Music Licensing Collective on track to distribute $400 million in royalties

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Kris Ahrend, CEO of the Music Licensing Collective. Photo courtesy of the MLC

The Nashville-based Music Licensing Collective (MLC) is on track to distribute more than $400 million in royalties to songwriters and publishers since its launch, according to its top executive.

Why is this important: The job of the nonprofit MLC is to match royalties from on-demand streaming services with the right copyright owner. It was created by the landmark Music Modernization Act, which President Trump signed into law in 2018.

Driving the news: Streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music were previously on the verge of selling licensed songs. But, failing to pay the right songwriter has resulted in costly lawsuits.

  • As a compromise, the streaming companies agreed to fund the creation of the MLC and support the Music Modernization Act. In exchange, they ceased to be legally responsible for these prosecutions.
  • Songwriter advocacy groups, including the Nashville Songwriters Association International, have also backed the bill.

Between the lines: Because streaming revenue is now fundamental to the music economy, industry players have closely watched MLC’s success in paying royalties.

  • According to its annual report, the MLC achieved a match rate of over 87% using a newly created database and sophisticated software.
  • The MLC is headquartered in Nashville and employs about 80 people. Its membership includes more than 17,000 copyright owners.

What he says: MLC CEO Kris Ahrend says he’s proud “there were no gaps” in regular scheduled monthly payments to copyright owners.

  • A major challenge facing the MLC is identifying the correct copyright holders entitled to an estimated additional $424 million in unmatched royalties that accrued prior to the organization’s launch.

And after: Ahrend tells Axios that the MLC will successfully pay these dues by continuing to publicize the organization, enrolling members, and growing its database.

  • “More members and more data will give us a much better chance of being successful in building connections and paying people with that money.”

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