Newly-Formed Mechanical Licensing Collective Issues Legal Threats Against AMLC Cofounder

The major publisher-backed Mechanical Licensing Collective (MLC) isn’t amused by AMLC co-founder Jeff Price’s latest emails.

America’s newest federal agency is getting off to a rocky start. After demanding $66.25 million in startup costs — just to get through the first year of operation — and losing two of its members, the newly-formed Mechanical Licensing Collective (MLC) is now pointing its guns at AMLC co-founder Jeff Price.

The AMLC, or American Music Licensing Collective, recently lost its bid against major publishers Sony/ATV, Universal Music Publishing Group, and Warner/Chappell to lead the newly-formed agency that will oversee mechanical licensing and payouts for streaming in America. Accordingly, the aforementioned MLC is now preparing to run the show.

Pulling the strings in the background for the major publishers is Pryor Cashman LLP, part of a well-funded effort to secure the U.S. Copyright Office’s approval to run the coveted MLC agency.  Ahead of that selection, however, AMLC principals like Price were raising serious questions about the oversized budgets demanded by the major publishers’ MLC, while strongly insinuating a boondoggle and self-enrichment scheme involving more than a billion dollars.

Now, the New York-based Price — never one to pull a punch — is taking his case to publications like the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Billboard, and Digital Music News.

In a scathing email to MLC members that cc’d several prominent journalists, Price flatly accused the MLC of pressuring streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon Music to withhold royalty payments to songwriters and publishers. Instead, Price says the MLC is demanding that all collections be funneled through their organization, even though that would generate long delays given that the MLC has yet to be created. Price further accuses the MLC of plotting to purposely mismatch the money and keep it for themselves.

“It is being suggested that the NMPA and the MLC are demanding and pressuring the digital music services to not pay songwriters and publishers the money that they are currently holding that has yet to be matched (projected to be between $500M – $1.2B),” Price attacked.

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“It was suggested that the reason the MLC and the NMPA [National Music Publishers’ Association] are taking this position is they want the projected $500M – $1.2B to fund the MLC the NMPA created, pay salaries to the new hires, use a portion of the money to pay its ‘vendors’ (the RIAA created SX Works and formerly NMPA owned entity HFA) as well as place this money into a ‘black box’ to distribute to the NMPA board members that did not earn it but sit on the board of directors of the MLC.”

The email itself was sent to David Israelite and Danielle Aguirre of the NMPA, as well as Bart Herbison of the Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI).  Beyond the Wall Street Journal, Billboard, the New York Times, the U.S. Copyright Office itself was also cc’d.

Several days later, Price received a sharply-worded cease-and-desist from Pryor Cashman partner Benjamin K. Semel.

“This firm represents the Mechanical Licensing Collective (MLC),” the letter begins.  “We write to put you on formal notice of the inaccuracy, impropriety and possible illegality of your public statements about the MLC.”

Whether Price is spinning a yarn is unclear, though Semel firmly declared the accusations to be false and defamatory.

“We are in receipt of copies of emails that you sent to numerous news outlets and others in which you peddled false and defamatory stories about MLC activities. The defamatory fictions that you are hawking include a baseless and outrageous claim that the MLC attempted to prevent digital streaming services from matching and paying mechanical royalties in order to use the money to fund its operations. To be clear, your stories are entirely false, nor could an informed person reasonably believe otherwise.

Exactly why the major publishers committed the billable hours to clamp down on Price is another question, though the letter points to real damage. Price seems to be causing some problems, despite losing the AMLC bid.

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“Such false statements are to the direct detriment of the songwriter and copyright owner communities that the MLC serves. Such attempts to damage the MLC’s reputation and public relations cost the MLC money and divert its resources from other operational tasks….

“Your accusations are false, without basis in fact, and plainly designed to impugn the integrity of the MLC.”

We’re awaiting a formal comment from Price himself.

14 Responses

  1. Avatar
    meh

    Price is known to be a clout fiend… He got fired from Tunecore for a reason. He just won’t change. I don’t even know the details here but I have the feeling Jeff’s going overboard.

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Truth to Power

      @meh Price is known to be outspoken, sure. He’s also known to be one of the few genuine crusaders in the fight for rights holders to get paid what they’re owed. He’s doing a brave thing, and there’s reason to believe his accusations have at least a seed of truth to them. What have you done to diminish corruption in the music industry?

      Reply
    • Avatar
      Gian Caterine

      A clout fiend? WTF does that mean? Given the choice, I ALWAYS want a street fighter going after my money in this business.

      Reply
      • Avatar
        Anonymous

        Someone obsessed with gaining clout, or fame, influence, etc. He certainly is is that, but that doesn’t mean he’s wrong.

        Reply
  2. Avatar
    ANON

    Thanks for trying to put her ANOTHER middle man in between me (the musician) and my $4.12 cent check!
    LAUGH OUT LOUD
    I can’t wait for this market to correct and you lot look through Wall Mart shelter for your bunks
    Your all out of business
    You just don’t know it yet

    Reply
  3. Avatar
    Anonymous

    I have doubts about the claim that the MLC is pressuring services to withhold money to songwriters. I’m not aware of any services that are actually doing that.

    The claim that the MLC is purposely plotting to mismatch the money and keep it for themselves… that sounds about right. If HFA is their vendor, and you read Eminem’s recent lawsuit against Spotify that details HFA’s matching capabilities (or lack thereof) (https://www.digitalmusicnews.com/2019/08/22/spotify-infringement-eminem/), it doesn’t appear that the MLC is terribly concerned about correctly matching works to their rightful owners before the first market-share based distribution of unmatched royalties occurs.

    Reply
  4. Avatar
    Anonymous

    Major streaming music DSP here
    (not going to say which for fear of hassle)

    Yes we were/have been asked to withhold matched payments

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Anonymous

      I would imagine there’s probably a law against that sort of thing. Like the one that created the MLC in the first place.

      Reply
    • Avatar
      Thunder

      Who’s gonna get to steal from us
      What’s the interest rate on a billion?
      Or are u trying to get a secured loan
      Won’t help
      COMPOUNDING INTEREST wins the day
      All of you are out a job
      Artist Win In The End
      List these names down artists
      PERSONAS NON GRATIS IN MUSIC AFTER THE CRASH

      UNMATCHED ROYALTIES
      THEY ARE STEALING FROM US!!!!!!!

      Reply
  5. Avatar
    Iain Innit

    Looks like Jeff Price wont get invited to the next Great Circular Award Ceremony for all the jeenyus that gave the world the MMA (Must be Medianet Again)

    Reply
  6. Avatar
    Common Sense

    This is the biggest waste of time; all these lawyers have been fighting for years and have gotten nowhere in finding a solution. There’s more fighting in this proverbial basement than in actually moving the needle forward. It’s a complete f-ing bore. Every music artist, starting with the most influential, should refuse to allow their music to be on any streaming site in its entirety (maybe only for promotional snippets) and slowly bring back the physical model. More money, easier to track, better quality sound, no more DSP-friendly streaming rates. Period.

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Anonymous

      Sounds wonderful, except that only those artists who control their sound recordings can pull that off. Otherwise you have to talk the labels into it. They’re making truckloads of money, so they won’t. Even if they did, it seems doubtful the public at large will buy physical again.

      I’d prefer windowing new releases as physical and permanent downloads only, and making back catalog available for streaming. That won’t happen either, of course. But it would be nice.

      Reply
  7. Avatar
    Rabbi Shlomo

    Fuk pryor cashman- they are the music industry cock suckers- they’ve fucked more artists over than anyone- if you don’t like jeff price than you’re a moron. he’s exactly what the industry needs and he’s more than 80% right on his claims. Jeff is a great artist rights activist. and he built tunecore. never took a penny of the artists earning when his technology certainly warranted a cut.

    Reply

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