On Jan. 1, 2021, the Mechanical Licensing Collective (MLC) will begin administering the new blanket license available to interactive streaming and individual download services in the United States. The MLC will then collect mechanical royalties from those services and distribute those royalties to musical works copyright holders. All of this will happen in accordance with the Music Modernization Act (MMA) that was signed into law in 2018. The MLC is unique in that it will distribute 100% of royalties collected directly to publishers and songwriters without deducting an administration fee, as digital audio services are required under the MMA to pay for The MLC’s operational costs.
The nonprofit organization, based in Nashville and led by CEO Kris Ahrend, has been preparing for the Jan. 1 start date by developing ways for songwriters, publishers, and other musical works managers of all scopes to submit their musical works data to be collected and administered, by establishing and maintaining an extensive database of accurate copyright ownership information. The MLC will allow users to view and to update the musical works data that is used to pay them via its new online user portal.
“We recognize that songwriting is a creative exercise, not a data collection exercise,” Ahrend tells MusicRow. “We sought to create a user portal that puts songwriters and publishers in a position to manage and control their data to ensure they get paid properly.”
The MLC, which is governed by a board of songwriters and music publishers, has already been working to allow songwriters and publishers to review songwriter, publishing, splits and other information regarding their catalogs of musical works.
At the beginning of the summer, The MLC launched its Data Quality Initiative (DQI), to begin comparing data for millions of works and reporting any discrepancies in the datasets back to songwriters and publishers to be reconciled. Hundreds of users have taken part since then.
“As we are building the portal we have made it a priority to help users who have already registered musical works data find ways to review their data even before the portal was available,” Ahrend says. “The point in having visibility into the data is to make sure the data is accurate.”
To date, Ahrend says The MLC has performed over 14 million works comparisons.
“Until now, that didn’t exist because the parties who collected musical works data to date always maintained that information in private databases because they were private organizations. While you might have some visibility into the data, you couldn’t run that kind of mass comparison. That made it difficult for rights holders or administrators to know where there were issues, or even to assess whether some of those discrepancies mattered in terms of payment,” Ahrend says.
This week, The MLC began giving its first members access to The MLC Portal.
An early look at the portal reveals a clean, minimalist aesthetic. Initially, the portal will allow users to register new works, to search for works that may already exist within The MLC’s data, and to edit their own existing works. Users can see works they have newly registered under a “Pending” tab to help them track which works are in The MLC queue to be processed. A single user can also manage multiple member views.
The MLC will accept files in the CWR format for bulk work registration. Some members might also opt to upload data via an Excel file, while others with smaller numbers of works to register could opt for manual data entry within the portal. They can also save registration drafts for later use. Eventually, users will be able to opt to receive regular updates on the status of recently registered works data if they wish.
“It’s designed for individual users. The MLC Portal is designed for people who want to look up individual works and see the data on those works, so in that way it will be most compelling for those self-administered songwriters, small publishers or those who are used to managing works data individually and up until now have not had that kind of user-friendly interface. At the same time, it will be great for people at larger companies, because they can also look up individual data.” Ahrend says.
The portal also allows users to search for works by alternative titles, such as shortened versions of a composition’s title, or even by common misspellings of titles.
The portal’s sleek layout allows users to quickly enter essential information for each of their works—such as songwriters and publishing companies involved with each musical work, along with options for a song’s international standard musical work code (ISWC), or an IPI number, along with an option to include a proprietary identification number for works that are part of a larger publisher’s catalog.
The work The MLC will do over the next few months as it continues its intake of musical works data and prepares for the Jan. 1 launch is only the beginning, as it will continue building out features for songwriters, publishers and other users of the portal.
“As we’ve been building the portal, it’s been a very collaborative process. We have a pool of at least 50 people pulled from our board, our advisory committees and other organizations and companies, and we’ve been working with all of them in the development process,” Ahrend says. “We also previewed it for additional publishers and songwriter organizations to receive their feedback.”
The MLC is now building the functionality for rendering statements, which will allow it to begin paying members beginning in Spring of 2021. The portal is being designed to allow users to see their payment statements directly on their individual homepage.
An MLC support team is now in place and will be available to help prospective members six days a week, Mondays-Fridays from 8 a.m.-8 p.m., and on Saturdays from 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
“The portal, like everything we are doing, will continue to be built out over time,” Ahrend sums. “The portal is the last step in the membership process for those who are already engaged with us. We have begun inviting those first members into The MLC Portal, and that process will continue to ramp up in the coming weeks.”
Those who want to learn more about becoming a member of The MLC and accessing The MLC Portal can visit theMLC.com/membership.
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