Radio Stations Sue Azoff’s GMR

A nonprofit representing 10,000 commercial radio stations announced Nov. 18 that it was filing suit against Irving Azoff’s performing rights organization for charging exorbitant amounts for specific songs.  

Photo: AP Photo/Kevin Wolf, File
2009 file photo

Most music is licensed to BMI or ASCAP, which are regulated by antitrust consent decrees, which control the amount those organizations can charge to license a song. In recent years, though, smaller for-profit PROs have sprung up, which are not subject to the same regulations. Two such organizations of note are Azoff’s Global Music Rights and SESAC, formerly the Society of European Stage Authors and Composers.

Because GMR and SESAC were not regulated like BMI and ASCAP, these small PROs have been able to negotiate fees for each of their artists and charge radio stations higher rates to license their songs, and deny the rights if the stations refuse to pay.

The Radio Music License Committee has argued that these higher rates for specific artists are unfair to radio stations.

The RMLC recently won a suit with SESAC for $3.5 million in legal costs and the small PRO agreed it would change its rate practices and subject itself to regulation. Now the RMLC has its sights set on Azoff’s venture, which has the rights for songs by Pharrell WilliamsCeline Dion and Eagles.

The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Music Business Worldwide reported that GMI has reached out to superstar lawyer Daniel Petrocelli, who defended O.J. Simpson and currently represents President-elect Donald Trump in a case regarding Trump University.

“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,” RMLC Chairman Ed Christian said in a statement. In a 2014 New York Times article Azoff said his goal for GMI was to protect the interests of songwriters and artists.

“I tried to identify places where I felt that artists were not getting a fair deal, and the performance rights area jumped out at me,” the paper reported him saying. “It was a place where I felt I could help our writers.”