Dear Music Answers Supporter,

The passage of the Music Modernization Act marked a turning point in the music business. It portends a brighter future for music creators around the world. But its promise will only be fulfilled if the implementation of the Act is truly in line with its goals. MusicAnswers is committed to providing independent oversight of that process, making certain that it serves the best interest of all music creators and publishers.

As you may be aware, there are now two entities vying to be chosen by the Copyright Office to fill the role of the Music Licensing Collective ("MLC"), the new organization mandated by the MMA to administer mechanical licenses to digital music users, and collect and distribute the resulting royalties. (And additional groups may come forward.)

One group, organized by the National Music Publishers Association and supported by several creator groups, has appointed a committee to field nominations for writers to serve on various boards and committees of “its” MLC. No nominations have been announced, as yet.

Another group, the American Music Licensing Collective (AMLC), has put forward a slate of publishers and writers to serve on the MLC. Its stated goal is to ensure the fair and accurate distribution of royalties, particularly those belonging to independent creators and artists that are "unmatched" by digital music services. In addition, the AMLC has just announced that, if selected to serve as the MLC, unlike the NMPA group, it will equally divide board representation between writers and publishers. To our way of thinking, this is a major step forward; remember, this was a provision MusicAnswers fought for during MMA negotiations.

Phil Galdston and David Wolfert, two of the founders of Music Answers, have accepted an invitation to serve as independent observers for the AMLC. The role of observer is to provide oversight of the activities of the MLC.

It's important to note that by many accounts there will be nearly a billion dollars in the initial distribution of unclaimed or unattributed (“black box”) royalties. We don't believe these royalties should wind up in the pockets of those who don’t deserve them — primarily, major music publishers and their most successful writers. It is the responsibility of the new MLC, all publishers, and the creative community to make every effort to see that unclaimed royalties get to those whose work has earned them.

The Copyright Office, which has openly encouraged competition for the role of the MLC, will publish a formal request for MLC nominations in January. It will select the finalist before Fall 2019. The public (that's you!) will be invited to comment on the various nominations. In the meantime, the Office has posted information about the MMA and its MLC.

There have been recent reports of pressure being exerted by some publisher members of the NMPA against individuals who have agreed to serve on the Board of the AMLC. We find such reports deeply troubling. Not only may such activities be illegal, but, under the provisions of the MMA, those same publishers stand to benefit handsomely from the distribution of black box royalties. 

It's worth noting that although the two largest PROs have participated in the selection process for writers to serve on the NMPA-sponsored MLC, they have not formally endorsed any particular group for that position.

We encourage every music creator to make an informed choice of which MLC they support, paying particular attention to how the contenders plan to distribute unclaimed royalties. Our strongest recommendation is that the MLC should have a board free of conflicts of interest, one that is clearly and convincingly committed to a gold standard: the thorough collection and distribution of streaming royalties to those whose work generates them.

Stay tuned for more developments… Meanwhile, please spread the word about MusicAnswers.

Onward!