Timbaland & Swizz Beatz Sue Triller, Claiming $28M Never Paid From ‘Verzuz’ Sale
The TikTok rival bought the popular livestream show last year, but its founders now say Triller still owes them tens of millions.
BY BILL DONAHUE (Billboard)
Eighteen months after Timbaland and Swizz Beatz sold their popular Verzuz livestream series to Triller, the two are now suing the social media platform for allegedly failing to pay them a whopping $28 million that they’re still owed from the deal.
Triller, a TikTok-like service that allows users to create and share short videos, announced in March 2021 that it would pay an undisclosed sum in cash and equity to acquire Verzuz – a breakout hit during the pandemic in which two artists square off in a livestreamed music battle.
But in a lawsuit filed Tuesday (Aug. 16) in Los Angeles Superior Court, Timbaland (Timothy Mosley) and Swizz Beatz (Kasseem Daoud Dean) say Triller has failed to actually pay for the company it purchased. After initial payments last year and early this year, the pair of hitmakers say the company has refused to hand over more than $28 million that they’re still owed.
“Defendants have failed and refused to respond to plaintiffs’ written notice and demand for payment,” the pair’s lawyers wrote in the complaint. “To date, defendants have failed and refused to make any payment to Mosley and Dean of the past due sums due and owing, and defendants continue in default of their payment obligations.”
A representative for Triller did not immediately return a request for comment from Billboard.
Timbaland and Swizz Beatz launched Verzuz in March 2020, just days after the global shut-down from the COVID-19 pandemic, and it took off as peak quarantine entertainment – a virtual music battle between top artists, livestreamed to millions of users on Instagram and other platforms. Since the pair of producers squared off in the inaugural show, Verzuz has featured high-profile showdowns between T-Pain and Lil Jon, Alicia Keys and John Legend, DMX and Snoop Dogg, Brandy and Monica, and many other top names, often drawing millions of viewers.
After launching in 2015, Triller rose to prominence in 2020 as a competitor to TikTok when the Trump administration said it was considering banning the popular social media service from the U.S. market over its ties to the Chinese government. Triller — whose investors include Snoop Dogg, The Weeknd and Marshmello — made aggressive moves to compete with TikTok by courting influencers to the platform, but also experienced serious hiccups. Universal Music Group, the world’s largest music company, pulled its catalog from the platform in February 2021 over royalty issues before eventually resolving the matter and restoring the songs a few months later. The service also admitted to — and then denied — inflating user numbers just weeks before it was expected to go public as part of a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) merger.
The SPAC merger didn’t happen, but recently Triller has been making another play to go public — meaning the Verzuz lawsuit is coming at a particularly bad time. After calling off a $5 billion proposed merger with video-tech company SeaChange International in June, the company submitted paperwork to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for an initial public offering.
According to Wednesday’s lawsuit, under the terms of Triller’s deal to buy Verzuz, the first cash payments to Timbaland and Swizz Beatz were due January 2021 and April 2021 – both of which Triller successfully made. But when another payment was due in January 2022, the producers say the company failed to pay.
The two sides quickly reached a settlement to avert a dispute by agreeing to a new payment plan, the suit says, and Triller made the first payment under that new agreement in February. But the settlement agreement required Triller to pay another $18 million by March 17, plus $1 million more per month for another 10 months – and Timbaland and Swizz Beatz say those payments have never been made.
“The aforesaid defaults constitute material breaches of the agreement by defendants,” the pair’s lawyers wrote. “By reason of defendants’ continuing uncured defaults, the sum of $28,095,000.00 is immediately due to be paid under the agreement.”
The lawsuit from Timbaland and Swizz Beatz isn’t the first time this year Triller has been accused of not paying its bills. In June, boxing reporter Dan Rafael reported that Triller had not fully paid several fighters from a May 2022 bout. And earlier this month, The Washington Post reported that Triller had a spotty history of paying Black influencers that had been recruited to join the platform; the company strongly denied those allegations.
It’s also not the first sign of tension between Timbaland/Swizz Beatz and Triller. Back in February, Verzuz faced backlash when it was announced that the latest battle would be exclusively aired on Triller’s $2.99-per-month premium service. Later in the day, Swizz Beatz assured fans that the show would still be available on Instagram and other free platforms: “I was out of the country don’t ask me who did it,” he wrote with a laughing emoji. “It’s fixed.”
LaTocha Scott Causing More Chaos on Queens of R&B??
Have you guys been tuned in to Queens of R&B on Bravo? If you have, and you’re caught up, then you know that Xscape group member, Latocha Scott, has been accused of stealing money to the tune of 30k+ from her sister Tamika Scott.
It doesn’t even end there! According to Kandi Burruss on a recent live, there’s more to come that came out during filming that will affect the entire group.
As a fan of the group, it’s actually quite hard to watch, because after seeing the group reconcile a couple years back, I was hoping for more grown woman actions moving forward and possibly a new song or two. And yet here we are… stuck in the same cycle of LaTocha using the group to catapult her solo career. Tune in to Bravo on Sundays to get into the show.
Janet Jackson Documentary, Keyshia Cole Biopic & ‘TLC Forever’ Doc Announced by A+E Networks
An outpouring of R&B film projects are coming soon, thanks to A&E and Lifetime.
A+E Networks has greenlit Janet Jackson’s new documentary chronicling her upcoming Together Again tour, alongside a TLC doc and a Keyshia Cole biopic starring the R&B singer herself.
Titled Janet Jackson: Family First, the doc is a continuation of the legendary singer’s wildly successful 2022 documentary, which brought in 21 million viewers to the networks, according to the press release, and will be executive produced by Jackson herself and her brother Randy Jackson.
“I was touched by the love and support from the wonderful fans who enjoyed the documentary last year,” Janet said in a press release. “I am excited to continue to share my story and welcome fans into my life and the ‘Together Again’ tour. Thank you for your never-ending support, and I hope you enjoy the next chapter.”
Janet Jackson: Family First will also give an inside look at the reunion of the Jackson family band for their first performance together in 40 years. “In this next chapter in the documentary, Janet and I are thrilled to welcome viewers on the road with us as we embark on the ‘Together Again’ tour, celebrating the milestone of 50 years of Janet’s career with fans across the country,” Randy said in the release. Directed by Ben Hirsch, the documentary is currently being filmed, with no release date shared yet.
Janet’s Live Nation-produced tour kicks off April 14 in Hollywood, Florida, with rapper Ludacris as opener for all 33 dates. Other stops include Atlanta, Memphis, Nashville, New York, Atlantic City, Milwaukee, Dallas, Los Angeles and Portland, Ore., before coming to a close June 21 in Seattle. The tour will be a celebration of Janet’s 50 years as an entertainer, featuring songs from some of her most critically acclaimed albums, including 1993’s janet and 1997’s The Velvet Rope.
The Cole biopic, titled Keyshia Cole: This Is My Story, will feature the Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter playing herself. In addition to making her acting debut, Cole is also serving as executive producer of the film. Keyshia Cole: This Is My Story is set to air Saturday, June 24, at 8 p.m. ET as part of Lifetime’s celebration of Black Music Month.
Also in June, Lifetime and A&E will simulcast TLC Forever, a new two-hour documentary telling the story of Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes and Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas, who comprised the best-selling American girl group of all time, according to the RIAA. In 2002, Lopes died at age 30 in a car accident during a trip to Honduras. Directed by Matthew Kay and executive-produced by Academy Award-winning director Roger Ross Williams, TLC Forever will cover the celebratory moments as well as the darkness, controversy and tragedy throughout TLC’s unprecedented run.
Metro Boomin Sells Portion of Publishing Catalog to Shamrock for Close to $70M
The producer, writer and artist has worked on hits like “Bad and Boujee,” “Heartless,” “Congratulations,” “Creepin’,” “Knife Talk” and more.
The producer, writer and artist has worked on hits like "Bad and Boujee," "Heartless," "Congratulations," "Creepin'," "Knife Talk" and more.
Producer, songwriter and artist Metro Boomin – a.k.a. Leland Tyler Wayne – has sold a portion of his entire existing publishing catalog to Shamrock Capital for close to $70 million, sources close to the deal tell Billboard.
News of the sale arrives on the heels of his second album HEROES & VILLAINS, which was released on Dec. 2, 2022. The record was peppered with some of the biggest names in music, including features from Young Thug, Travis Scott, Future, Don Toliver, Chris Brown, A$AP Rocky, Gunna, and late Migos member Takeoff. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200albums chart, making it his second album in a row to hit No. 1 as an artist.
As one of rap and R&B’s most defining creatives, Metro Boomin has helped craft hits like “Bad and Boujee” by Migos, “Mask Off” by Future, “Congratulations” by Post Malone, “Bank Account” by 21 Savage, “Father Stretch My Hands, Pt. 1” by Kanye West, “Jumpman” by Drake and Future, “Heartless” by The Weeknd, “Waves” by Kanye West, “Child’s Play” by Drake, “Tuesday” by iLoveMakonnen, and many more.
The multi-hyphenate musician has had 99 total entries on the Hot 100 chart as a producer, including two No. 1s and 10 top 10s. As an artist, Metro Boomin has 46 total entries on the Hot 100. He has spent 18 weeks at No. 1 on the Rap Producers chart and three weeks at No. 1 on the Hot 100 Producers and Hot 100 Songwriters charts.
Representatives for Shamrock did not return Billboard’s requests for comment. A representative for Metro Boomin declined to comment.
Shamrock was founded in 1978 as Roy E. Disney’s family office and has since become an active, powerful buyer in the music catalog investment space. It’s most notable investment being that of Taylor Swift’s Big Machine catalogwhich the firm bought from Scooter Braun’s Ithaca Holdings in 2020. In 2021, Shamrock expanded into the lending space with a $196 million debt fund to loan money to IP owners in entertainment.
Last month, on Feb. 2, 2023, Shamrock Capital announced that it raised $600 million in a new fund (Shamrock Capital Content Fund III) aimed at acquiring film, TV, music video games, and sports rights.
Metro Boomin’s deal, along with other recent hip-hop acquisitions — like Juice WRLD’s sale to Opus Music Group for a nine figure sum, Dr. Dre’s Shamrock and UMG deal for an estimated over $200 million, and Future’s publishing catalog sale to Influence Media Partners between $65-75 million — have proved that the genre is fueling new investor interest.
Those who have been skeptical of rap catalog sales often point to the genre’s short history, which may indicate sharper — or still unknown — decay curves from other genres like rock and pop. Decay curves, which are based on past performance of other songs in the genre, refer to when the song levels out into a predictable state of income generation.
But the 50th anniversary of hip-hop special at the 2023 Grammy awards and its continued dominance on streaming platforms may reveal that rap is ready to become another sought-after genre for buyers.
“There are certain names that have been around for a long enough period that they are now of an evergreen standard,” City National entertainment banking leader Denise Colletta recently told Billboard. “Those household names in hip-hop will continue to resonate with audiences.” – Billboard
03.25 – Latto – 777 (album)
03.25 – Kanye West – Donda 2 (All Platforms)
TBA – Cardi B – TBA
TBA – Monica – Trenches
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