Songtrust, owned by Downtown Music Holdings, recently faced significant and prolonged suspensions from major rights societies including PRS for Music, SACEM, and the collective ICE. These suspensions caused a major disruption in royalty earnings for member songwriters and rightsholders, with some payments being substantially delayed. The issues began in 2021 and were only resolved after intensive efforts were made to remove fraudulent and problematic accounts and improve internal processes.
As a global music publishing administrator, Songtrust handles over 350,000 clients and manages around three million songs. The company boasts an extensive global presence in 215 countries and collaborates with 65 global sources, with prominent partnerships including US-based PROs ASCAP and BMI, as well as European organizations like SACEM and PRS for Music.
Aside from PRS for Music, SACEM, and ICE, at least two other publishing rights organizations were considering a freeze on Songtrust clientele. However, after witnessing the proactive measures taken to address the issues, these organizations paused their plans for blockades.
In each case, the suspensions were prompted by instances of fraud or problematic song metadata, revealing shortcomings in Songtrust's vetting process.
Presently, Songtrust does not face any active freezes. Nevertheless, sources emphasized that the publishing administration giant's clients were not adequately informed about the suspensions, which greatly impacted their ability to collect global publishing royalties.
Former Songtrust President Molly Neumann, who is now the CMO of parent company Downtown Music Holdings, declined to provide direct comments on the matter to the public. However, she briefly addressed the situation through New York-based PR agency Kite Hill Public Relations. Neumann stated that Songtrust is actively engaged with all partners but did not disclose whether suspensions had occurred in recent months and years. When specifically asked about the suspensions from PRS, SACEM, and ICE, Neumann's PR representative declined to provide further comment.
The rights societies themselves were hesitant to confirm the suspensions but did not deny their occurrence.
During a conversation with ICE, Gary Smith, the head of marketing, acknowledged that Songtrust was currently an active partner. However, when questioned about previous suspensions, Smith firmly declined to provide any answers. Following repeated inquiries about the Songtrust suspension, Smith told DMN, "I'm sorry, but on this occasion, we can't comment." Smith did mention that he would "come back with something" by the following Monday, but no further statement was received.
SACEM and PRS for Music also refused to discuss Songtrust details despite multiple inquiries. In a statement, PRS stated that they do not comment on individual member accounts but confirmed ongoing communication with Songtrust. They emphasized their commitment to maintaining the integrity of copyright data, developing strong policies and tools to combat fraudulent claims. Evidence from various sources cites that the main problem with the fraud concerned the use of erroneous ISRC codes.
In an urgent email, the date of which was not disclosed, Songtrust was warned of a 'severe risk' posed by serious fraudulent submissions and a subsequent review by PRS' legal counsel. Consequently, an immediate freeze was implemented pending the legal review. Additionally, email threads revealed that improper identifiers posed a threat to royalty-processing efforts due to overlapping ISRC codes and other incorrect identifiers. After the freeze on Songtrust's represented catalog was lifted, it was reinstated after just 11 months due to the discovery of tens of thousands of new violations.
Executives at PRS for Music also expressed concerns regarding the quality of 'Recording Data Identifier,' 'Catalogue Management,' and 'CWR Quality' submissions, citing issues with sloppiness, inconsistencies, and potential fraud.
The aforementioned lack of transparency from PRS for Music and other organizations raises significant questions about why these rights societies are shielding Songtrust, especially considering their mission to prioritize songwriters and creators.
On its homepage, ICE prominently declares its purpose to ensure accurate, transparent, and fair payment to songwriters, stating, "ICE exists to ensure songwriters get paid, accurately, transparently, and at the right value." These actions and acquisitions have come to light, shedding a light on the intricate web of deception and control within the music industry.
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