Timbaland and Swizz Beatz sue Triller for over $28 million in missing payments

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Music artists Swizz Beatz and Timbaland sued Triller on Tuesday, alleging the social media platform owed them more than $28 million after it acquired their live music series Verzuz.

Triller acquired Verzuz, a series of webcasts pitting musical acts against each other, in January 2021 for an undisclosed sum. “This is a momentous occasion not just for Verzuz and Triller, but for the music industry as a whole,” Swizz Beatz and Timbaland said in a joint statement at the time.

But the lawsuit alleges the company began missing payments in January 2022, skipping a large settlement promised in March.

“To date, the defendants have failed and refused to make any payment to [Swizz Beatz and Timbaland] outstanding amounts due and payable,” the lawsuit reads.

A social media app that looks and functions similar to TikTok, Triller rose to prominence in 2020 when a number of right-wing influencers joined the local app.

A TikTok rival has promised black creators millions. Now some are deeply in debt.

The company has already been accused of non-payment. Last year, Triller boasted of a new partnership with 300 black creators, who would receive a collective $14 million plus equity for participating in the deal. However, many of these creators allege that the social media company began missing payments almost immediately, according to reports from The Washington Post. Creators who produced custom shows for Triller TV, the company’s live-streaming service, also told the Post that the brand owes them tens of thousands of dollars.

Triller chief executive Mahi de Silva said in a statement to The Post at the time that the company “has met its financial commitments to the creators of this program and will continue to do so.” Regarding Triller TV, de Silva added that “everyone due has been paid or still has deliverables or brand endorsements. The creators said they have achieved all deliverables and no outside brands were involved in their flows.

Many creators who have signed deals with Triller say they have been deeply in debt and risk being kicked out and skipping meals to make ends meet.

Verzuz began as an Instagram Live series in March 2020 as the pandemic took hold in America and drove people online. Swizz Beatz and Timbaland challenged famous artists to live music battles on Instagram, including Brandy vs. Monica, Jeezy vs. Gucci Mane, and Ashanti vs. Keyshia Cole.

The series quickly became a cultural phenomenon, garnering 6 million views on a single episode, breaking Instagram’s live stream record and winning a Break the Internet Webby Award in 2020. In August of that year, Verzuz signed a partnership with Apple and Twitter, to expand its broadcasts outside of Instagram, allowing viewers to watch the battles on Apple Music.

As part of the terms of the deal, Swizz Beatz and Timbaland joined Triller’s management team, distributing a portion of their capital to the 43 artists who had appeared on Verzuz. “Triller and Verzuz share an ‘artist first, music first’ vision,” said Bobby Sarnevesht, executive chairman and co-owner of Triller, in an announcement at the time. “We view this acquisition as more of a partnership than an acquisition.”

Since the acquisition, Verzuz has steadily grown in power and influence online, becoming a go-to show for popular music artists to grab attention and generate buzz. Recently, Swizz Beatz and Timbaland announced a partnership with Amazon Studios for a feature-length black music documentary based on Verzuz’s origin story. The documentary will use “harrowing interviews, gripping truth and magnetic archival footage” to detail the impact of black music on culture, according to Deadline.

But according to the suit, things started to go downhill in January, when Triller missed a big payout to Verzuz founders. The company then agreed to a settlement requiring Triller to pay Swizz Beatz and Timbaland $18 million by March 20, with $1 million per month for the next 10 months. According to the lawsuit, Triller missed each of those payments.

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