On Wednesday, the Mechanical Licensing Collective announced it had received $424.38 million in unmatched royalties from Apple Music, Amazon Music, and Spotify among other streaming services. Variety reports that these streaming services paid the accrued historical unmatched royalties, often called “black box money,” to the MLC in order to get these royalties to copyright holders, songwriters, and publishers who have applied to be MLC members.
The royalty payments and statements could arrive as soon as April, and the MLC will launch a public database plus the ability for registered members to submit royalty claims. The Music Modernization Act law, as Pitchfork pointed out, dictates that the MLC must distribute unmatched royalties to the rights holders within two years. Apple Music transferred the most money to the MLC with over $163 million, while Spotify wasn’t far behind at just over $152 million. Amazon, meanwhile, transferred $42 million, while Google/YouTube sent $32 million.
National Music Publishers Association president and CEO David Israelite said the payment is a “massive win” for rights holders. “Songwriters and music publishers have for years fought to ensure they were paid accurately and fully by digital streaming services," he said in a statement. "'Unmatched money’ has plagued the industry and today, thanks to the Music Modernization Act, we know that it amounts to just under $425 million—not including money previously paid out in multiple million-dollar settlements.”
In the future, the MLC is looking to provide further information regarding historical unmatched royalties. The Artist Rights Alliance called the payment a "great start," but added there's "a lot of work still to be done to get that money to the songwriters that earned it." Alongside the payments, DSPs have also received over 1,800 data files totaling 1.3 terabytes and 9 billion lines of data, all of which will be reviewed and analyzed by the MLC to pay the correct copyright owners.
"SONA is pleased to see the Music Modernization Act begin to take effect," said Songwriters of North America executive director Michelle Lewis in a statement. "This money will now be matched and find its way to the rightful songwriters and publishers that earned these royalties. We encourage all SONA members, along with every songwriter, to go to theMLC.com to learn how they are eligible to join or participate, which is critical to ensuring every writer who earned this money gets their fair share of these royalties."