Business News Labels & Publishers

MLC launches unmatched royalty identification tool

By | Published on Wednesday 28 September 2022

Music Licensing Collective

American collecting society MLC has launched a new tool that allows music distributors to easily access data on unclaimed mechanical royalties in the US for over two million recordings.

It’s called the Distributor Unmatched Recordings Portal. Quite a boring name, you might think, but it means they can walk around referring to it as DURP, which is fun to say. Plus, perhaps more importantly, this is a really good scheme that should allow artists currently missing out on some or all of their song royalties to get connected to that revenue stream.

One of the issues with the way streaming currently works is that when record labels and music distributors deliver tracks to the digital platforms, they only grant permission for the recording rights in those tracks to be exploited and provide rights data about the recording. They do not license or provide specific data about the songs contained in the recording.

This means that the music publishers and collecting societies that license the song rights then have to identify what recordings contain their songs and claim any royalties they are due from the streaming of those songs. If a recording isn’t formally matched to a song by any publisher or society, then the streaming services don’t know who to pay.

A system has been set up in each country to deal with the money that is due on the unmatched works, although none of those systems are perfect by any means. In the US, the current system – when it comes to the specific ‘mechanical royalties’ due to songwriters – was put in place by the 2018 Music Modernization Act, and is now run by the MLC.

A good way to try to identify what songs are contained in unmatched recordings is to consult the distributors that delivered those recordings, who in turn can liaise with the artists that made them. In the case of the DIY distributors in particular, the artist may well have written the song themselves, but not be allied with any publisher or society to claim their song royalties.

Therefore, this alliance between the MLC and a network of distributors – including a number of DIY distributors – is a really good idea, and could make the US system for dealing with unmatched recordings the best system in the world.

“Our data has identified millions of dollars in unmatched digital audio mechanical royalties due to creators for songs they’ve recorded and released through more than 1800 independent music distributors, aggregators and labels around the world”, says Dae Bogan, The MLC’s Head Of Third-Party Partnerships. “By giving these companies visibility into the data, we can help them serve their customers better and help The MLC reduce unclaimed royalties”.

One of the companies already using the tool is distributor and labels services business Empire, whose SVP Legal & Business Affairs Vinny Kumar says: “As Empire is a company with both distribution and publishing arms, DURP is an invaluable tool that will give us a clear view into our catalogue to identify unmatched works. This type of transparency will allow us to effectively bridge the gap between our publishing and distribution clients and to identify unclaimed royalties for present songwriters as well as unpublished artists”.

More information on and access to DURP is available here.

This story is discussed on this edition of our Setlist podcast.