Streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music have paid the Mechanical Licensing Collective $ 424,384,787 in accrued historical royalties (or “black box” money), the MLC said Tuesday. Once the MLC analyzes the data to pay copyright holders, songwriters and publishers who applied to become MLC members will receive royalties and declarations as early as April, Variety reports. The MLC also maintains a public database and makes it such that registered users can submit claims.
Today’s payment to the MLC is one of the first steps in the Music Modernization Act, which requires the MLC to be responsible for distributing unadjusted royalties to rightsholders within two years. After the two-year period has expired, the MLC has the option to distribute the remaining mismatched money to the publishers on a market share basis.
The highest amounts transferred to the MLC by digital streaming platforms were from Apple Music (over $ 163 million), Spotify (over $ 152 million), Amazon (over $ 42 million), and Google / YouTube (over $ 32 million).
David Israelite, President / CEO of the National Music Publishers Association, described the payment of the MLC as a “massive gain” in a statement. “Songwriters and music publishers have struggled for years to get paid accurately and in full by digital streaming services,” he said. “‘Unsurpassed money’ has plagued the industry and today we know, thanks to the Music Modernization Act, that it comes to close to $ 425 million – excluding money previously paid out in multi-million dollar settlements.”
Michelle Lewis, songwriter for the North American executive director, urged SONA members to become members of the MLC to see how they are eligible. “This money is now being pooled and made its way to the rightful songwriters and publishers who have earned these royalties,” said Lewis. “We encourage all SONA members, along with each songwriter, to learn how they are eligible to participate or participate on theMLC.com. This is critical to ensuring that every writer who has earned this money gets their fair share of it.” receives these royalties. “
Kris Ahrend, CEO of the MLC, said in a statement that the MLC has spent over a year developing resources and liaising with developers and publishers. “We have also been fortunate to have received valuable input and guidance from our board and committee members – songwriters, publishers and digital services executives – on what has shaped the mission and scope of the MLC since the MMA was passed,” said Ahrend. “Today’s arrival of the license availability date marks another milestone in realizing the promise of MMA, and the MLC team couldn’t be more excited.”
The Artist Rights Alliance released a statement saying that transferring unmatched royalties is a “good start – but there is still much work to be done to get the money to the songwriters who deserve it”. The ARA statement continues:
We are grateful to the Copyright Office team for skillfully and persistently handling a number of complex issues, including serious disagreements about the proper handling of previous industry settlements, in the months prior to this transfer.
In the months ahead, we look forward to continuing to speak with the Office about the efforts of publishers already paid through settlement agreements for historical uses to obtain double payment from these new funds. As we told the Office in our earlier filing, the major publishers who have resigned themselves to and received payments from digital services should not be able to claim any further portion of the funds transferred to The MLC today.
Today’s news is a huge step forward for songwriters – one made possible by so many stakeholders across the music community who have come together to work for the passage of the Music Modernization Act and continue to work in good faith as it goes live.