In what is being hailed as “a victory for songwriters” by one camp but could be a significant blow to several radio industry groups, the Department of Justice late Thursday urged a federal court to reject attempts by the Nashville-based Radio Music License Committee (RMLC) “to misconstrue the laws that prohibit its illegal, price-fixing, cartel behavior.”
It’s a boon to efforts by Global Music Rights (GMR), founded in 2013 by Irving Azoff as another conduit for the music industry to fuel dollars toward those responsible for the songs largely brought to the masses by radio stations.
In its filing, the DOJ’s antitrust division stated that “competitors’ naked agreements to fix prices,” in reference to the RMLC, “are one of the most pernicious forms of anticompetitive restraints that violate Section 1 of the Sherman Act.”
A largely one-sided communiqué from GMR blasted the RMLC, arguing that the Justice Department “methodically dismantled” the group’s attempt “to justify decades of illegal collusion to pay songwriters below-market rates.”
At its heart, the DOJ’s conclusion was that the court toss RMLC’s claims.
Azoff’s GMR is similar to such associations as BMI and ASCAP, which radio already pays, and includes artists such as Drake, Bruce Springsteen, Bruno Mars, the Eagles, and Smokey Robinson.
Radio stations have been operating directly with GMR in short-term side deals while the lawsuit works its way to trial.
RMLC Executive Director Bill Velez told Streamline Publishing’s Radio Ink this week that the two sides were going through the discovery process in the run up to a trial targeted for Q4 2020.
“The court filing by the Department of Justice reaffirms the legal position of GMR and vindicates the rights of artists and songwriters to be free from illegal price-fixing by radio stations,” boasted Daniel Petrocelli, lead counsel for Global Music Rights.
Azoff added, “Today is a great day for artists, who have been bullied by the RMLC since the dawn of the modern radio industry. Advocating on behalf of artists is our founding principle, and we refused to allow this unfair status quo to continue. We believe the days of this brazen, long-running cartel are now numbered. GMR has never been prouder to stand with songwriters to fight back.”
GMR filed suit against the RMLC in 2016 in a challenge over royalty payments.
Stations represented by the RMLC are presently held to a lengthy extension of an interim license, allowing them to pay music in the GMR repertory as the two groups battle out litigation.
The extension is to March 31, 2020.
FROM THE RBR+TVBR ARCHIVES: