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Group bidding to run new US mechanical rights society claims “overwhelming” industry support

By | Published on Tuesday 5 February 2019

National Music Publishers Association

Last year’s Music Modernization Act in the US had a grand plan to sort of the mechanical rights mess that has fucked up the American streaming sector so much in recent years. And that grand plan was to set up a proper mechanical rights collecting society Stateside for the first time. But the question is: who should run that society? One group bidding for that task said yesterday it now had the support of the “overwhelming majority of copyright owners”.

The US Copyright Office has set 21 Mar as the deadline for any parties interested in running the new society to formally state their interest and present a proposal. The MMA says that the successful bidders must be “endorsed by, and enjoy substantial support from, musical work copyright owners that together represent the greatest percentage of the licensor market for uses of such works in covered activities”.

There are currently two groups planning to bid. It’s what can be seen as the establishment group that is already claiming to have the “overwhelming” support of the songs business in the US. That group is led by the National Music Publishers Association with support from the Nashville Songwriters Association International and the Songwriters Of North America, all three of which played a proactive role in lobbying for the MMA last year.

Yesterday it published details of which publishers and songwriters would sit on its various committees, and also a long list of its supporters in the wider music community, including songwriters, music publishers, trade bodies, record companies and other collecting societies that are focused on the performing rights in songs and/or recording rights.

NMPA boss David Israelite said of the group’s bid to set up America’s ‘mechanical licensing collective’: “Our … submission provides a comprehensive roadmap to the Copyright Office to establish the first collective of its kind. The MLC will give songwriters the money they deserve and the transparency they’ve lacked for decades”.

He went on: “The board and committee members are the best in the business and the vast endorsements come from the many coalition members who were instrumental in the passage of the MMA. We look forward to continuing in the [Copyright Office’s] designation process and the day we can finally say songwriters have the representation they’ve earned”.

The second group bidding to run the new society – what you might want to think of as the anti-establishment group – goes by the name the American Music Licensing Collective and is backed by Tunecore and Audiam founder Jeff Price, Pledge and DotBlockchain founder Benji Rogers, songwriters Stewart Copeland and Rick Carnes, and various other people with a music licensing or publishing background.

While in the short term the main aim for both groups is demonstrating music community support for their respective proposals, the long term challenge will be the classic data one that all collecting societies face. Which is to say, how does the new society know what songs are contained in what tracks, who wrote and controls those songs, and therefore who needs to be paid? And, of course, what happens to monies that cannot be successfully allocated? The AMLC reckons it has a better plan for meeting that challenge.

Both groups have set up websites to present their plans and claims to fame which songwriters and music publishers are all being encouraged to check out. The NMPA-backed group is at songconnect.org while the AMLC is at songrights.net.



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