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SWIRV VS. THE "CARTEL"

Irving Azoff’s Global Music Rights (GMR) is currently in a legal battle with the Radio Music Licensing Committee (RMLC), a “cartel,” as Team GMR puts it—of 10k radio stations.

The RMLC’s suit, filed in November in a Pennsylvania court, accuses GMR of being a monopoly over the artists it represents, including Drake, Bruno Mars, Taylor Swift, Bruce Springsteen, Don Henley, Bob Seger, Steve Miller, Pharrell Williams and Smokey Robinson.

At issue is the “performance” rate stations pay, and the RMLC is doing everything in its power to keep those rates as low as possible. It filed its suit in Pennsylvania, perhaps believing it enjoyed a jurisdictional advantage there as that’s the venue of its suit against SESAC.

That suit, recently settled, led to a recent arbitration decision which SESAC claims has resulted in a rate increase for SESAC writers of over 50% compared to the ASCAP-RMLC negotiated rate. Since GMR is based in L.A. and the RMLC in Nashville—and absolutely no aspect of their discussions has transpired in Pennsylvania—it’s a curious choice. In any case, the matter is subject to Federal law, so the venue is largely moot.

GMR accuses the RMLC and its 10k radio station members of essentially colluding to pay below-market rates, and argues that the participating stations and chains compete on every other level. The RMLC has argued in court and in the press that GMR’s demands are exerting inappropriate marketplace pressure, but Global, with a roster of 74 songwriters, responds that the radio group is the one acting like a monopoly. While individual stations are ostensibly free to negotiate rates directly with GMR—and have been invited to do so via GMR’s website—fewer than a dozen have come forward.

The argument often used to counter apparently monopolistic behavior is convenience—by bringing 10k stations together, RMLC ostensibly offers ease of access. But GMR insists otherwise, saying that it is the one that has done the legwork to facilitate communication with stations, invoicing stations, following up on unpaid invoices and issuing licenses. The RMLC has even refused to provide GMR with contact information for communicating with their member stations. 

Stay tuned for updates on this fight.

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