Five and 1/2 Problems with The MLC’s Analog “Music Data Organization Form”


MLC Data Organization Form 1

We’ve been waiting for The MLC to show us how the best of breed solves the global rights database problem.  Hopefully the smart people will solve that problem before the January 1 deadline when the MMA’s blanket license comes into effect.  We’ve been told many times that HFA and ConsenSys were the elites and the smart people who would lead songwriters to the promised land.  So we have all been waiting.   And waiting.  And waiting….  The deadline is less than six months away and we have seen no tech demonstrated at all despite all the hoopla and promises.

VaporwareBut this week we got a look at what the elites have come up with in the form of the “Music Data Organization Form” that The MLC wants songwriters to use to “Play Your Part”.  Remember–The MLC got the tens of millions of dollars from the services and they want you to “Play Your Part” and “Eat Your Costs” to play your part for free.  Remember–they are the ones with a paycheck and fringe benefits paid for by the services that rip off songwriters every day.

Whenever we want to read a press release from The MLC we always turn to Music Row Magazine where we can usually read it word for word.  This is what Music Row “reports” about The MLC’s “Music Data Organization Form”:

The MLC created the Music Data Organization Form to help self-administered songwriters, composers and lyricists begin to organize their musical works’ data ahead of The MLC’s roll-out of The MLC Portal.

“The Music Data Organization Form is designed as a worksheet to help guide self-administered writers through the process of collecting the data they’ll need to register with The MLC,” said Kris Ahrend, CEO of The MLC. “The form essentially outlines the information self-administered writers will need to compile in order to register their musical works in The MLC Portal.”

The MLC intends to begin rolling out the first version of its user portal later this quarter. This version [of the portal, not the Music Data Organization Form] will enable users to set-up their accounts and then search, view and edit The MLC’s data for existing musical works and register new musical works.

So now it’s “later this quarter” which is a shift from what The MLC’s Richard Thompson said at the Copyright Office unmatched roundtable only last December when he said on the record: “So our current timeline has the first version of the portal going live late Q2, early Q3, of next year” meaning this year.  We are in early Q3 now, but now it’s “later this quarter.”  You know, Jesus is coming, look busy.

We can save you a trip–you don’t have a choice in participating in the blanket license because it’s even more compulsory than the old compulsory thanks to the Music “Modernization” Act.  On the other hand, you may not have to use this form because this form has no use to you as we will see, particularly if you already have all your song data organized in a format that works for you.

If you use The MLC’s “Music Data Organization Form” it appears that you’ll just have to do the same work all over again which the last paragraph of the Music Row press release tells you if you read closely.  (That’s the kind of daylight in the facts we expect journalists to catch.)

More importantly, entering your data in the Music Data Organization Form must be done manually.  At this rate, it may be that entering your data in whatever “portal” The MLC cooks up certainly looks like it, too, will require manual entry from independents.  Each of those manual steps will then be mistake-prone which could easily lead to…a bigger black box.

Just sayin.

The MLC’s “Music Data Organization Form” does not seem to serve much of a purpose and it surely can’t be a list of all the data fields that The MLC will require.  Those fields are still being argued over at the Copyright Office.  It seems to us that The MLC’s “Music Data Organization Form” is a make work step to mollify songwriters who are getting restless.  Because looking busy.

Here’s some problems with The MLC’s “Music Data Organization Form” that we’ve identified.  You may find others.  If you do, leave a comment privately.

Problem #1:  Once it is filled out, this form cannot be ingested by anyone for anything as far as we can tell.  We think we’re safe in saying that you shouldn’t use this form if you think that you can just hand it over to The MLC and have them then use it to automatically upload your song data into the global rights database by ingesting the metadata you laboriously inputted in the form.

Problem #2:  Even though the “Music Data Organization Form” is in Excel, it may as well be in WordStar–there are no formulas in any cell.  We know this because we checked each cell, but here’s another way to find out:

MLC Data Organization Form Split

Note that the Lennon and McCartney shares sum to 110%, but you wouldn’t know you had incorrect splits from the “Music Data Organization Form” because there is no formula in the cells that totals the splits for you.  Which is, by the way, the most basic arithmetic in Excel.  You can eyeball the splits in the easy case of 50/50 but if you had 9 writers, you might overlook if all the splits don’t sum to 100%.  Which is why you have the machine do it for you!

Problem #3:  You have to do a separate Excel file for each song in your catalog.  So you’ll get lots of practice at filling out this form manually.  That could lead to getting it right more often or getting tired and making more mistakes.

MLC Data Organization Form 2

Problem #4:  The MLC thinks you can use this to handwrite your metadata.  Yes, you read that right.  It’s already set up with print fields, so they got that printing thing right at least.

MLC Data Organization Form FAQ

Problem #5:  The writers are not tied to publishers in any permanent way.  One wrong sort of the cells in the “Music Data Organization Form” at The MLC and there’s no telling how many mistakes there will be.

Problem #5A:  There’s only an implication that The MLC will want you to send them these worksheets.  They don’t actually say they want you to send them.  Frankly, if you have to do a separate work sheet for each song, they probably don’t even want them.  But–because The MLC’s “Music Data Organization Form” is not automatically inputted into The MLC’s systems, if The MLC did get their hands on the individual forms, there is nothing stopping The MLC from sending a copy to others, like, oh say HFA or another vendor.  Nobody would ever know.  And it would keep those interns busy with data entry.

We could go on, but let’s stop there.

Hey, DLC!  This is what you get for $30 million?  We think ya been robbed.

But seriously folks, you never get a second chance to make a first impression.  What we expected was something just a tad more comprehensive and useful.   Something befitting the best and brightest, the global elites in our business.  Something that was smarter than what the average ConsenSys asteroid miner would come up with.  We don’t rule out the possibility that this is some magical blockchain solution hiding in plain sight but we’re not smart enough to see how that works if that’s the secret.

But even so it still leads us back to the same conclusion.

If The MLC is getting paid to process our data then they should take our data in the format that’s convenient for us.  If they don’t like that, then they should pay us to change the data into a format that’s convenient for them to build the core asset they are being paid millions to create. They already got the money to do this job.

It’s that simple.  But please don’t pawn off this kind of manual solution on us and tell us that we just need to make copies of their lo-fi worksheet for each song in our catalogs.  It can’t even add up the splits.