German authors' rights society GEMA and its Austrian counterparts AKM and Austro Mechana are to forge a new partnership in 2008 to promote music from German-speaking Europe, Billboard.biz has learned.

The creation of the alliance follows ongoing discussions between GEMA and AKM, Austria's performing rights organization, and Austro Mechana, the mechanical rights society.

The three bodies insist the agreement is not a merger, but a pact which aims to pool relevant resources to market German-language repertoire internationally. The respective societies will retain their own names.

"In times of mounting competition, GEMA must build alliances with other collection societies, if it is to continue growing," says Harald Heker, the chairman of GEMA's management board. "Partnerships with affiliates are thus absolutely vital. We want to work as closely as possible in the German-speaking region to strengthen German-language repertoire."

The Austrians are set to benefit from this partnership as GEMA, with its 60,000 members of composers and publishers, is able to offer services which the smaller organizations can use inexpensively. Through the arrangement, AKM and Austro Mechana will be able to use GEMA's overseas offices.

"We are currently in the process of commissioning a study together with Austro Mechana and GEMA to gain an outsider's view of the possible synergistic effects and other benefits," adds Gernot Graninger, director-general of AKM.

He says mass job cuts are unlikely because the need for speed and precision in handling the volume of data for royalties distribution is growing consistently for all organizations, something that requires the expertise of the existing staff.

GEMA, which earned €874 million ($1.2 billion) in revenues last year, expects a decline in income in 2007, Heker admits. But working with other German-speaking societies could help cut costs when participating in future international initiatives.

Well-informed sources in German-speaking Switzerland believe that if the partnership between Germany and Austria proves successful, Suisa would consider joining the alliance.

Suisa, which has 23,000 members and 200 employees in Zurich, yielded SFr138.4 million ($115 million) in income in 2006.

Says Heker: "I can easily imagine these talks leading to negotiations with collection societies in other countries as well. Collection societies will find it increasingly difficult to assert themselves in the European or global market on their own."