2019 Grammys

Industry Consensus Group Announces Board Members for Proposed Mechanical Licensing Collective

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The Music Modernization Act-related news accompanies committee appointments and endorsements from across the industry.

The industry consensus group has announced board and committee memberships for the Mechanical Licensing Collective (MLC) ahead of its March 21 application deadline to form the entity tasked with overseeing the blanket mechanical license formed by the Music Modernization Act. As well, the organization has lined up an impressive list of endorsements from industry trade groups, performance rights organizations and publishers.

According to an announcement on Monday (Feb. 4), publishers on the MLC board of directors include BMG's Jeff Brabec, Sony/ATV's Peter Brodsky, Kobalt's Bob Bruderman, peermusic's Tim Cohan, ABKCO's Alisa Coleman, Pulse Music Group's Scott Cutler, Warner/Chappell's Paul Kahn, Universal Music Publishing's David Kokakis, Big Machine Music's Mike Molinar and Concord Music's Evelyn Paglinawan. The four songwriter/publishers are Kara DioGuardi, Oak Felder, Kevin Kadish and Tim Nichols. Sources say that while no one from the National Music Publishers Association (NMPA) has yet been named in any capacity, someone from the organization is expected to be a non-voting member of the overall board.

The MLC is being formed by the NMPA in conjunction with the Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI) and the Songwriters of North America (SoNA). The publishing board members where chosen by a publishing advisory group consisting of Big Deal's Kenny MacPherson, Reel Muzik Werks' Teri Nelson Carpenter; Bienstock Empire's Caroline Bienstock, Lipservices' Julie Lipsius, ole's John Ozier and former SONGS owner Matt Pincus. The songwriter board members were designated by a songwriter advisory panel that consisted of NSAI's Steve Bogard and Chris DeStefano, BMI's Dallas Davidson and Bob DiPiero, ASCAP's Dan Foliart and Paul Williams, SoNA's Adam Gorgoni and Michelle Lewis, and Songwriters Guild of America's Lynn Gillespie Chater.

Those two advisory groups played similar roles in choosing the respective publishers and songwriters for various committees that are also a part of the collective. The NMPA coordinated with the publisher advisory group, while the NSAI and SoNA worked with the songwriters advisory committee in helping to choose the board and committee members.

The industry consensus group has racked up endorsements from trade groups NMPA, NSAI, SoNA, RIAA, A2IM, AIMP, The Recording Academy, The Gospel Music Association, The Copyright Alliance and SoundExchange, as well as all four performance rights organizations, ASCAP, BMI, SESAC and GMR. Music publishers and companies that own music publishers have also signed on to support the MLC, including Sony Music, Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group, TRO Essex Music Group, BMG, Kobalt Music, Concord Music, Disney Music Publishing, Downtown Music Publishing, Reservoir, Round Hill Music, Spirit Music Group, Big Deal Music, peermusic, ABKCO, Ten Ten Music Group, Bienstock Empire, Inc., Leeds Music, Major Bob Music, The Royalty Network, ole, Shapiro Bernstein & Co., Reach Music Publishing, PEN Music Group, Big Machine Music, Wixen Music Publishing, Atlas Music Publishing, Pulse Music Group, Reel Muzik Werks, MPL, Fox Music, Songtrust and tunecore, among others.

So far, the only other known group that plans to submit an application is the American Music Licensing Collective (AMLC). That group and the industry consensus group seem to have different interpretations of a key phrase in the Music Modernization Act -- that the MLC, which is to be chosen by the U.S. Copyright Office, must be "endorsed by, and enjoy…substantial support from, musical work copyright owners that together represent the greatest percentage of the licensor market." Addressing that, NMPA CEO and President David Israelite said "with these endorsements," no matter how you read the law, the industry consensus group has achieved that majority benchmark.

"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," he said.

The AMLC responded to the announcement by the industry consensus group, saying, "We are excited to see the industry continue to work toward the goals stated in the recently signed Music Modernization Act. With another MLC candidate now having made public some if its board members, and the Copyright Office making clear that a musical work copyright owner is not prohibited 'from endorsing multiple prospective MLCs', we (the AMLC) are encouraged that the Register of Copyrights will be able to make a defensible designation of the MLC from more than one entity, and based on the merits of that MLC candidate."

The AMLC’s board consists of Stewart Copeland, Rick Carnes of the Songwriter Guild of America, ClearBox Rights President and CEO John Barker, Bluewater Music Publishing's Brownlee Ferguson, Optic Noise President Lisa Klein Moberly, attorney Henry Gradstein, Union Music Group’s Ricardo Ordonez, Audiam’s Jeff Price and songwriter Benji Rodgers. MusicAnswers.org founders and songwriters Phil Galdston and David Wolfert are non-voting observers to the board.

Conspicuous by its absence in the endorsement announcement is DiMA, the Digital Media Association, which represents the digital music services that are required to pay for forming the collective. Those companies must also provide ongoing funding for the MLC's operations collecting and reporting on all song plays at all services, as well as setting up and maintaining a comprehensive song database that matches compositions to recordings.

Sources say that DiMA is still involved in negotiations with the collective about how much funding will be required, thus holding up any possible endorsement.

Meanwhile, the industry consensus group's other committee boards announced on Monday were the Unclaimed Royalties Oversight Committee, the Dispute Resolution Committee and the Operations Advisory Committee.

The Unclaimed Royalties Oversight Committee has publishing board members Phil Cialdella of Atlas Music, Third Side Music's Patrick Curley, PEN Music's Michael Eames, The Royalty Network's Frank Liwall, TRO Essex's Kathryn Ostien and songwriters busbee, Kay Hanley, David Lowery, Dan Navarro and Tom Shapiro.

The Dispute Resolution Committee consists of Disney Music's Alison Koerper, Daywind's Ed Leonard, Downtown's Sean McGraw, Shapiro Bernstein & Co.'s Debbie Rose, Wixen Music's Jason Rys and songwriters Aimée Allen, Odie Blackmon, Gary Burr, David Hodges and Jennifer Schott.

The Operations Advisory Committee includes Songtrust's Joe Conyers III, Kobalt's Scott Farrant, Reservoir's Rell LaFargue, UMPG's John Reston, Sony/ATV's Bill Starke and Round Hill Music's Michael Lau. The digital seats are still to be named.

In addition to the members of the board and committee announcements, the industry consensus group also launched its website, SongConnect.org, as well as a website for all of the songwriters and artists who support the MLC to officially endorse: SupporttheMLC.com/home.

Following the March 21 application deadline, the Copyright Office will begin assessing how well each applicant fits law's mandates for the role and will then choose which collective will form and oversee the mechanical licensing collective.