During the 2020 global pandemic, when the world was locked inside and people were not allowed to go out to socialize, producers Timothy “Timbaland” Mosley and Kasseem “Swizz Beatz” Dean created a musical competition show on Instagram that was the hottest experience online.
So successful was the experiment that larger media companies sought to acquire it as an asset, promising the audience a better experience and its creators a lucrative pot. Ultimately, the partners decided to “sell” to video-sharing app Triller with an innovative (but elaborate) equity-sharing model.
However, after one season with the streaming company, it seems the deal has fallen apart and Swizz Beatz and Timbaland are claiming 100 percent full ownership.
During a May 13 Instagram Live video to promote the third season of “Verzuz,” Swizz Beatz stated, “‘Verzuz’ is still 100 percent Black-owned.”
He continued, “50 percent on the top of your screen, and 50 percent on the bottom of your screen. Tim and Swizz, that’s who own ‘Verzuz.’ In case you ain’t know. … It was built for the people, and it will stay with the people. And we love everybody.”
This is a very different narrative than what was said a couple of years ago.
The Nightmare of the Triller
After the show’s meteoric rise on Instagram, Swizz Beatz and Timbaland entered a deal with Apple. The deal provided additional support to the live streams, activations for fans, and playlists made up of music from the competing artists.
In 2021, the dynamic musical duo announced that it was ending a relationship with Apple Music, which helped promote the online battle show, and it would be acquired by Triller.
According to Variety Magazine, Swizz Beatz and Timberland’s lawyers negotiated that the two would join the Triller management team and become large shareholders in Triller Network. In this capacity they would also assist in the music and other company strategies of the company.
The two then allocated a portion of their equity stake to the 43 performers who had performed on Verzuz up until the time of the acquisition.
Originally, the financial details of the deal were not disclosed to the public.
In 2022, the Grammy-winning beatmakers sued Triller for breach of contract.
The lawsuit, filed in August 2022, alleged Triller failed to make a $28 million payment for the acquisition of their musician battle show, 18 months after the deal was cemented in March 2021.
“Defendants have failed and refused to respond to plaintiffs’ written notice and demand for payment. 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,” the lawsuit said.
At the time, Triller executives vehemently disputed this claim, saying it was the producers who were in breach. Still, the streaming company later settled, giving Swizz Beatz and Timbaland more ownership in the Triller network.
Triller Executive Chairman Bobby Sarnevesht released a statement saying, “Creators started this and will continue building it. This is a victorious moment in the Triller and Verzuz relationship as we march together toward the public markets.”
The chart-topping producers also released a statement, saying, “[They’re] glad to come to an amicable agreement with Triller and continue giving fans the music and community that they’ve come to know and love from the brand.”
The financial details of this agreement have not been disclosed.
More Triller Problems
In 2023, a month before the producers announced they are now full owners of their show again, Triller was in the news for another contract dispute.
Reuters reported in April 2023, Triller agreed to pay Sony Music Entertainment after breaching an agreement with that entertainment entity.
Triller had agreed to compensate SME for the use of songs by musicians signed to them. They did not. The lawsuit said the streaming company had not made payments to SME, based on a 2016 content-distribution agreement, since the previous year.
“Triller is more than a year late on some of those contract payments and Sony Music should not have to wait longer to enforce a judgment to collect,” the filing said.
Sony Music said executives at Triller admitted they had breached the contract and would pay up what they owed and add interest. Because that did not happen, a Manhattan Federal Court ruled Triller should pay them $4.5 million to resolve their claim with one of the top music entities in the world.
Swizz Beatz and Timbaland’s Ownership Claims
Because the details of their deal with Triller have not been disclosed, it is difficult to determine if the alleged contract breaches and failure to compensate for the “Verzuz” property reverted the show back to the original owners.
However, it is important to note that Swizz Beatz and Timbaland have proven to be shrewd businessmen in the past, becoming two of the richest men in the music industry.
Swizz Beatz, a Harvard Business School executive certificate graduate, has an estimated net worth ranging between $150 million and $170 million, generated from his various music and lifestyle deals.
Timbaland has an estimated net worth of $85 million. The majority of his earnings come from his extensive publishing catalog.