Songwriters Win a Round in Fight for More Money From Radio

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Jon Bon Jovi performs at a charity gala in New York on Nov. 2, 2017. 

Photographer: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images North America

Songwriters won a victory in their fight to collect more money from radio stations when a judge recommended the dismissal of a lawsuit stations filed in Pennsylvania. 

The state has no jurisdiction over Global Music Rights, which represents top songwriters Jon Bon Jovi, Drake and Pharrell Williams, magistrate judge Lynne Sitarski wrote Wednesday to a federal judge. If the federal court accepts the magistrate’s recommendation, the Radio Music Licensing Committee could appeal or file a suit in another state. The songwriters’ group has already countersued RMLC in California.

The legal fight could have consequences for radio listeners, since the songwriters’ group has threatened to pull popular music off the airwaves if stations don’t pay a higher rate to its artists.

Radio remains the most common way Americans listen to music, yet stations pay about 4 percent of their music-related advertising revenue to songwriters. That’s less than musicians collect from online services Pandora or Spotify. The stations argue they serve primarily to promote the music.

Radio stations have fought artists’ efforts to collect a greater share of their sales since before World War II.

“The magistrate’s recommendation is a vindication of what we have said all along: the RMLC had no business filing a lawsuit in Pennsylvania, a state that has nothing to do with this dispute,” Irving Azoff, co-founder of GMR, said in a statement. “We look forward to Judge Jones’s review of the order and continuing our efforts to protect the rights of songwriters to be paid fairly by the $18 billion commercial radio industry.”

RMLC plans to appeal the ruling, the group said in a statement. “RMLC is committed to its mission to protect the interests of all its member stations against GMR’s anticompetitive abuse,” it said.

Azoff, manager to the Eagles and Christina Aguilera, founded GMR with fellow industry veteran Randy Grimmett to increase how much songwriters get paid by the radio business.

The case is Radio Music License Committee, Inc. V. Global Music Rights LLC, 16-cv-06076, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia).

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