The Music Modernization Act

In 2018, congress passed, and the President signed into law, The Orrin G. Hatch-Bob Goodlatte Music Modernization Act (MMA) of 2018. The Music Modernization Act changes the compulsory mechanical licensing process by introducing a blanket license system for digital service providers (DSPs) such as Apple Music and Spotify. The law also establishes a mechanical licensing collective to administer the blanket license, and a digital licensee coordinator to represent the DSP licensees.

The MLC

The Mechanical Licensing Collective (The MLC, themlc.com) is an organization established by the Music Modernization Act that is charged with administering a blanket mechanical license for digital service providers (DSPs), and with developing a public musical works database for the music industry (meant to unify information). The MLC strives to ensure that creators are paid their fair share of mechanical royalties. It hopes to accomplish this by engaging creators to assist with the identification of unmatched works, through its Play Your Part initiative.

The DLC

The Digital Licensee Coordinator (The DLC, digitallicenseecoordinator.org) represents digital service providers (DSPs) that offer music downloads and streams. It helps DSPs coordinate with The MLC and the Copyright Office.

Effects of the Music Modernization Act

Starting in 2021, many digital service providers (DSPs) will operate under the blanket license offered by The MLC. For compulsory cover songs distributed to blanket-licensee DSPs only an Easy Song mechanical license for interactive audio streams ONLY will no longer be required. However, in all other cases, a mechanical license (cover song license) like those offered by Easy Song Licensing is required. For example,

YOU NEED an Easy Song Cover Song License for...
  1. distribution of physical products of any kind (CDs, Vinyl),
  2. distribution of digital downloads to the major music services Amazon, Apple, Bandcamp, or Soundcloud,
  3. distribution of interactive audio streams on your own website,
  4. distribution of ringtones on your own website,
  5. distribution of digital downloads; ringtones; or interactive audio streams to any digital service provider offering fewer than 5,000 unique sound recordings (USR) on their service that elects to NOT operate under the blanket license offered by The MLC;
  6. distribution of digital downloads to any digital service provider offering more than 5,000 unique sound recordings (USR) on their service that elects to NOT operate under the blanket license offered by The MLC; or
  7. any non-compulsory cover song clearance (derivatives, lyric changes, samples).
YOU NEED an Easy Song Custom License for...
  1. Synch Rights - YouTube, Film, Digital Video, DVDs),
  2. Print Rights - Lyrics, Sheet Music, Display
  3. Grand Rights - All sorts of theatrical uses, and
  4. Master Rights - Any use of a copyrighted recording.

IMPORTANT: The MLC has shared a list of DSPs opting into the blanket license offered by The MLC. You can review that list here: https://themlc.com/dsp-notices. You must obtain licenses to distribute to all non-blanket licensee platforms. Also, Easy Song Licensing has confirmed with the DSPs that you must obtain mechanical licenses for digital downloads. In other words, the DSPs are not clearing digital download licensing for you.

Now that blanket licensees have been confirmed, we recommend the following:
  • For services that elect to operate under the blanket license ONLY, mechanical licensing obligations FOR INTERACTIVE AUDIO STREAMS ONLY are handled by the service provider, and you the artist are not individually responsible for obtaining permission (such as an Easy Song license) for songs distributed on those services.
  • For services that elect to operate under the blanket license ONLY, mechanical licensing obligations FOR DIGITAL DOWNLOADS are NOT being handled by the service providers, and you the artist are responsible for obtaining permission (such as an Easy Song license) for songs distributed on those services.
  • For services that have elected to NOT operate under the blanket license (significant non-blanket licensees), mechanical licensing is NOT handled by the service provider, and YOU are responsible for obtaining permission (such as an Easy Song license) for songs distributed on those services.
  • For small services, with under 5,000 unique sound recordings (USR) available, blanket mechanical licensing is NOT be handled by the service provider, and YOU are responsible for obtaining permission (such as an Easy Song license) for songs distributed on those services.
Finally, it's important to remember the following:
  • The MMA affects cover song licensing only. You still need to clear permission for any custom use, such as YouTube, film, print, web, tv, advertising, corporate, derivatives, grand rights, lyric changes, non-compulsory uses, and more. We can help you through our Custom Licensing service. If you have questions about your particular needs, please contact us.
  • The MMA does not affect compulsory mechanical licensing for physical products in any way (CDs, Vinyl). For physical products, you should continue to get an Easy Song Cover Song License.
  • We have contacted the major service providers that offer digital downloads and they have confirmed that they are NOT handling mechanical licensing for digital downloads for you. In other words, you are responsible to obtain mechnaical licenses for digital downloads and Easy Song Licensing can help.
  • It’s still up to you to make sure you have the necessary permission to release copyrighted music. In other words, don’t just assume someone else is covering the licensing for you. Be sure. If you have concerns, please contact us.

Not Changing

With these changes, one thing will stay the same: Easy Song Licensing is here to help you, music creators and users. Our mission is better music for everyone and we believe life sounds better when artists thrive. To that end, here’s what you can continue to expect from Easy Song Licensing:

  • Talk to a real person
  • Clear any song with our help
  • Enjoy FAST, friendly service from people who care

What is a digital service provider (DSP)?

A digital service provider (DSP) is any music service that offers digital downloads or streams. The most prominent DSPs are Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon Music, YouTube Music, Tidal, and Deezer. Dozens of smaller DSPs exist as well.

What is a unique sound recording (USR)?

The MLC categorizes DSPs based on the number of unique sound recordings (USR) they make available on their service. Any DSP with over 5,000 USR is required by law to pay fees and report monthly to The MLC. DSPs with fewer than 5,000 USR need not report or pay MLC fees. However, all DSPs are required to either handle mechanical licensing themselves OR require pass-through licenses from users that distribute music to their service (such as the Cover Song Licenses Easy Song Licensing provides).

Are DSPs required by law to handle mechanical licensing (cover song licensing) for me?

No. DSPs have a few options:

  1. Elect to operate under the blanket license offered by The MLC,
  2. License via custom deals with the copyright owners (direct licensing), or
  3. For digital downloads only:
    1. Operate via pass-through licensing, where the individuals distributing the music (record labels and individual artists like you) are responsible for securing the necessary mechanical licenses. This is what they have told us they are doing.
    2. Handle compulsory mechanical licensing themselves under the traditional system of sending NOIs and SOAs directly to the copyright owners.

Do I need a cover song license?

YES, if any of the following are true:

  • You are distributing a physical product (CDs, Vinyl).
  • You are distributing digital downloads to the major music services Amazon, Apple, Bandcamp, or Soundcloud.
  • You are distributing downloads, streams, or ringtones on your own website.
  • You are distributing to any DSP offering fewer than 5,000 unique sound recordings.
  • You are distributing to any DSP that does NOT operate under the blanket license offered by The MLC.
  • You are distributing any product that is not eligible for compulsory licensing.
https://www.easysonglicensing.com/pages/help/articles/copyright-law/what-is-the-music-modernization-act.aspx