Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and President Trump during the official signing ceremony of the Music Modernization Act In October, 2018. Implementation details have since become complicated.

Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and President Trump during the official signing ceremony of the Music Modernization Act in October, 2018. Implementation details have since become complicated.

Now that the Music Modernization Act (MMA) is law, who should be implementing it?

Maybe passing the Music Modernization Act into law was the easy part.

Now, attention has shifted towards critical implementation details, with major publishers arguing that a selection process is unnecessary to fulfill the duties of the Mechanical Licensing Collective, or MLC.

The MLC, outlined in the language of the MMA, is the government-appointed organization that will track, collect, and administer the mechanical streaming royalties collected from services like Spotify and Apple Music.

The National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA), which represents the largest music publishers like Sony/ATV and Universal Music Publishing Group, has argued that this should be a no-bid contract, given that the group’s self-titled ‘MLC’ has already achieved overwhelming industry consensus.

But the AMLC, or American Mechanical Licensing Collective, feels that they have better technology and expertise, as well as broader support from indie songwriters and publishers.  The group has argued that they will get more songwriters paid, while accusing the NMPA of seeking to claim payouts that don’t belong to its members.

Initially, NMPA president David Israelite snubbed the AMLC and downplayed the possibility of a competitive bidding process.

Perhaps a bit presumptuously, the NMPA named their royalty solution the ‘MLC,’ and declared themselves the ‘industry consensus’ solution called for by the MMA.

“No matter how you want to identify what the majority of music works means, the number of songs, the number of owners, the amount of money collected, the Billboard charts — anyway you cut it, these endorsements far exceed the majority status,” Israelite declared to Billboard earlier this month.

That was a not-so-subtle jab against the AMLC, which has also claimed to enjoy majority status given its support for the independent sector, which may be a larger group of individual creators.  Meanwhile, the AMLC has been in active discussions with the U.S. Register of Copyrights, setting the stage for a competitive face-off next month at the U.S. Copyright Office.

Accordingly, the NMPA is rallying its troops.

In a letter issued this week to NMPA members, Israelite urgently requested support for the group’s MLC contender.  The letter notes ‘industry consensus’ support, but still ‘urgently’ pushed for members to publicly support the bid.

Interestingly, the letter also describes the self-titled MLC as an ‘industry consensus bid,’ which suggests that a formal bidding process involving two — or more — contenders is ahead.  The deadline for MLC submissions is during the latter part of March.

Separately, the NMPA-led MLC is now referring to themselves as a ‘submission,’ a major shift from an earlier stance that a competitive bidding process was unnecessary.

Here’s the full letter, shared with Digital Music News (bold added by NMPA).

Dear NMPA Member,

We urgently need your help with two important matters.

First, our records indicate you have not yet endorsed the industry consensus bid to establish the Mechanical Licensing Collective (MLC) being led by NMPA, NSAI and SONA. We ask that you will join the over 100 music publishers and thousands of songwriters who have already provided an endorsement. You can do so by simply responding to this e-mail with a YES.

We would greatly appreciate adding your company name and logo to our list of endorsers, which can be found here: https://www.songconnect.org/endorse/.  In the coming weeks, we will also be sending you a formal letter of support which will be included in our submission. Our goal is to have every NMPA member company formally and exclusively endorse our submission so that the Copyright Office designates our proposal to operate the Collective.

Second, we also need you to you direct your songwriters to this website run by our partners NSAI and SONA, the two leading songwriter advocacy organizations in the United States, to sign a petition in support of our industry-wide effort: https://www.supportthemlc.com/

Passing the MMA with a unanimous Congressional vote was a historic achievement, but we now must ensure that the MMA works as intended and provides all the benefits that you deserve. We can only do that with your help.

Thank you for your support.

Best,

David