Shame: SoundExchange Is Now Sitting On Nearly $300 Million In Unpaid Artist Royalties

Stop us if the smell gets too bad.

In May of this year, Digital Music News unearthed a monstrous, unpaid artist account balance at SoundExchange of more than $260 million.  The proof was in the 2008 non-profit tax filing, yet SoundExchange spent considerable effort to discredit both our report, our publication, and even their own statements.

The rest was dizzying.  The group initially pointed to a year-2009 balance of $200 million.  Then, after we published that figure, SoundExchange executives brazenly changed the number to $39 million, based on lots of fuzzy calculations and re-categorizations.

Confused yet?  Fast-forward to the present, and SoundExchange is now showing an unpaid artist account balance of $294 million.  Here’s how SoundExchange breaks down this latest monstrosity:

$111 million in ‘unpayable’ funds.

Of that…

$43 million are ‘unclaimed funds.’
$23 million stuck due to ‘bad metadata.’
$23 million stuck due to ‘unclaimed money by foreign collecting societies.’
$22 million stuck due to ‘account issues and paperwork.’

The rest?  We’re not exactly sure, but here’s the good news.  SoundExchange is now ingesting and paying out more than ever before, it’s just that everything is unfortunately increasing.  According to the group, $204.2 million was collected last year, up 20 percent from 2008, and $155.5 million was dispersed, up 55 percent.