The MLC is Illuminating the "Black Box" for Digital Audio Mechanicals

For years, you’ve heard people refer to the “black box” of royalties in a variety of contexts in the music industry. The term was coined to describe an unpaid pool of royalties that rightsholders could not see, search or quantify because the party paying those royalties did not share that data. For digital audio mechanicals in the U.S., the "black box" prior to The MLC’s inception turned out to be $426.9 million in unpaid historical unmatched royalties accrued by 21 DSPs between 2007 and 2020.

The MLC is illuminating this "black box" by reporting the data about unpaid royalties to its Members on a regular basis and by making the data for unpaid royalties available for Members to search and act on using tools within The MLC Portal:

  • The MLC’s Matching Tool allows Members to search the data for the unmatched royalties The MLC has received so Members can propose matches of those uses to songs they have registered.
  • The MLC’s Claiming Tool allows Members to search the data for unclaimed shares of registered works in The MLC’s database so Members can claim shares of those songs that they control.

Since launching these tools, Members of The MLC have been able to search all of the data for unclaimed shares of songs registered with The MLC, along with all of the unmatched royalties reported to The MLC pursuant to the blanket license. Starting in May 2022, The MLC began adding data for the remaining unmatched historical royalties to the Matching Tool. By the end of summer 2023, all of the remaining unmatched royalties from historical periods will be available to be searched in the Matching Tool, at which point The MLC will have completely illuminated the black box for digital audio mechanicals.

This greater visibility is one key way The MLC is fulfilling its mission to serve rightsholders and ensure that they receive all of the royalties they are due. Learning how to use our Member tools effectively, so you can claim your share of any unpaid royalties, is one of the best ways you can Play Your Part to ensure The MLC is successful for you. Together, we will not only illuminate the "black box," but also seek to eliminate it entirely!