The months-long search for a Mechanical Licensing Collective (MLC) leader is over. The board has selected music executive Kris Ahrend as CEO of the organization, which was designated by the U.S. Copyright Office as a new entity to license and administer rights under the 2018 Music Modernization Act.
The Nashville-based exec has spent the past six years in executive roles within Warner Music Group, where he helped create and lead its legal, financial and administrative shared services organization. His appointment to the MLC is effective immediately.
“The unique combination of his experience with license administration, his tenure as a business and legal affairs executive in the music industry, and his most recent involvement in leading the design and operation of a large client service organization makes him well-suited to operate the MLC,” commented MLC board chair Alisa Coleman. “He has spent his career making sure artists and songwriters get paid, and the Board is thrilled to have found someone whose passion and expertise align so well with the mission of the MLC.”
A graduate of Binghamton University and the Washington & Lee School of Law, Ahrend worked as a law clerk for the Western District of the Virginia District Court and the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, before joining the intellectual property and litigation group of Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, LLP in New York.
His career in the music industry began at Sony Music’s law department, where he provided legal services to all of Sony’s U.S. divisions, including its publishing company. He subsequently served in the business and legal affairs department at Sony BMG Music Entertainment before joining Rhino Entertainment as vp business and legal affairs in 2006.
Ahrend serves on the boards of the Nashville Chamber of Commerce and the Nashville Downtown Partnership, and is a member of the Music City Music Council.
“Nothing could be more exciting than leading a company that helps ensure songwriters, composers, lyricists, and music publishers receive the money they deserve from digital service providers and offers them new tools to take control of their careers,” Ahrend said. “We will provide songwriters and publishers unprecedented transparency, rights, and the ability to claim what is theirs. Through the MLC, we are committed to improving the system for everyone.”
The MLC, which is sponsored by the National Music Publishers’ Association, was approved by the U.S. Copyright Office in July 2019. Slated to begin operations on Jan. 1, 2021, it will manage a blanket mechanical license, collect royalty payments from digital services and manage royalty payments to the correct copyright owners — with the help of a centralized database, which the MLC is in the process of developing.
Garrett Levin, CEO of the Digital Media Association (DiMA), congratulated Ahrend in a statement: “The establishment of the MLC represents a critical evolution for music licensing that will benefit the entire music community,” he said. “Kris’s deep experience in the industry, as well as his track record of building successful teams to tackle challenging problems within the music industry will be invaluable as the MLC gears up to officially launch next year. The streaming services look forward to working with him and his team as we continue to fulfill our commitment to building a better system that works for creators and fans alike.”
Added James Duffett-Smith, chairman of the Digital Licensee Coordinator (DLC) board of directors, which will be working with the MLC: “We are excited to work with Kris Ahrend as the MLC prepares to officially commence operations next year and are confident we can continue to build off the successful cooperation that led to the recent administrative assessment agreement. The success of the MLC will be critical in ensuring the music industry continues to thrive and innovate in a way that benefits music fans, songwriters and artists alike.”