As of January 1, the catalogues of 70+ artists, representing a full 7.5% of all radio music, might disappear from the airwaves.
A new licensing company, Global Music Rights, managing the repertoires of major songwriters like Pharrell, Adele, Drake, John Lennon and Taylor Swift, has threatened to deny future radio licenses on their clients' work over a contract dispute. If they walk away without renewing those licenses, stations caught infringing will be charged a $150,000 US penalty per song.
The Radio Music License Committee is a trade group that negotiates airplay rates for roughly 10,000 radio stations across the US. Talks broke down last month over compensation. The RMLC has since sued Global Music Rights, accusing the company of "exerting a monopoly" and asking for rates much higher than market-price, NBC News reports.
The licensing company has now filed its own lawsuit in return, calling the RMLC an "illegal cartel" that colludes with its members to suppress royalty rates. Terrestrial radio stations repay songwriters roughly four percent of the station's revenue, a lawyer for GMR said in a statement.
That's less than Spotify, which pays rights-holders between $0.006 and $0.0084 each time a song is played. According to David Touve, an Assistant Professor of Business at Washington and Lee University who studies the music industry, radio stations pay around $0.000186 to $0.000372 for every listener.
National Music Publishers' Association President and CEO David Israelite applauded Global Music Rights for taking on the "broadcast bully" that holds songwriters hostage with its artificially fixed rates, as he characterized it.
I don't know though — 70 of the most valuable songbooks in the world vs. the entirety of the American radio broadcast industry. Don't they both sound like bullies? Are we going to be the ones stuffed in a locker somehow once the dust settles?