Irving Azoff‘s Global Music Rights (GMR)—the first PRO startup in 70 years—has filed a suit in federal court for antitrust violations against the Radio Music License Committee (RMLC).
The suit comes after the RMLC’s Nov. 18 filing against GMR when negotiations broke down between the two parties ahead of a 2017 deadline in which GMR will begin licensing its own repertoire with radio. Stations could face six-figure fines after the new year if they lack a license to play material from GMR-represented writers, which are noted by the RMLC to account for 5-7.5 percent of its total radio airplay.
According to Wednesday (Dec. 7) complaint, GMR alleges the RMLC’s more than 10,000 U.S. radio stations have wrongfully colluded to underpay songwriters to play songs on the radio. Referring to the RMLC as a cartel, the suit alleges those stations control more than 90 percent of radio industry revenue, reaching more than 245 million listeners weekly.
“This is the most important fight of my professional life,” Azoff said. “I will not stop the fight for fairness to artists and songwriters.”
Attorney Daniel Petrocelli of O’Melveny & Myers is representing GMR in its search for antitrust damages, which are tripled under the law, and an injunction forbidding the RMLC from continuing anticompetitive conduct.
“This cartel has been a smashing success,” Petrocelli said. “Music is the lifeblood of terrestrial radio but, because of the conspiracy, owners of terrestrial radio stations pay only about 4 percent of their revenue—a tiny fraction—to the songwriters who create that music. Other media distributors such as streaming music services, which are not part of the terrestrial radio cartel, pay substantially more money to songwriters.
“Business is conducted every single day in this world, and in every single industry, by consensual arrangements. This industry is no different. If they want to play these works they need to pay fair market value,” Petrocelli went on to tell Variety.
GMR formed in 2013 and represents a total of 71 songwriters, including Nashville’s Shane McAnally, Luke Laird, and Paul Overstreet, in addition to Pharrell Williams, Ryan Tedder and the estates of Lennon and Ira Gershwin among many others.
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