

Regardless, Triller’s parent company acquired Verzuz, the popular DJ-battle series launched by producers Timbaland and Swizz Beatz, for an unfisclosed amount last month, signaling that an agreement with publishers and the major labels would be forthcoming. With NMPA’s announcement on Wednesday, the first shoe dropped.

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