Songwriters Group Says Radio Stations Have Illegal Cartel

Access practice tools, as well as industry leading news, customizable alerts, dockets, and primary content, including a comprehensive collection of case law, dockets, and regulations. Leverage...

By Anandashankar Mazumdar

Dec. 7 — A songwriters group accused an organization representing radio stations in royalty negotiations of being an illegal cartel, in a complaint filed Dec. 6 in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. Global Music Rights, LLC v. Radio Music License Committee, Inc. , C.D. Cal., No. 16-09051, complaint filed 12/6/16 .

Global Music Rights LLC, which represents about 70 songwriters, said that the Radio Music License Committee Inc., whose membership includes 90 percent of traditional AM/FM radio stations, uses its market power to force down the rates that GMR’s members can collect when their songs are played on the radio.

“GMR simply sought ‘fair pay for fair play,’” according to the complaint. “In response to that, the RMLC cartel threatened ‘low pay or no play.’”

The self-styled “boutique” PRO was founded in 2013 to collect royalties on behalf of its songwriter members. It is considerably smaller than the major U.S. performance rights organizations— the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (600,000 members), Broadcast Music Inc. (750,000 members) and SESAC (35,000 members).

However, GMR’s small stable of composers includes some big names, such as Smokey Robinson, Christina Aguilera, Pharrell Wiliams, Bruno Mars and John Lennon.

The antitrust complaint comes about a month after the RMLC itself sued GMR for anti-competitive behavior in a different federal court. Radio Music License Committee, Inc. v. Global Music Rights, LLC, E.D. Pa., No. 16-06076, complaint filed 11/18/16 .

The RMLC’s complaint said that GMR’s strategy was to “create a small, but indispensable repertory of ‘must-have’ musical works that radio stations, as a practical matter could not avoid playing, so that those stations would have no choice but to purchase a license from GMR at whatever rate GMR demanded.”

According to the RMLC, after its founding, “GMR quickly amassed a bundle of an estimated 20,000 essential works, from approximately 100 songwriters.”

Irving Azoff, founder of GMR and former head of Ticketmaster and Live Nation Entertainment, released a statement saying, “This is the most important fight of my professional life.”

The RMLC released a statement saying that it “will not roll over in the face of the baseless, bullying lawsuit” filed by GMR.

O’Melveny & Myers LLP represented GMR. White & Williams LLP and Latham & Watkins LLP represented the RMLC.

To contact the reporter on this story: Anandashankar Mazumdar in Washington at AMazumdar@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mike Wilczek at mwilczek@bna.com

For More Information

Text of GMR complaint is at: http://src.bna.com/kBg

Text of RMLC complaint is at: http://src.bna.com/kBh

Copyright © 2016 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Request Intellectual Property on Bloomberg Law