Irving Azoff's Global Music Rights Offers Temporary License to Radio Stations

GAB Archive/Redferns
The Eagles photographed in 1977. 

GMR represents songs by the Eagles, Metallica, One Republic, Drake, Pharrell Williams and John Lennon, among others.

While the Radio Music Licensing Committee and Global Music Rights continue to pursue anti-trust litigation against each other, the boutique performance rights organization started by Irving Azoff is offering temporary licenses that will allow radio stations to continue playing GMR songs without worrying about copyright infringement lawsuits.

According to a statement issued on behalf of GMR by lawyer Dan Petrocelli of O’Melveny & Myers, representing the PRO in the antitrust litigation; and a letter to RMLC members from RMLC chairman Ed Christian, radio stations have until Jan. 31 to sign an interim license agreement with GMR, which will cover them for playing the PROs songs through Sept. 30, 2017.

Each station willing to enter into the interim license has to contact GMR to see what their fee will be. However, the interim licensing agreement will leave each party the right to seek a retroactive fee adjustment, which could be based on a future licensing agreement subsequent to the interim license; the outcome of the antitrust litigation between the RMLC and GMR; or a possible rate settlement between the RMLC and GMR.

Any station that signs the interim license agreement by Jan. 31 and pays the applicable interim license fee will not be subject to copyright infringement claims while the interim license is in effect.

This kind of agreement is sometimes known as a stand-still agreement that takes the threat of copyright infringement claims out of rate negotiations, especially when a tight deadline is involved.

The music of some GMR songwriters who had withdrawn from ASCAP in the last two years to join GMR, had been still covered by ASCAP’s license in effect. But that license expires in a few days at the end of this year and although the RMLC and ASCAP have each signed a new license, the former ASCAP GMR songwriters are no-longer covered by ASCAP. 

So radio stations had to either reach a license with GMR by the end of the year; or stop playing GMR music, which includes songs by the Eagles, Metallica, One Republic, Drake, Pharrell Williams and John Lennon, among others, at the beginning of 2017.

This also eliminates the worry of Anthrax, which made a big deal about the fact that the GMR website lists it among artists who have played GMR songs, Anthrax covered of Metallica's "Phantom Lord.” So that song would be covered for radio stations that sign the interim license agreement. Radio can play the rest of Anthrax music, regardless, because its members are not signed with GMR. Anthrax recently sent an open letter to Azoff and industry clarifying their position with GMR and noting that stations can still play anthrax.

All along, GMR has insisted it is more interested in getting its songwriters music played on radio—and get fair compensation-rather than pursuing copyright infringement claims, according to sources. 

GMR, led by Randy Grimmett since its inception in mid-2013,, has been involved in negotiations with the RMLC for the last two years. According to court documents, GMR is seeking $42 million for the 10,000 radio stations to license its music for a year. In it antitrust lawsuit against GMR, the RMLC complained that represented a rate well above what it pays to ASCAP and BMI, the two PROS that operate under DOJ-imposed consent decrees.

In fact, some music from songwriters in the Who, the Eagles, and by John Lennon and Drake, are no longer covered by ASCAP or BMI, and radio has been playing that music all along during 2016. But people familiar with GMR say they had no intention of suing for copyright infringement as long as RMLC was negotiating rates with the PRO.

Instead, they claim, the RMLC ambushed them with an antitrust lawsuit filed on Nov. 18  in the U.S. Eastern District of Pennsylvania Court by the law firm of Latham & Watkins. GMR filed its own anti-trust lawsuit, via O’Melveny & Myers, against the RMLC in California Federal Court on Dec. 6. 

Since GMR is offering a temporary interim license, the RMLC -- which had been seeking an injunction preventing GMR from pursuing copyright infringement claims against radio stations while the  anti-trust litigation was ongoing -- has withdrawn its request for that injunction, according to attorney Petrocelli.  

"Today, GMR has offered a license to all radio stations represented by the RMLC allowing the stations to play GMR’s repertoire in exchange for specified license fees.,” Petrocelli said in a statement. “This license extends through September 30, 2017 and gives everyone additional time to negotiate long-term licenses with GMR. GMR offered this license to the RMLC last month, but the RMLC refused it and, instead, chose to sue and seek an injunction.  With today’s agreement, the RMLC has withdrawn its request for an injunction and radio stations across the country will have the opportunity to offer their listeners GMR’s quality music.”