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.
“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.
“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.