Audiam, an eight-year-old collection agency that helps rightsholders "license, police, audit, research, collect and distribute" unpaid royalties from YouTube and other services, was sold Wednesday to the performance-rights organization SESAC.

"This is another brick in the wall of the strategy of finding businesses to deliver superior value to rightsholders," says John Josephson, CEO of SESAC, which also owns the Harry Fox Agency. "Our plan is to continue broadening the scope of services we offer."

The sale allows Audiam's longtime owner, the Canadian rights-management group SOCAN, to retain a 15% stake in the company, according to a source close to the deal. Audiam, whose clients include Metallica, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Jason Mraz, represented more than 1.2 million copyrights and had collected $120 million for songwriters and publishers as of 2019.

Last year, Audiam's outspoken founder, Jeff Price, left the SOCAN-owned company, tweeting that he remained "committed to the mission Audiam was founded to pursue," but added, "Ultimately the interests of SOCAN were allowed to dominate that mission."

Price is critical of the sale partly because SESAC also owns Harry Fox, which works with publishers and labels to distribute mechanical royalties to publishers. Price, who accuses Harry Fox of a "lack of payments to copyright holders," viewed Audiam, which competed with it in some ways, as providing a kind of unofficial check on its work. As long as there were two entities with a significant amount of data about mechanical rights, rightsholders could compare their ability to identify and collect on the uses of their work.

"With this acquisition, HFA neutralizes the sole entity that exposes its own actions," he says.

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Josephson says that Audiam is moving away from the publishing side of the business, with an emphasis on working with artists and labels to collect recorded-music royalties. Harry Fox has only ever collected publishing rights. "I don't see that as a conflict," Josephson says.

In any case, he adds, Price originally hired Audiam's current management team, which works as "an autonomous business unit" and will continue to do so under SESAC's supervision.

"I love the management team, I love the mission of the company," Josephson says of Audiam. "There's an opportunity for us to really drive growth in the business."