Global Music Rights and Radio Music License Committee confirm five year dispute is over


The big old bust up between the Irving Azoff founded US collecting society Global Music Rights and the Radio Music License Committee, which represents much of the American radio industry in licensing talks, is at an end.

Launched in 2014, GMR represents the performing rights of a small collective of prominent songwriters. In doing so, it competes for members with the three other song rights collecting societies that operate in the US – them being BMI, ASCAP and SESAC. Broadcasters wanting to ensure they are covered to play music written by any given songwriter need a licence from all four.

Because BMI and ASCAP both represent such large catalogues of songs, they are regulated by the US Department Of Justice through the so called consent decrees, which are meant to overcome competition law concerns that are often raised about collective licensing.

SESAC, although not governed by a consent decree, agreed to third party mediation on royalty disputes during a past legal battle with the RMLC. With all that in mind, after GMR launched, the RMLC tried to force it into also accepting third party mediation arguing that – like with the other collecting societies – there are competition law concerns around GMR.

However, GMR countered that those arguments were not valid. After all, it represents a relatively small group of songwriters, even if between them they’ve written some very popular songs. Meanwhile, the RMLC represents the vast majority of the US radio industry. So if there are any competition law issues, GMR reckoned, they are on the RMLC’s side.

After the dispute went legal in late 2016, both sides sought summary judgement in their favour. But the judge overseeing the case denied those requests back in February 2020, meaning the dispute continued to go through the motions. But last month it was confirmed that a settlement was close to being reached.

Both GMR and the RMLC told the court that: “The parties have entered into a conditional settlement agreement to resolve the actions”. However, that agreement was “conditioned on a certain percentage of a specified group of US commercial radio broadcasters entering into a licence agreement with GMR that is part of the negotiated settlement agreement”.

That has now happened, with a majority of American commercial radio stations now signed up to the GMR licence, meaning the dispute is properly over. The two parties formally announced earlier this week that “the settlement agreement is now final and the licences that radio stations signed will begin on 1 Apr 2022?.

Commenting on the deal that has finally been done, Azoff said: “Global Music Rights stands for songwriters and the value of their music. I am proud of the GMR team for the hard work on behalf of songwriters in achieving this settlement. It is wonderful that GMR and thousands of radio stations coast to coast are partnered to bring great music to fans for many years”.

Meanwhile, RMLC Chair Ed Atsinger III added: “This settlement puts an end to more than five years of litigation, and represents a shared desire by both sides to find a way for radio stations and GMR to work together on a long-term basis without repeatedly resorting to litigation”.