The smallest of the USA’s music performing rights societies, SESAC, is to acquire the Harry Fox Agency, creating an agency that can operate in both mechanical and public performance licensing. In Europe, there have been various efforts to provide combined mechanical/performing right licences to customers who need them. In the UK via the alliance between the publishing sector’s mechanical and performing rights societies the MCPS and PRS respectively means that rights can be combined. In the US, the main performing rights organisations, BMI and ASCAP, are barred from involvement in mechanical licensing by the consent decrees that govern their operations. SESAC is not governed by such a consent decree. The Harry Fox Agency is currently owned by the National Music Publishers Association. According to the New York Times the deal will have to be approved by NMPA members.
The new structure should allow the combined agency to provide joint performing/mechanical licences for any of the songs that either of the organisation represent, and to offer songwriters and publishers a more efficient licensing and royalty processing service. It will also give SESAC access to a world of valuable data held by HFA regarding the use of songs on a number of key digital platforms.
SESAC CEO John Josephson told reporters: “Licensing is fragmented across both multiple types of rights, as well as multiple territories, for the streaming services that represent the future growth opportunity of the music industry. The result is a complex, opaque and currently inefficient licensing regime that fails to deliver the best outcomes for creators and publishers, as well as end users. What excites us about this transaction is the ability it provides to make the licensing process both simpler and more efficient, and in so doing create additional value for music creators and publishers, as well as the digital music platforms”.