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Kobalt's AMRA Relaunch Announced Global Royalty Collections Around Apple Music

AP Photo/Jeff Chiu
Drake onstage during the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco, Monday, June 8, 2015.

AMRA, the collections society formerly known as the American Mechanical Rights Agency, has announced an agreement to handle royalty collections for its clients music within Apple Music.

According to AMRA, which was quietly acquired last year by independent music publishing and rights management company Kobalt ahead of a relaunch announcement last month, the deal is worldwide except for the United States and Canada, covering AMRA clients across more than 100 territories. In a statement, Kobalt and AMRA write that this is "the first of a set of new global deals concluded" by the pair. Officials note that the deal is exclusively for AMRA clients.

"For the first time, a global rights holder has entered into a global deal with a global service provider," AMRA CEO Tomas Ericsson tells Billboard. Financial terms of the agreement weren’t disclosed.

Apple didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. The deal would align with steps the tech giant has taken to cast its new subscription streaming music as artist-friendly, for instance changing course on the royalty policy for Apple Music’s free trial following criticism from Taylor Swift.

"I’m really excited Apple has shown real concern," Ericsson said. "They want their songwriters to get paid as well."

The deal excludes the United States because the Kobalt-revamped AMRA has yet to launch here, pending the outcome of a Department of Justice review of the regulations governing performance rights organizations ASCAP and BMI, Ericsson said.

AMRA billed the agreement as increasing transparency, efficiency and economies of scales for songwriters and artists. That includes collecting royalties from certain countries, in regions such as Asia and South America, said Kenth Muldin, chairman of the AMRA board.

Founded in 2000, Kobalt secured a $60 million funding round in February led by Google Ventures. Other investors include MSD Capital, L.P., the money management firm of Dell Inc. founder and CEO Michael Dell. Kobalt clients include Paul McCartney, Max Martin, Dave Grohl, Thom Yorke and Moby.

Kobalt announced its AMRA acquisition in June. AMRA’s licensing of Kobalt’s "KORE" royalties processing platform "will fundamentally change how you collect your digital money on a global scale," Kobalt founder and CEO Willard Ahdritz told Billboard prior to the Apple announcement.

Ahdritz, in the late-July interview, predicted a "big bang for the music industry," where increased transparency and efficiency would lead to more revenue.

Kobalt has taken a fairly agressive public stance of late, appearing as the subject of an admiring cover story in Wired UK and also granting interviews to The New York Times and others, often pointing fingers at the recording industry at large for not moving fast enough on its adoption of technology. Kobalt is an underwriter of Berklee's Rethink Music program, which recently stoked debate with a report calling for music-industry transparency. The report featured in a July 31 Times op-ed by Talking Heads frontman David Byrne.

Correction, Aug. 6: This story has been updated to clarify that there are certain countries in South America that do produce digital revenue, as well that AMRA will be collecting royalties on behalf of its clients, not creators generally, in Apple Music.