PHILADELPHIA (CelebrityAccess) — Radio Stations in Pennsylvania are facing a deadline of the end of September to make a deal with Global Music Rights, LLC, a small but potent performance rights organization founded in 2013 by Irving Azoff. If they fail to reach an accord by September 30th, the state's radio stations will lose performance rights to music by songwriters ranging from The Beatles to Drake.
GMR is threatening to cut the stations off because of ongoing litigation with The Radio Music License Committee (RMLC) over performance rights. In a statement published on its website, GMR said they "cannot negotiate or enter licenses with stations owned by companies headquartered or based in Pennsylvania."
The deadline is the latest twist in a lawsuit filed in federal court in Philadelphia against GMR late last year by Radio Music License Committee, a nonprofit that negotiates performances licenses with PROs on behalf of more than 10,000 terrestrial radio stations. The suit alleges that the PRO has created an artificial pricing monopoly over its repertoire, which contains hits by artists such as Adele, Taylor Swift, The Beatles, and Madonna.
RMLC's lawsuit also sought an injunction to compel GMR to offer a blanket license for their entire repertoire to all U.S. commercial radio stations and to participate in the consent decree rate setting process imposed on larger PROs like ASCAP and BMI.
“Resorting to litigation is never a first option for the RMLC. This legal process will undoubtedly prove to be taxing in terms of the amount of labor and expense involved. Yet, 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,” said RLMC Chair Ed Christian in a press statement when the suit was filed last year.
In a statement responding to the lawsuit, GMR claimed that RMLC tried to "bully" them and refused to participate. The PRO characterized themselves as a small startup, representing fewer than 100 songwriters, while neatly eliding the importance that those songwriters have in the modern radio ecosystem.
So why are Pennsylvania radio stations on the hook? RLMC suggested that the deadline was retaliation by GMR for helping RLMC to establish jurisdiction in United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. In 2012, RLMC tried a similar case against SESAC and largely won the case, obtaining third party arbitration on license fees, and even reimbursement for legal costs from the PRO. The case was tried in Federal court in Philadelphia, making it well-known and fertile legal ground for RLMC.
RLMC has filed an emergency injunction seeking to prevent GMR from pulling the Pennsylvania licenses until the lawsuit is resolved.