Irving Azoff’s Global Music Rights sued by US commercial radio body


A body which represents approximately 10,000 commercial radio stations in the US, the RMLC, has filed an antitrust complaint against Irving Azoff’s Global Music Rights (GMR) – claiming anti-competitive behavior.

GMR isn’t messing about in reaction: MBW understands that GMR has drafted in renowned US lawyer Daniel Petrocelli to represent it in reaction.

In a press release, the RMLC (Radio Music Licensing Committee) said that, if left unchecked, GMR would be able “to charge the U.S. commercial radio industry monopoly prices to publicly perform musical works in the GMR repertory”.

What that really amounts to is that fact that GMR declines to submit its copyrights to regulated US royalty rate proceedings – meaning broadcasters have to pay its writers a privately agreed figure, or fail to obtain clearance to play their music.

This is a key part of GMR’s business – based on a mantra of earning songwriters the money they deserve vs. more traditional options in the US.

The approach has lured over the likes of Pharrell Williams and Ryan Tedder from the likes of ASCAP and BMI since it launched in 2013.

“we feel that GMR’s exorbitant fee demands are out of balance with their competitors.”

Ed Christian, RMLC

ASCAP and BMI are both not-for-profit performance rights organizations.

GMR’s fellow for-profit PRO, SESAC, settled with the RMLC in summer 2015 following similar litigation to that just launched against GMR.

The RMLC claims that GMR has “created a bottleneck to, and artificial monopoly over, the works in its repertory”.

RMLC seeks injunctive relief, requiring, among other things, that GMR submit to a judicial rate-making procedure comparable to what the consent decrees governing ASCAP and BMI impose.

Along with the complaint, the RMLC has also filed a motion for a preliminary injunction to prevent GMR from charging radio stations monopoly prices for a GMR license while the litigation is pending.

RMLC Chairman, Ed Christian, commented that “resorting to litigation is never a first option for the RMLC”.

He added: This legal process will undoubtedly prove to be taxing in terms of the amount of labor and expense involved. Yet, we feel that GMR’s exorbitant fee demands are out of balance with their competitors and would do irreparable harm to our industry and this has left us with no other alternative.”

The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania by the law firm of Latham & Watkins, on behalf of the RMLC as the sole plaintiff in the action.Music Business Worldwide

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  • Christina Brown

    I do not understand why everyone is exclaiming that GMR could charge monopoly prices for the music in their repertoire. GMR was started because ASCAP and BMI are basically a monopoly and all the DOJ consent decrees prevent creators from licensing their works at prices they want. It doesn’t even make economic or verbal sense to say they could charge monopoly prices for the things in their repertoire. They only control like 20,000 songs…that is so far from a monopoly. Radio just wants to keep playing Happy and Moves like Jagger without having to pay a higher price (which is aparently synonymous with monopoly price?) That would be like telling Rolex they need to lower their prices because they could charge monopoly prices for their watches. Rolexes are just expensive and so is the music GMR controls. And at the end of the day, if Pharrell Williams wants to tell radio ‘you can’t play my song unless you pay this much’ he should be allowed to do that since it’s a copyrighted work. Also FYI radio is whining so they can stay on the same level as Iran, North Korea, and Rwanda…Jesus….every other country’s radio pays for public performance

    • Brad Allen

      Radio already pays licensing fees. Statements like your last one are misleading. You make it sound like we expect to air the music for free. We pay, but artists need to be careful not to think more of themselves than they ought. Look what happened to the careers of the Dixie Chicks in radio, or Charlie Sheen on TV. I know – neither of these had to do with licensing, but they are good examples of how careers can disappear even faster than they were created.

      GMR could also price themselves out of the market. If we can’t air Bruno Mars, we’ll find somebody else. All it’s going to take is a corporate giant like Clear Channel to say, “Sorry – can’t afford you.” Then we’ll see who really wants airplay. There are literally thousands of artists who practically beg radio to play their songs.

      Where would these music superstars be if radio hadn’t promoted them to begin with?

      • Christina Brown

        Right, but if Clear Channel can say “nope can’t afford you” then it’s not a monopoly, it’s PRO that charges high prices and people can choose not to license bruno mars and christina aguilera. This issue isn’t about radio vs. artists, or at least, that’s not what my comment was about, it’s about the freedom to charge whatever the hell you want to license stuff you own. If you have a good legal argument that falls in line with the rest of the political philosophy of the United States for WHY content creators should not be allowed to charge their own prices, then I’d like to hear it. If your argument is just “those stars would be nothing without radio they beg us to promote them blah blah blah” I don’t really see any legal validity to that. Now if you’re just anti-free trade, that’s a philosophical difference we have, and I can understand why you are in favor of consent decrees and government-imposed monopolies.

        Also terrestrial radio doesn’t actually pay public performance money….how was that misleading?

        • Smart Alex

          What?? “radio doesn’t actually pay public performance money”? Are you serious? Indeed they do. 4% of gross revenue. For a small town Mom & Pop station that is a huge bite. Besides, why the focus on terrestrial radio? The problems are online.