HFA Rival Music Reports Offers to Build the Damn Database

Music Reports is now releasing a rights-matching interface designed to solve the mechanical rights streaming crisis, according to details exclusively shared with Digital Music News on Tuesday evening.

Updated, Wednesday Mar. 16th, 9 am PT: Music Reports has officially launched the matching platform at musicreports.com, confirming our information from Tuesday. Bill Colitre, Vice President & General Counsel of Music Reports, has also issued the following statement:

“Music Reports’ new claiming system is an absolute game changer for the music industry because it solves the ‘unmatched recordings’ problem—a problem that is increasing exponentially.  The claiming system offers the publishing community the opportunity to bring its expertise to bear on the area it knows best: its own catalog. By providing publishers unprecedented access to match recordings and source music publishing information in this way, Music Reports is flipping a historical problem on its head and helping to ensure that every song is licensed, and every royalty is paid.”

Our original report from Tuesday, which delves into some of the context surrounding this release, follows:

The ‘claims matching interface,’ expected to be launched Wednesday morning, was first tipped to DMN by an executive close to the organization, and subsequently confirmed by Music Reports itself.  In an email sent to Digital Music News, a Music Rights representative promised “the industry’s first matching and claiming system for publishers to claim and license their recordings,” with the ability to “solve one of the music industry’s largest problems of unmatched recordings.”

Earlier, sources pointed to an effort by Music Rights to ‘seize the moment of incompetence‘ at Harry Fox Agency, of HFA, a staunch Music Reports competitor in the mechanical licensing space.  As the mechanical licensing agency for Spotify, HFA has been receiving heavy blame for the current Spotify royalty crisis, specifically for failing to send proper paperwork to artists, maintain a robust rights database, or create a system to fix its existing database issues.

Those accusations bubbled to the surface following a number of lawsuits, first sparked by a dispute last year by Victory Records and its rights management group, Audiam.  Artist activist David Lowery subsequently tipped the cart with a massive, $150 million class action claim for unpaid mechanical royalties, itself followed by a $200 million class action against streaming service Rhapsody.

Spotify’s lawyers have been aggressively fighting to de-fang the class action, though onlookers question whether Spotify should be sued for not paying rights owners it doesn’t even know exist.  In many cases, Spotify simply didn’t have a record of the mechanical rights license owner, and critically, neither did HFA.  In the absence of an industry wide database of music assets, including publishing assets, Spotify’s royalty challenge looks hopelessly complex, though that doesn’t get them off the hook.

The Music Reports ‘claims database’ would offer a possible solution to that mess, at least as it relates to this specific license.  More importantly, it would save Spotify from having to build the damn database: according to details tipped to Digital Music News, an out-of-court solution forged by the National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA) would see Spotify paying a one-time penalty for the non-payments, while also creating an interface for artists that would match all mechanical royalties to their rightful owners.  And, share that data back to HFA.

That deal offers an ‘out’ and a potential out-of-court solution to deflate the class action, though Spotify executives and investors are still being left with a bad taste in their mouth.  At worst, Lowery’s class action has been tarred as ‘copyright trolling,’ while the music industry itself looks incompetent for not even maintaining a common, functioning rights database.

Meanwhile, the stink around HFA is starting to grow more pungent.  As details of the NMPA resolution emerged, a number of industry executives wondered why Harry Fox would be exonerated, while leveraging Spotify to build its core database.  HFA’s former ownership by the NMPA has also drawn criticisms of cronyism, and Apple has already started to move away from the company (and towards Music Reports).  Meanwhile, the Agency’s lowball $20 million purchase by SESAC is now being viewed a bit differently: according to some insiders, the soggy price tag carried serious liability costs, the worst of which may lie ahead.

12 Responses

  1. Sean

    I think the paucity of comments is due to people (especially the musicians who are being used and screwed) being totally fed up with the insanity of all this. Almost everyday I see something on this posted, and how bills are being passed, and this new company promises something better, and how things are going to change, blah blah blah. The music industry is as corrupt and disorganized as the US government. You’re right – it’s time for the big boy companies to get their Sh** together.

    Seeing Google on the news showing their new driverless car REALLY pisses you off when you just got a royalty statement that showed their “payment” to you of $0.00.

  2. Jeff Robinson

    Distributors should NOT be able to sell any recording that does not have Copyright, BMI, Publishing and Performance Rights documented BEFORE release. It this were a litmus test, you’d see many recordings NOT get released and force Labels and Artists get organized.

    • Paul Resnikoff

      But, then you’d see nothing launched! So why isn’t there a central database? Last time I checked, Jim Griffin was working on the GrP, Global Repertoire Database, but it never went anywhere. My takeway from that was that there are too many stakeholders who don’t want that database to exist, it means less money for their operations.

      • Amy

        Who would benefit from the system being status quo? Isn’t everybody tired of hundred million dollar class-action lawsuits? I mean, I have some guesses, but I figured a comprehensive database of songs and ownership would benefit everybody so greatly, it should be worth it.

    • Figure It Out

      Jeff Robinson’s comment is laughable:

      “…you’d see many recordings NOT get released and force Labels and Artists get organized.”

      So, you write a song, give it to someone to record (or you record it yourself), you fail to file ANY of the proper paperwork indicating that it’s your song, but somehow, it’s the “Labels and Artists” that have to “get organized”?

      It’s really, really simple:

      If songwriters want to write songs and get paid for them, then they ought to be telling people that what they wrote and want to get paid for.

      That’s what this new MRI service is about.

      For 75 years, every music publisher and songwriter though HFA was “good enough” without ever really checking to see what they were doing – or NOT doing, as the case turns out to be.

  3. Samwise

    Well what have Songtrust, Audiam, Tunecore et al. been doing? Isn’t one of their big claims that they collect mechanicals?

  4. dhenn

    The whole thing is ridiculous! I’ve registered every damn song I’ve ever released with everyone, ASCAP, SoundExchange, etc., plus my distributor has all the info as well and they report all the streaming to me, ASCAP, SoundExchange, etc., from Spotify and others. And yet, I still rarely see a penny from ASCAP in particular. Music Reports has only contacted me for a few of my released songs when someone like Microsoft was streaming them and about twice a year I see a penny. ONE penny! Music Reports might want to get all the songs someone has released first before they think they can take this on. Still they are doing better than my damn PRO, they are the worst offenders. They know exactly who has written what but they only “poll” and don’t pay what is actually being streamed dispite having the damn lists in front of them. Plus they only have the writer/publisher side of things. SoundExchange may not be perfect either but they have a complete list of the publishing/master splits of all my released songs because I gave it to them. Their form has the most comphrehensive list of info. I used to build databases this isn’t rocket science people! Musicians – get your shit together, Distributors – get more details and make the info available if you haven’t already, and streaming/tech companies stop screwing everyone and playing dumb…you’re TECH companies, you have the info you just don’t want to pay for the product you are using to make millions from advertising and subscriptions! That’s my rant for the day. Geezus!

  5. Versus

    ” In many cases, Spotify simply didn’t have a record of the mechanical rights license owner, and critically, neither did HFA. ”

    That’s no excuse. In that case, Spotify simply should not be hosting the music in question at all until rights are determined.

  6. anon

    BTW it was called GRD (Global Repertoire Database) and it was to be a database of Compositions (not recordings). Unfortunately it was scuppered by large Collective Rights Management organisations with vested interests in maintaining their own versions of these copyright databases (“we need our own mini-GRD or we’ll lose importance and jobs”). Those of us who worked very hard to get this going were deeply upset and frustrated. But to be honest the major publishers and those other CRMs who wanted this to happen should have just forged ahead anyway.
    However even the GRD would not have solved all these issues, for that there would need to be a GRD for recordings (which is very possible using say the PPL system and building out).
    Then there needs to be a authoritative link between the recording and the composition.
    This also requires the ISO standard identifiers – the ISRC and the ISWC to be functioning correctly, which the ISRC is certainly not.

    However, all this would still not get Spotify or other DSPs ‘off the hook’ as their are aways genuine ‘orphan works’ that cannot be identified. What Spotify need in the US is something akin to the orphan works legislation that exists in Europe and the ability to make ‘reasonable searches’ for owners and to set-aside a reasonable sum to pay right holders as and when they are identified.

    So alas it comes back to both legislators and the industry needing to get themselves in shape to encourage this new form of music consumption that will be a benefit to all.