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Azoff PRO challenges ASCAP/BMI, seeks better rates for songwriters

wildflowers and copyright 300wCopyright has been the hot-button topic of this year, and the role of performing rights organizations has been a central topic of debate. While some of the top publishers like Sony and Universal Music Group are posting thier catalog databases online and reportedly explirng the option of negoiating music license deals outside of ASCAP and BMI, the top two PROs which are regulated by consent decree rules, there is still some opportunity for shuffling within that business and legal infrastructure.

Last year marked the launch of a new company called Azoff MSG Entertainment, a joint venture between the Madison Square Garden Company and Irving Azoff, former chairman of Live Nation Entertainment. This new player has an arm called Global Music Rights which aims to get a better deal on royalties for songwriters. In fact, it promises that it will collect up to 30% higher royalties from radio stations and online services than those artists would receive from ASCAP or BMI.

Global Music Rights does not fall under the same regulations as the top two PROs, which are required to provide licenses to similar music services at a similar rate. That means it has more control over the negotiated rates in at least some performance rights situations.

“I vowed when I started this company that I was going to take care of artists,” Azoff told The New York Times. “So I tried to identify places where I felt that artists were not getting a fair deal, and the performance rights area jumped out at me.” His company currently controls the catalogs of members from Journey, Foreigner, Fleetwood Mac, Soundgarden, Pharrell Williams, and Ryan Tedder, as well as the estates of John Lennon and Ira Gershwin.

Anna Washenko

2 Comments

  1. This is not up to the RAIN standards. There are no “regulations” nor “required blankets” nor “government-set rates.” And to the extent you think there are, the same conditions may be imposed on any aggregator of size that enters the market, including Azoff, and potentially SESAC and the publishers themselves.

    • Hello Mies — thanks for the comment. I’m not sure where the misunderstanding is. ASCAP and BMI are regulated by the U.S. government by a “consent decree” law which compels both those organizations to allow use of their clients’ music it total. Litigation can follow, and sometimes does, but blanket use is the law. You mention that Azoff and SESAC are subject to the same regulations, but that is untrue. The consent decrees are specifically applied to ASCAP and BMI.

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