Mechanical Licensing Collective
Designing a portal experience to expedite royalty payments to music rightsholders
If there’s one industry that’s been at the front lines of digital transformation, it’s the music industry. Today, digital streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music and Google Play put an entire universe of music at listeners’ fingertips but those innovations have also left music makers behind, exacerbating challenges in compensating music rightsholders.
The Mechanical Licensing Collective (MLC), a non-profit organization designated by the U.S. Copyright Office following the historic Music Modernization Act (MMA) of 2018, ensures that songwriters, composers, lyricists and music publishers receive their mechanical royalties from streaming and download services. To deliver on their promise of paying royalties accurately and expeditiously, the MMA and the MLC partnered with Prophet to design its user portal experience – engaging rightsholders and, for the first time in history, enabling them to manage their musical works within the MLC’s database.
To ensure that we were meeting the needs of those target audiences, we took a human-centered design approach from the start. We conducted primary ethnographic research with future users that represented the diversity of the MLC’s membership, which included in-depth interviews with publishers and self-administered songwriters across multiple genres and geographies, to understand their daily routines, attitudes and work styles. We also conducted teardowns of tools that MLC members use every day to understand what design elements members preferred and determine what “great” looked from a real user’s perspective.
With those insights, we worked with the MLC to prototype and test different experience concepts. Much like music, experience design is a collaborative and creative process, so we engaged publishers and songwriters early and iteratively to “jam” on portal page designs and workflows, incorporating their feedback throughout our design process to create an experience that was as intuitive and seamless as possible.
As MVP design progressed, our team worked closely with the MLC’s development partner to bring the portal to life. Operating as an integrated team of designers, web developers and platform administrators, we created key portal features over multiple sprints and developed a living design pattern library to equip the MLC with a strong foundation for future releases.
The MLC launched its portal in September 2020 to high praise for its design and usability. Since its launch, the MLC has registered thousands of users and now distributes tens of millions of dollars in mechanical royalties to its members every month. It has also built a strong team behind the portal, focused every day on optimizing the portal experience and adding and enhancing features that help its members “play their part.”
“Prophet shared our vision from the very start, dedicating time and acute attention to detail to develop a resource that sits at the heart of the MLC’s work and is crucial to serving our members and fulfilling our mission.”
CTO, The Mechanical Licensing Collective (MLC)