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It’s also likely that you’ve heard about The Mechanical Licensing Collective (The MLC), the new non-profit organization responsible for administering blanket licenses covering musical works available on U.S.-based digital audio services and distributing the royalties due under those licenses to songwriters, composers, lyricists and other creators. Still, you may have questions about The MLC, exactly how our organization works, and perhaps most importantly, how The MLC can work for you.
First, some background: The MLC was established by the Music Modernization Act of 2018 (MMA), a historic piece of legislation that sought to create a more efficient and effective way for digital service providers (or DSPs) to license the music they make available on their platforms and ensure the proper rightsholders receive the mechanical royalties they are entitled to for the use of their works on those platforms.
Before the MMA, digital mechanical licensing was done largely on a song-by-song basis. But with countless songs on dozens of platforms, it was virtually impossible to obtain licenses for every use of every song, making it almost equally as impossible to deliver royalties to rightsholders accurately and efficiently (or in some cases, pay them out at all).▼ Article continues below ▼
The MMA established a new digital mechanical blanket license that grants DSPs permission to use every song on their platforms and designated The MLC to exclusively administer those licenses and collect the royalties due under them. As of January 1 of this year, services operating under the blanket license will send recording usage information and mechanical royalty payments to The MLC, which will then match the recordings to the songs they are based on, and pay the rightsholders of the songs their royalties on a monthly basis.
These changes have important ramifications for independent artists, but in order to take advantage of them and position yourself to begin receiving digital audio mechanical royalties moving forward, there are steps you will need to take.
First and foremost, if you are a self-administered songwriter (one who is not signed to or affiliated with a music publisher or publishing administrator), composer or lyricist with songs or compositions that are available in the U.S. on digital on-demand streaming or download services, you must become a member of The MLC (which is completely free of charge) to be eligible to receive digital audio mechanical royalties.
To sign up, visit The MLC’s website (TheMLC.com) and click on the blue Connect to Collect button on the homepage. From there, you will be asked to create a username and password for access to The MLC Portal, which is where MLC Members register, maintain and update their musical works data. After you have signed up and The MLC has verified your identity, you will need to create a Member profile with all of your pertinent contact and financial information, and then you can begin the process of getting your musical works data added to The Portal.
The top priority in this process is to ensure that the data you register is as accurate and complete as possible, as not doing so could ultimately cause delays in getting you paid. To help you get started, The MLC offers an organizational resource designed to help self-administered songwriters, composers, and lyricists organize all of their musical works data before they add it to The MLC Portal. This makes it easy to compile important information such as the ISWCs (International Standard Musical Work Codes) specific to your musical works and the IPI (Interested Party Information) number assigned to you by your performing rights organization, as well information about the writers of each song and the share of royalties each writer (or their publishing entity) is entitled to collect. (Please note that this resource is strictly an organizational tool; it cannot be uploaded or added into the Portal itself.)
From there, you have two options for getting your musical works data added to The MLC Portal. You can manually enter information for each of your musical works using the screens and prompts in the Portal. Or, if your catalog is especially large, you can use The MLC’s Bulk Data Upload feature, which allows you to upload data about lots of songs or compositions directly to The Portal from a spreadsheet. The MLC Portal is designed to work seamlessly on both desktop and mobile devices, so whichever approach you choose, you can do so on your phone, tablet, or desktop computer.
Remember, you won’t need to submit any audio files as part of this process, just your relevant musical works data. However, if you know information about any recordings that have been made of your songs, like the name of the artist (maybe that’s you!) and the ISRC (International Standard Recording Code), you should enter that data as well. Helping us make the connection between your songs and the recordings that have been made of your songs is one of the most important things you can do to get paid quickly and accurately.
Finally, once The MLC has reviewed and approved all of your data, we always recommend that you check on your data in The Portal or The MLC’s publicly accessible database and make any updates or adjustments that might be needed.
It’s important to note that if you are affiliated with a music publisher or administrator who registers your musical works and collects your mechanical royalties in the U.S., you will not need to become a Member of The MLC. Your publisher or administrator has likely already joined The MLC and will handle registering your musical works data on your behalf. To be sure, check with your music publisher or administrator to confirm that they have joined The MLC.
It is easy to feel overwhelmed by the complexity of digital mechanical licensing and everything outlined above. But by joining The MLC, you are gaining an important ally in this new process, one that is committed to serving you and empowering you with all of the resources, tools, and information you need.
The MLC regularly hosts webinars that go deep into the details about how to join The MLC and how to register your songs in The MLC Portal and include ample time for questions, while the Resources section of our website offers a comprehensive suite of tools designed to provide individuals with everything they need to get the most out of their MLC Membership. And once you’ve joined The MLC, our trained and knowledgeable Support Team is available to assist you with any questions or concerns you have about your Membership or your musical works data, and they can be reached quickly by filling out a simple form, calling our support phone number, or initiating a chat within The Portal.
The MMA ushered in a new era of digital mechanical licensing. In order to be a part of it – and get the compensation you have earned and deserve – we encourage you to visit our website and join The MLC as soon as possible.
Ellen Truley is the Chief Marketing Officer of The MLC, the nonprofit designated by the U.S. Register of Copyrights in July 2019 pursuant to the Music Modernization Act of 2018 and responsible for administering the new blanket compulsory license for the use of musical works by digital music services. The MLC is governed by a Board of Directors comprised of songwriters and representatives of music publishers. For more background on The MLC and its Board and Committee members, go to TheMLC.com.