Verzuz remains free after backlash over Triller’s paywall

The latest edition of Verzuz, the popular livestream platform for musician battles, had a messy rollout on Tuesday. The brand, which was created by artists Swizz Beatz and Timbaland, announced on its official Instagram account Monday that this week’s musician battle would feature performances by Anthony Hamilton and Musiq Soulchild. However, the event, which is usually available to stream for free on Instagram Live, was being pushed behind a paywall.

“THIS VERZUZ WILL NOT BE ON IG. Watch on VERZUZTV.COM with the #TrillerVerzPass,” read the caption, pushing fans to sign up for a 14-day free trial of Verzuz parent company Triller’s $2.99-per-month premium content service. (The post has since been edited.) The comments section was quickly flooded with disapproving messages from some of the brand’s 6.4 million followers, who complained about Triller attempting to monetize the previously free event.

Wow I won’t be watchin yall have to monetize every dam thing just take happiness outta every freakin thing,” one commenter wrote. Another person wrote, “This not being on IG is tragic.” Fans also spoke out on Twitter: “The evolution of Verzuz is quite literally a crash course on how capitalism slowly sucks the soul out of everything,” wrote one Twitter user.

TikTok competitor Triller acquired Verzuz in 2021, just a year after it was created as a virtual live performance venue during the pandemic. According to Billboard, Verzuz events have helped increase the sales and streams of its participants “in addition to accumulating more than 5 billion impressions.” Some of the legendary acts that have taken the stage via livestream include Alicia Keys, John Legend, Gladys Knight, Patti LaBelle, Ludacris, Nelly, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, and the late DMX.

Swizz Beatz cleared the air with a lighthearted Instagram post on Tuesday. “See y’all rite here tonight on insta,” his caption read. “I was out of the country don’t ask me who did it [laughing emoji] it’s fixed.” (Triller did not respond to Fast Company’s request for comment.) On Tuesday, the official Verzuz account published another post, telling followers and fans, “We heard you!” and that the event would be livestreamed as usual on Instagram as well as on Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitch. 

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