Billboard: Kris Ahrend Built and Launched MLC During a Pandemic -- Now the Hard Part Begins

"We'll have the statement module for royalties ready to launch... in time for the first distribution," Ahrend says, adding that the claiming portal will follow soon after.

Every CEO in the world has a story about how their company handled the pandemic. But how many of those executives were a first-time CEO just two-months into building a brand new company when the pandemic hit? And not just any new company, but one charged with solving what may be the most vexing problem facing the music industry, a problem the labels had punted on and the digital service providers had done no better with: making sure songwriters and publishers receive their rightful royalties when their music is played.

And what if that new company couldn’t become fully functional until it got the regulations, data, and many of the technical specifications it needs to operate until more than a month after its launch date of January 1, 2021?

That’s the situation Kris Ahrend — the CEO of the Mechanical Licensing Collective (MLC) — found himself in last year. The MLC was created under the 2018 Music Modernization Act to administer a blanket mechanical license for on-demand streaming services and digital download services. The nonprofit organization was also charged with creating a publicly-available database that would enable music publishing administrators to claim their ownership stakes in songs and match the compositions to recordings. Though a board was installed in 2019, Ahrend did not start until January, 2020, when there were only two or three other staffers. Because of the pandemic, he and his small staff with hired most of the MLC’s 65 employees without meeting them outside of a Zoom call.

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